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Making Your Interview Process Inclusive for People with Disabilities

By Alita Fabiano from LRO Staffing


While Canada’s unemployment rate currently sits at about 5.2%, the rate for Canadians with disabilities is nearly four times higher at 26%. It is clear that people with disabilities face systematic challenges that prevent them from partaking in our workforce. As such, this can make it particularly hard for people with disabilities to succeed during the interview process.


By businesses taking the initiative to create more inclusive interview processes and workplaces, there is the potential to address Canada’s labour shortages by unlocking the working potential of Canadians with disabilities who’ve historically been overlooked. Regardless if a person discloses a disability, by adjusting your process, you will be able to hold successful interviews with anyone, as well as be able to accommodate existing employees if they develop disabilities and do more business with customers who have a disability.


The first step to accessing this talent is by making your interview process accessible by eliminating any barriers that are within your control. Here are 6 ways to change your interview process to be more inclusive:


Check Your Own Personal Bias

Many hiring managers subconsciously hire candidates who are similar to them in how they speak or look without realizing that mindset often excludes talented candidates, such as people with disabilities. There is also fear and stigmas associated with having a disability. The way to combat these preconceived notions is to first acknowledge them and then to educate yourself and your employees on how people with disabilities are just differently abled and are still extremely skilled individuals. It’s imperative that you treat people with disabilities as you would anyone else. For example, use a regular tone of voice and speed while talking, unless they request otherwise, and always speak directly to a person with disability and not their support person.


You also want to educate yourself and employees on why workplace diversity benefits your business. It is known that workplaces that are more diverse and inclusive foster more creative thinking, innovation, and problem solving, which ultimately provides businesses a competitive edge, so hiring someone with a disability should be seen as an asset not a burden.


Have Accessible Job Postings

Many candidates look for career opportunities online, therefore it’s important that your job postings are accessible in order to attract candidates with disabilities as well. Make sure that all your digital communications are accessible, such as the layout and content of your websites. Some of the features you’ll want to include are:

  • Using clear, easy-to-read fonts
  • Ensuring there is proper formatting for headings, bulleted lists, ect.
  • Having high contrast text and background colours
  • Using plain language and short sentences
  • Adding ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes to your HTML


Present Opportunities to Disclose

Often knowing when or how to disclose a disability to a potential employer is an extremely stress inducing situation, it’s easy to worry about facing judgement or seeming like an undesirable candidate. One way to break down that barrier is by asking if they need any special accommodations for a disability when arranging the interview. This opens up the line of communication on the subject should they want to disclose their disability. It’s important to remember though that not every person with a disability will want to disclose it, and that’s alright. Should they disclose or not, an interviewer should never pry or ask invasive questions to the candidate. The way to ensure you’re still being inclusive is to always have accessible interviews regardless if a person discloses a disability or not to make it an equal playing field.


Provide Interview Information in Advance

In order to set someone with a disability up to succeed, it’s important to give them as much information as possible in advance so that they can process it and have time to request accommodation if needed. Try to provide written or visual instructions on aspects of the interview like how to reach your office, what to do when they arrive, as well as an agenda for the interview itself which includes the names and roles of the interviewers.


Adjust the Process as Needed

The main aspect of always being inclusive is a willingness to accommodate. As such, it’s important to adjust the interview process as needed in order to provide an accessible interview format. Some candidates may request to have a telephone interview rather than a face-to-face due to mobility or other impairments, while someone with a hearing impairment may want a video interview rather than a telephone one so they can lip read. Additionally, when doing a video interview it’s important to choose a platform that offers live closed captioning or transcripts to further dismantle any possible barriers. You will also want to be more flexible on the timing of your interview, some people with disabilities focus best at a certain time of the day and will want to have that accommodated as well.


Despite making the interview process as accessible as possible, some people with disabilities will still face challenges which is why it’s important to ask literal questions during the interview rather than hypothetical, and also give them an opportunity to demonstrate their skills to you in other ways, such as skills-based tests, questionnaires or having them perform tasks that the role would require.


Create an Accessible Environment

Before a candidate comes into the office for an interview, you want to make sure the environment is not only accessible to their specific disability, but accessible for all disabilities as not everyone will disclose that information.


To better understand any potential barriers, here are a few questions pertaining to the different types of disabilities to ask yourself:


Physical impairments - Does your building have access to ramps or elevators to avoid stairs? Are there push buttons to open doors? Is the physical space, such as doorways or room, large enough to accommodate a mobility device?


Visual impairments - Are there stairs or elevated floors that they should be made aware of? Are there contrasting colours between the floors and walls? Does the signage have braille? Is the interview space properly lit?


Hearing or cognitive impairments - Is the space the interview is taking place in quiet? Is there a lot of background noise that may be distracting? If the interview is virtual, is there closed captioning to help process what is being said?


Once you ask yourself those questions, you may find your environment isn’t as accessible as it could be. Here are some accommodations that can be made to be more inclusive towards people with disabilities:

  • An accessible location for someone who uses a mobility device
  • A quiet location for someone with a hearing impairment
  • Good lighting for someone with a visual impairment
  • Seating arrangement where the candidate can see the interviewer clearly for someone with a hearing impairment who lip reads
  • Advance copies of interview questions for someone with a cognitive impairment
  • An American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for someone with a hearing impairment


If not all the aforementioned accommodations can be made, it’s important to state accessibility of the physical location during your correspondence and offer to host the interview virtually or at an alternate location to accommodate a candidate’s needs.


Offer Continued Support

Being an inclusive workplace doesn’t end at the interview process, it’s important that your company continues to take the steps needed to continue its accessibility and promote diversity. If there are employees who develop a disability or who are hired with a disability, it’s important to offer them support and the resources they need to succeed and champion your business.