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Will you support me? Spotting inclusive employers

Brianne Turk

Careers Commentator
Learn how to identify employers who have the practical resources and know-how to support employees with disability.

When individuals with disability work for inclusive employers, they are likely to have higher job satisfaction, higher productivity and greater job retention. As you start sifting through job listings, take the time to research each individual employer. Landing a position with an inclusive employer will have an enormously positive impact on your career.

Although the Disability Discrimination Act states that people with disability should not be discriminated against at any stage of their employment process, unfortunately not all workplaces are able to accommodate all individuals with disability.

When it comes to effective support, some employers are willing but incapable, due to a lack of resources and funding, while others are capable but unwilling (oh hi there, discrimination). Equally painful, are the employers who are both willing and capable, and yet totally miss the mark due to their lack of consultation with, and education in, the disability space.

When applying for jobs, it’s important to acknowledge that regardless of how well-intentioned your employer may be, they may not be set up to support your specific needs or be in a position to make the adjustments you require. This is because disability impacts a person’s capacity to carry out a role in a multitude of ways, and what each person requires is vastly different.

Inclusive employers

Thankfully, there are an ever-increasing number of employers who are kicking goals in the inclusion space. Employers who actively work towards the principles of diversity and inclusion do so to provide better outcomes for their business and to promote fairness, human rights and a sense of community.

As you begin your jobsearch, consider the importance you place on inclusive organisations. If you’re likely to require workplace modifications (ramps, accessible bathrooms, automated doors), you might focus on organisations which demonstrate that they have the commitment and resources to make this happen. Alternatively, you might be someone who is just looking for an organisation who values equality, mirroring your personal beliefs.  

How to spot them

When searching for jobs there are a couple of different ways to spot whether an employer is equipped – or willing to be equipped – to support an employee with disability.

Firstly there are the company values, principles, priorities and/or a mission statement. Values such as inclusion, diversity, equality, accessibility and fairness are all reassuring. You can typically find information about such principles in the ‘About us’ or ‘Who we are’ pages of a website.   

Next up is the recruitment process. Some job postings will clearly state that a position is open to people of all abilities, and will ask candidates to note if they require an adjustment or consideration at this time. This demonstrates an awareness that the experience of disability can disadvantage candidates from the application stage. If you do ask for an adjustment during recruitment, the employer’s response will give you a further indication of their willingness and capacity to meet your needs. An example might be requesting a support person to come with you to your interview.

It’s also great to look out for Accessibility Action Plans. You can often find these on a company’s website or by contacting reception and requesting a copy. Also referred to as a Disability Action Plan, this is a strategy that businesses develop voluntarily to show how they’re making their workplace, services and products inclusive and accessible. They assist organisations to identify and move away from practices which might cause discrimination for people with disability, and demonstrate a strong commitment for change. Importantly, an Accessibility Action Plan needs to outline how all future action will be prioritised, evaluated and supported – both financially and in human resources. It should also adhere to the principles outlined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Once completed it can be lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission to be reviewed in the case of a discrimination complaint.

Although an Accessibility Action Plan indicates a reassuring company-wide focus on inclusion, these plans aren’t compulsory. Whereas big companies often need a strategy to roll out new practices across a 12 month period, small businesses might forgo the strategy altogether and implement changes as they arise. For this reason, it’s still worth considering businesses which don’t utilise this plan. In these situations, ask how they’re making their practices more inclusive and then decide if they’re a fit for you.     

While these points indicate a focus on inclusion, the greatest indicator will come during your interview. This is your opportunity to see how your interviewer responds to you and the topics you raise. You can ask to see the company’s diversity and inclusion strategy, talk to them about whether they’ve ever supported an employee with disability (while being mindful of confidentiality) and discuss any workplace adjustments that you might require. You can also ask whether they utilise any resources such as the Australian Network on Disability to support the effective employment of people with disability.

During these discussions remember that actions speak louder than words. Employers may have the best of intentions, but find a way to seek tangible evidence of practice.   

Narrow your search

To find inclusive employers, you could also try conducting an online search for programs or workplaces which specifically employ people with the disability you experience.

The Dandelion Project for example, specifically integrates people with autism into the workforce by developing their life and workplace skills, together with skills in information technology. This initiative was founded by DXC Technology Australia, who run it in partnership with Specialisterne.

Likewise, Vision Australia offers individuals who have graduated in the last four years and who are blind or have low vision, a nine month paid placement with Vision Australia, together with a three month placement with an external company. This program allows candidates to work in their area of expertise: marketing, occupational therapy, finance, early childhood education, advocacy, information technology and more. Vision Australia encourages applications from people who are blind or have low vision for all of their ongoing roles across Australia.

You’ll also find a tonne of information on our website about numerous employers who are known for their positive work in the diversity and inclusion space. These employers include Accenture, ANZ, Coles, CISCO, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, PwC, Qantas, Westpac and most major Australian Government departments. Head to each of their pages to find out more.

If you’re concerned about sharing information about your disability with a potential employer, check out our article about disclosing your disability.