How prepared are you to handle a candidate who happens to be disabled?

I'm looking for some baseline practices (present or absent) in the recruiting process that impacts how we welcome...or not... people who may be eminently qualified but happen to have a visible disability. This survey should take 10 minutes

Assuming someone got far enough to reach a corporate or third party recruiter via phone, tty, etc. I give most recruiters the benefit of the doubt and assume they have sufficient common sense and common courtesy to screen for ability without being distracted by disability.

After all, if your team Googles/Bings for specific disabilities such as sight, sound, intelligence or motor challenges, they will eventually figure about what reasonable accommodations need to be made for something as simple as a recruiting process. And if they don't have either the common sense or the common courtesy, I've little patience to converse with them anyway. Eventually they will reap what they sow.

But recruiting isn't really that simple anymore. We might consciously be aware of some demographics in our final slate: gender, race, veteran status and age come to mind easily but the absence of a visible disability seldom causes either comment or complaint.

I've become more concerned over the messages, the obstacles and the challenges that prevent so many people with disabilities from ever getting far enough to be considered as having gotten "up to bat" since I started tracking down stats of wounded warriors a year ago. And its been a decade since Mark, my business partner and I did a bit of research for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf under their IBM grant to examine why their engineering students didn't attract much interest from corporations (see story in blog yesterday at ERE).

In some cases it seems as if emerging Technology has unintentionally become as difficult to navigate as a three story walk-up does from the confines of a wheel chair. Not that it can't be done but if the attitude is all on me to get up there, I at least would like a welcoming message on the front door.

After some recent discussion with a number of friends including Jason Davis and Maren here at Recruitingblogs, I thought it worth the effort to take stock of just how many "welcoming messages" there are out there contributing to the candidate experience of someone who happens to be disabled.

I view the list on this survey as a starting point and look to measure the "baseline". sort of a mirror or where we are before we consider moving the bar.

Why fill out the survey? It won't hurt. While I am collecting contact info, I promise it will be anonymous and, you may find it interesting. I'll share it, not sell it and will be moderating panels through out the year related to it. This month for example, I'll be at a conference of Career Coaches moderating a panel on Military hiring withe the head of veterans affairs and disabilities will not be a minor issue. Thanks in advance.

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Comment by Gerry Crispin on April 8, 2010 at 12:12am
I was remiss in not giving a shout-out to Dave Mendoza whose conversation last week inspired getting this survey done and widely distributed. Thanks Dave. Couldn't have happened without you.
Comment by Julia Stone on April 8, 2010 at 2:44pm
Thanks, Gerry, for your work with the wounded warriors. It always helps having an influencer like you aware of a problem. We have been supporting a recruiting company here that works with our state to put many disabled people back to work. Providing them with the technical expertise needed to see where these people can really perform helps them avoid a situation where they fail. It has opened my eyes to the difficulties of some parts of the recruiting process from their point of view.

I cannot imagine discriminating against someone who has the skills for our jobs. It sounds absurd to me, but I have to guess that we can still make a bigger impact with our clients by helping them address some of these issues.

In truth, most of the requests for accommodating anyone with disabilities has been as simple as asking us to use email instead of the phone, or vice versa. The people who have worked for us sometimes need a special keyboard, chair or something similar. The biggest changes have required people to work from home where they had everything all set up. I have never had a negative experience dealing with these issues, ever. But I will work to make our systems more friendly from the get go. It is an excellent point to make and as small as we are, I expect everyone can make a difference.
Comment by Gerry Crispin on April 8, 2010 at 2:52pm
Thanks Julia, hopefully you've had a chance to complete the survey. There are many like you who go the extra mile once connected to but its in the connecting that I see increasing problems. Smaller firms are much more nimble than larger firms relying on technology to filter out the thousands of interested but unqualified prospects- and sometimes filtering out those who may be qualified but unable to break through...because of the technology.

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