Making your recruitment strategy digitally inclusive opens the door to an “under-tapped” pool of talent.

–If your recruitment strategy isn’t accessible to people with disabilities, you’re missing out, especially if your team works virtually.

That’s why we’re marking this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities — which took place Dec. 3 — with a focus on digital inclusion.

It makes sense. Hybrid teams have introduced the flexibility to manage work/life balance better than ever. You could even say it’s made work more accessible for a variety of people —- with specialized skills, who live in rural areas, or who just want to spend more time with their family.

That’s why virtual work needs to be accessible for people who identify as living with a disability. For them and the employers looking for the best talent, access to remote work is as important as — if not more — than everyone else. 

What is digital inclusion?

“Digital inclusion is about ensuring someone with a barrier can navigate and use an online system,” said Ian Grant of Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care (PPRC) . “Meaning they can do everything I can do.”

Digital inclusion shows up in Zoom meetings when someone needs closed captions, in webinars when the screen reader is reading the Q&A in the chat over the people speaking, or most commonly on a website.

“The navigation bar is an area where you take action, such as with the back button or doing a search,“ said Grant. ”If the coder doesn’t put the proper tags in the right spots, someone using a screen reader like JAWS can’t use the website.”

Another common hurdle involves online application tools. Many online job postings say candidates with disabilities can ask for the accommodations they need to apply — but on a system that isn’t digitally accessible to them in the first place. 

Clearly that’s not the best way to show a talented candidate that you are serious when it comes to digital inclusion. And with collectives like The Valuable 500 proving there’s a solid business case for hiring this “under-tapped” pool of talent, it’s time for employers to get in the game.

Why is digital inclusion important?

The pandemic gave us the opportunity to make virtual work the rule rather than the exception. 

Remote work gives employers an edge in finding the best talent because they can draw from a bigger pool. For people who identify as living with a disability, remote work can put positions within reach that weren’t an option before. 

Having more jobs to choose from gives people who face barriers to employment more agency, autonomy and independence. This makes securing a job that’s a good match, and one that provides a decent standard of living, possible.

In spite of the potential for remote work to solve the talent crisis, without digital inclusion the problem will continue unabated. People who identify as living with a disability will be left out and left behind, while employers will miss out on talented candidates .

How can my business be more digitally inclusive?

The first step is taking stock of your digital presence. 

Can someone using a screen reader navigate everything on your website? Do your training videos have closed captions for people with hearing loss or who are neurodiverse? Do your videos also include visual descriptions for people living with low vision?

Next, assign someone to take stock of your existing digital tools for accessibility features you’ve already paid for. 

Zoom for example has the option for closed captions unlike other video conferencing tools. In Microsoft and Adobe you can add help text in fillable forms to make them accessible. And anyone can use a bigger font — 14 is the minimum size recommended  for people with low vision .

If your current tools aren’t going to cut it, you may need to get some help. But starting with these concrete steps puts employers on the path to creating a culture of inclusion. 

“It’s about having that one-on-one conversation with the person you’re hiring,” said Grant. “What do you need for accommodation, what makes this accessible to you? And then being flexible enough to say, ‘How do I do this? What can I do?’”

The biggest reward may be the appreciation you’ll get just by making an effort. People who face barriers typically understand that no system is going to be perfect, and that requests have to be something their employer can reasonably do. 

When employers give people with disabilities the kind of opportunities that have been out of reach, what they’ll get is loyalty that no amount of money can buy.

Not sure where to start? 

Reach out to the experts at PPRC. Seventy-two per cent of their consultants identify as living with a disability, so they have the benefit of lived experience in navigating the employer market with an inclusive lens. 

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