Attracting Job Applicants with Disabilities

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There are numerous, well-proven direct and indirect benefits to hiring employees with disabilities. Unfortunately, however, digital inaccessibility can get in the way of engaging and recruiting job applicants with disabilities. To compound matters, often the myths about workers with disabilities can overshadow the facts. The fact is, there’s genuine value in diversifying your workforce with employees who have disability experience.

job applicants with disabilities

The unemployment rate of Americans with disabilities who are actively searching for a job – 10.7 percent in 2015 – is double that of people without disabilities. A similar trend is found in most other developed countries. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s latest figures1, there are around 621,000 people with disabilities in this country who are ready and willing to work, but simply can’t find an organization that will hire them. At the same time, businesses report difficulty finding qualified, competent workers.

To break down the barriers between job seekers with disabilities and fulfilling employment, potential employers need to let go of false assumptions about the contributions and capabilities of workers with disabilities. But they must also remove digital barriers in their recruitment process – which may be less accessible and inclusive than they realize. First, let’s break down at a few myths.

Myth: Employees with Disabilities Won’t do a Good Job

The facts: Although potential employers may assume that an applicant with a disabilities is less qualified or won’t perform as well as a worker without a disability, this hasn’t proven to be the case. Companies like Walgreens, which has made a point of recruiting people with disabilities for the past 10 years, have learned firsthand that these employees work to the same job standards as everyone else. Surveys and studies of the performance ratings of workers with disabilities have consistently found that they’re the same as, or higher than, the ratings of employers without disabilities.

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Myth: Job Accommodations are Costly

The facts: The majority (59%) of job accommodations for employees with disabilities have zero cost associated with them, reports the Job Accommodation Network (JAN)2. Accommodations may be as simple as raising a desk on blocks for someone who uses a wheelchair, providing screen magnifying software for someone with partial vision, or allowing a lunch break to be divided into shorter breaks so someone with fatigue can have rest periods.

For those job accommodations that do have a price tag, the average cost is around $500. According to JAN, that’s only $100 more than what the same employer would typically have spent to accommodate a worker without a disability!

Myth: There Will Be More Absenteeism and Higher Turnover

The facts: Most research has found that people with disabilities have the same or lower rates of absenteeism compared to the average worker. In other words, they aren’t taking more sick days, and in many cases they’re taking fewer. As for retention, several studies have demonstrated that employees with disabilities actually have a much lower rate of turnover compared to employees who don’t have disabilities.

Myth: Our Bottom Line will Suffer

The facts: The JAN report notes that there are major benefits to companies that accommodate employees with disabilities. For instance, productivity goes up, attendance is improved and morale is higher – not just for the worker with a disability, but for the entire work force! The companies surveyed by JAN report a 16% increase in their customer base and a 27% increase in profitability as indirect results of accommodating employees with disabilities.

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Fact: Hiring People with Disabilities is a Competitive Advantage

Hiring workers with disabilities can put your company ahead of the pack. There are several reasons why. Diversity on your work force inevitably results in a stronger rapport with a diverse public. Thus hiring people with disabilities and tapping into their expertise allows your organization to better reach and meet the needs of customers who themselves have disabilities.

That’s powerful, considering that people with disabilities globally have over $200 billion in discretionary spending!

As we noted above, accommodating employees with disabilities can also improve your productivity and bottom line. For instance, making a modification, such as removing technology barriers, can end up boosting the output of all employees.

Having a diverse work force is also quite attractive to potential customers and clients. A national survey published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation3 found that 87% of consumers would rather give their business to organizations that hire people with disabilities. LinkedIn Talent Solutions, in its Global Recruiting Trends 2017 Report4, finds that companies are heavily relying on diversity initiatives as a way to increase engagement and stand out from their competitors.

Digital Barriers to Employment

Recruitment today is digital. It starts with your own website: According to recruitment trend experts, potential employees are scrutinizing your brand online to get a sense of your identity, culture and reputation. Thus your online presence is playing an increasingly vital role in attracting qualified job candidates. Job searches, applications and screening are also online.

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Unfortunately, job seekers with disabilities face not just attitudinal barriers, but digital barriers as well. A significant portion of employer sites, recruitment boards and online tools are not fully accessible to people with disabilities.

In a 2015 survey of job seekers with disabilities, the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)5 highlighted many of the web accessibility barriers they routinely face. Almost half of them (46%) said that the last time they tried to apply online for a job, the process was “difficult to impossible.” Of those who were required to complete tests or assessments as part of the job screening, 40% said they couldn’t do it independently.

These job seekers reported a whole range of web accessibility problems. They encountered navigation issues, timeouts, poor color contrast, graphics without alternative text descriptions, and job applications that could only be completed using a mouse, among other barriers.

All these barriers, incidentally, could easily have been remediated if website designers followed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are universal standards for web accessibility. Instead, countless opportunities for richer talent are potentially lost when companies rely on these inaccessible online recruitment tools.

Attracting Qualified Job Applicants with Disabilities

Section 503 of The Rehabilitation Act6 establishes seven percent as the “utilization goal” for federal contractors hiring people with disabilities. This means that, in their recruitment and hiring practices, they should be aiming for seven percent of their work force to be made up of employees with disabilities (or seven percent of each job or trade group, if the organization has more than 100 employees).

Businesses and organizations that are serious about diversity in their work force should get serious about digital accessibility. Let potential job candidates know they are welcomed from the moment they visit your brand online. Eliminate any barriers from your website. Make sure that your online application process is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

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Full digital accessibility will enable all job seekers to learn about your policies and apply to your organization without encountering frustrating barriers. It will project to potential employees with and without disabilities that your company is progressive and inclusive. Importantly, it will also build trust, making it more likely that your employees will feel comfortable self-identifying as having disabilities. That’s essential, of course, if you’re aspiring to meet the Section 503 utilization goal.

The benefits don’t end there. By complying with digital accessibility standards, your organization will reap the rewards of tapping into a rich talent pool. You’ll diversify your reach and engagement. And you’ll differentiate yourself from your competitors.

An Innovative Solution

eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.


  1. U.S. Department of Labour’s latest figures. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016.
  2. Job Accomodation Network (JAN) Job Accomodation Network, 2016.
  3. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 2005.
  4. Global Recruiting Trends Report Maria Ignatova, 2016.
  5. Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) PEAT, 2015.
  6. Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act U.S. Department of Labor, 2014.

What to do next

We can help you meet WCAG standards and maintain ADA and AODA compliance:

  1. Connect with us today to learn more about our comprehensive approach to digital accessibility, including our automated and manual auditing capabilities and extensive range of managed services.
  2. Visit our resources section to download free white papers and webinars, and find our newest blogs on industry trends.
  3. Connect with us to continue the conversation on Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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