Disability employment: three easy steps

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 10:09am

Getting ready to either help or directly employ people with disabilities is easier than you think. Here are three reasons why.

Workplace systems and technology

A major misconception is that there is an expense in setting up computers, office equipment and other systems so that they can be used by people with disabilities.

While this may once have been the case, it’s simply not true anymore. ‘Disabled employment’ no longer means ‘expensive’ or ‘too hard to set up’ and should not be viewed as a barrier.

That’s because the mainstream office technology that we all use—Windows, iOS, OS X and Android-based systems—is now packed with built-in accessibility features.

This commonly includes screen readers, screen magnifiers, contrast adjustments, captioned videos, on-screen keyboards, adjustments to text size, mouse pointers and speeds, and other access features.

The message here is that making your workplace accessible is often no more difficult or expensive than just simply turning these features on.

Better communication

As with many challenges in life, you can help people with disabilities gain employment through better and clearer communication.

That means taking the time to consider how people with disabilities communicate and what slight adjustments you can make to better fit this.

It also means thinking about all the different job-related information you may have—job ads, job descriptions, training materials, employment forms etc.—and how they can be made accessible.

For example, is your online job ad accessible such that it can be read with a screen reader? Are any online forms able to be completed by people with limited dexterity? Are your materials also available in simpler or plain-English versions? Social media tools are often lacking in accessibility, so is your job ad posted in more than places than just Twitter or LinkedIn?

In addition, do your employment processes allow for things like a voice-based (sound recording) cover letter or resume? Rather than a job interview based around open-ended questions, do you also offer an alternative multiple choice-based questionnaire?

Get Started Now

Lastly, to make employment easier for people with disabilities all you have to do is just start.

Don’t plan endlessly for every possible contingency or scenario. Don’t get bogged down in making sure everything is 100 per cent up-to-scratch.

By simply starting to make things more accessible you will, step-by-step, improve the ability of people with disabilities to gain employment.

A great place to start is to ask yourself, “What is the largest disability group I deal with?” This will immediately focus your efforts so that you can then better identify relevant processes to change, which accessibility features you need to switch on in your software and hardware, and which documents and communications you need to make accessible.

Another very useful step is to publicly tell your staff, your clients and your agencies that you are committed to improving employment for people with disabilities. This external pressure is positive and will better drive your organisation to making real and lasting changes.

Resources

Media Access Australia, as a leader in accessibility, has a wealth of resources for organisations looking to make their workplaces, systems and processes more accessible for people with disabilities.

These include expert guides such as the Service Providers' Accessibility Guide and Sociability: social media for people with a disability. We also have a dedicated web accessibility hub, Access iQ. For those seeking professional development in web accessibility, we have partnered with the University of South Australia on the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility.

Media Access Australia’s CEO, Alex Varley, will be presenting on disability employment at the National Disability Service’s NDS Disability at Work Conference 2014, to be held at the Sofitel Sydney 21–22 August.


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