6. Hiring Accessibility Staff
After reviewing the staff list when looking into training for various roles, you discover the company employs only one person who has identified as having a disability. Given approximately 15% of the population has a disability, you think the company is missing an opportunity to benefit from diversifying its workforce by leveraging this relatively untapped talent pool. You also realize that hiring additional staff with a visible disability will help spread awareness of the need for digital accessibility throughout the company. You make the following recommendation to the accessibility committee: The company should make an effort to hire an accessibility quality-assurance person to test products for accessibility, provide input on the company’s accessibility practices, and help expose staff to people with disabilities to raise awareness of the need for digital accessibility. You suggest hiring a qualified person, who is blind and uses a screen reader to access the web and other digital information, into a new office support role.
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Addressing Myths About Hiring People with Disabilities
Although there are many well-educated, skilled people with disabilities in Canada and in other countries around the world, they continue to be unemployed, or underemployed at a rate more than twice that of the general adult population. In fact according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, more than 50% of people with disabilities have high school diplomas, and over one third of these have completed a post-secondary program.
In Ontario, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is about 8% higher than the general population, as reported by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). According to the OCC, this is in part due to systemic and cultural discrimination based on misperceptions of people with disabilities. People with disabilities are often perceived as less productive, more likely to take time off, too costly to accommodate, and more likely to be a burden on employees who do not have disabilities. In fact the opposite is true for all these points. Because people with disabilities have more difficulty finding work, they are likely to value employment more than typical fully abled workers.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has put together a list of eight myths about hiring people with disabilities, and the OCC challenges those myths with facts. Take a few moments to read through “8 Myths About Hiring People with Disabilities.”
Readings & References:
Accessible Hiring Practices
In Ontario, the employment standards of the AODA describes requirements for accessible employment practices, from recruitment procedures, to employee accommodations, to performance management, and more. As of January 1, 2017, all organizations in Ontario, including small ones, must meet the AODA employment standards’s requirements. These requirements are summarized below:
- Notify employees and the public about the availability of job accommodations for applicants with disabilities.
- Ensure that the methods being used to advertise employment vacancies are inclusive, with alternative formats available where appropriate.
- Notify prospective applicants that interview accommodations are available upon request.
- If an applicant requests accommodation, consult with the applicant on suitable ways to provide those accommodations.
- Upon making a job offer, and upon start of employment, notify candidates of policies for accommodating employees with disabilities.
- Upon request, provide information in accessible formats to employees needed to perform their job, as well as information generally available to employees.
- Provide personalized emergency-response information that takes into account employees’s disabilities, and to a designated assistant if one is required. Review emergency-response information if an employee moves or changes jobs.
- Have a process in place to document individual accommodation plans (other than small organizations).
- Upon return to work due to disability, develop an accommodation plan for employees returning after an absence.
- During performance reviews, take into account employee disabilities, accessibility needs, and individual accommodation plans.
- When career development is provided, take into account employee disabilities, accessibility needs, and individual accommodation plans.
- When redeployment is provided, take into account employee disabilities, accessibility needs, and individual accommodation plans.
For employees with disabilities, employed in a role that involves consuming or producing digital information, accommodations typically include supplying assistive technologies that provide access to a computer. If employees with disabilities do not already have a preferred means of accommodation, they will often receive a workplace accommodation assessment, typically conducted by an occupational therapist (OC). The OC will recommend adjustments to workspaces to accommodate a disability, as well as assistive software or hardware to make possible or aid with tasks associated with particular roles that involve using a computer.
The following is a list of potential accommodations that may be required by people with disabilities. In most cases accommodation will cost less than $1000, sometimes much less.
People who are blind
People who are blind will typically require a screen reader to access a computer, which reads aloud the information on a computer screen. If they are deafblind, or for blind users who read Braille, they may also require a refreshable Braille display working along with a screen reader to turn text on a computer screen into raised dots on a finger pad that refreshes while navigating through the text.
People with low vision
People with low vision may or may not require a screen reader. Some will require magnification software, while others will rely on magnification built into the operating system or web browsers they may be using.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing
For those with loss of hearing, they may not require assistive technology beyond hearing aids. They may, however, require audio content in alternative formats, typically written, and they may require accommodations for meetings, either a scribe to take notes or use instant messaging, or perhaps voice recognition software to transcribe spoken words to a computer screen. Real-time captioning services may be an option, connecting by phone or internet to a service that types what is heard to be displayed on a computer screen.
Some people who are Deaf will be able to read lips. For this to be effective, others need to be trained to be aware when they speak, that their lips are in view for the person who is lip reading.
TTY (text telephone or teletypewriter) may also be required if a person who is Deaf will be communicating by telephone. Video-relay services, similar in nature to real-time captions, have a remote interpreter listen and interpret to sign language, displayed on a computer screen.
In some cases, particularly where ASL is the person’s first language, a sign-language interpreter may be required. This can be an expensive option, however. Augmentative communication devices might be used as an alternative to sign-language interpreting, used to translate English into ASL.
People with cognitive disabilities
Cognitive disabilities can be quite varied. Assistive technologies are less likely to be required. Rather job accommodations may be needed, aligning work duties with the capacity to comprehend and complete those duties effectively. People with cognitive disabilities may be well suited to take on entry level duties that are often not challenging enough for others.
Other’s with cognitive disabilities such as autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and other pervasive developmental delays (PDDs), can be quite intelligent in some respects, while having difficulties with social interaction. They may be able to take on highly complex, specialized tasks, but may need privacy or routine to function effectively.
People with learning disabilities
People with learning disabilities are typically as intelligent as others, some more than average. They typically have difficulties in a specific area, such as reading, or mathematics, or interpreting visual input. In some cases, no accommodations are needed. For others, they may required text-to-speech technology to read text aloud.
People with fine-motor disabilities
For those who have limited use of their hands, perhaps due to a spinal-cord injury, or perhaps an inability to hold their hand steady enough to handle a keyboard or mouse, a variety of assistive technologies may be employed.
Speech recognition may be required by some, allowing them to speak commands to a computer, or dictate text to a document. For those who cannot handle a mouse or keyboard, technologies such as eye tracking, or a head mouse, might be required to allow them to control a mouse pointer, and press a large button switch that take the place of a mouse click.
Some may require a keyboard with large keys, that are easier to target with a shaky hand. Others may be accommodated with low-tech solutions such as a keyboard cover with holes over each key that prevent adjacent keys from being pressed.
People using a wheelchair
People using a wheelchair to accommodate loss of movement in their legs typically do not need any assistive technology when interacting with a computer. For those who have loss of movement in the arms and legs, technologies like those described for fine-motor disabilities may be required.
Readings & References:
- Access to Success: A Guide for Employers (NEADS)
- Employers’ Toolkit: Making Ontario Workplaces Accessible to People with Disabilities [PDF] (Conference Board of Canada)
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