Guest blog: Bias Against Disabled Candidates

Today a guest blog from Mike Duxbury with some remarkable findings from research about bias against disabled candidates:

The following report was instigated 5 years ago having discussed with a number of people both from Job Centre Plus, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Action for Blind People and the RNIB.

Having seen some statistics in 2011 where it reveals around 85% of blind people being unemployed and 65% of those being unemployable. Whilst I am very aware that a lot of sight loss happens later in life there are in excess of 400,000 people who are totally blind of a working age.

The reason for looking at blindness is because this is one of the areas where companies perceive that more is required to be changed or adapted within the work place.

In the past expensive and complex assistive technology was needed to be implemented for a lot of blind people in order to be competitive within the workplace and this has led to many employers perceiving this to be complex and costly in order to adapt their environments to accommodate some of the sensory people.

In 2016 with the advancement in speech technology, accessible telecommunications, low cost screen readers and scanning tools within mobiles it has meant that very little needs to be changed to employ sensory impaired people.

There appears to be an issue with the following 3 areas-:

1)   There is still a high level of fear within the U.K. employment market around the employing of sensory impaired people, as many do not understand the raft of technology that now allows this segment of people to be equal and compatible to anybody else.

2)   A lack of education around the understanding of what is needed to employ a sensory impaired person, as mentioned above 20 years ago a high level of cost was needed however today the same technology can be used for sensory impaired and able bodied persons as many devices including tablets have differing levels of accessibility built in at no extra cost

3)   Many managers who are sifting through applications for new roles within organisations are still shying away from interviewing many sensory impaired people and this appears to be a fear of saying and doing the wrong thing and causing embarrassment and offence but I feel as a blind person myself this is completely the opposite to what is needed. Many managers will only be inclusive and fulfill the equal opportunities policies if they are willing to be open minded, open to discussion and open to having their own views challenged around their knowledge of sensory impairment.

I feel that certainly on this third point this is where the major stumbling block appears to be as if you can’t get past the application stage you will never get to the employment stage.

Therefore over the last 5 years we have carried out over 500 applications to differing companies with some startling outcomes where we have both included the applicant’s disability and where this has been completely left out.

I have broken the 513 applications down as follows: –

In the field where no disability has been mentioned we have done around 247 applications of which interviews and further steps i.e. being passed to companies from agencies, getting one or more interviews is around 197 positives results.

Once they identified that there was a disability only 23 went on to be looked at in any further light.

With regards to the 266 where disability was mentioned in all the applications, there were only 7 positive results, 7 interviews, next steps and in one incident all criteria was passed and achieved, however the outcome was that their systems would not be compatible, even without investigating as it was felt a lot of work/expense would be required.

All applications were sent to companies that had an “equal opportunities policy” but I think many companies have this in place purely to meet U.K. regulations and to be viewed of as having corporate social responsibility.

Many of the companies that have been involved with the above process have thrown up some significant surprises due to their global claims around good personnel and employee understanding but I am not sure whether many of these applications ever get beyond individuals who’s knowledge of disability especially sensory impairments and the ease of accommodating and employing this segment of people has less challenges and in many cases none that they would expect or have an understanding of.

I am not going to name any companies as this is not an exercise to disgrace or champion any individual companies, but merely a document to outline the problems we still face in 2016 and how disability and employment for what ever reason are failing each other and many employers are losing out on some significant skill bases.

One of the other significant challenges is that many organisations that represent certain disabled groups are also failing to employ those whom they represent in order to bring true understanding and an outward appearance to others leaving many companies wondering the reasons around the non-employment of disabled people within certain organisations/ charity groups.

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