Leveraging Technology for Disability-friendly Hiring

The rate of unemployment for people with disabilities, despite big companies opening up employment opportunities, is still very high. According to reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities in the US was 8% in 2018, which was more than twice the rate for neuro-typical persons (3.7%). The Office of the Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), under section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, has set a 7% utilization goal as a ‘good-faith’ effort for all corporations that have ties with the federal government. This is a good start as the disability community seeks greater participation in the workforce. The interactions that I regularly have with C-level executives and disability advocates reassure me that most businesses are aware of the utilization goal and putting their best foot forward to achieve it.

Challenges with Scalability and Measuring Success

One of the major challenges in disability hiring is to figure out how to scale and measure success. Any attempt to scale recruitment efforts comes with added complexities in systems integration and process streamlining, obtaining approval, and managing day-to-day operations, ultimately resulting in higher costs. Even though there are employee resource groups in various organizations doing their best with passion and commitment, there is only so much they can do to effectively address the growing business need for scalability.

Current Template

Currently, a handful of successful disability and autism hiring programs are designed to do a little more in order to scale and sustain. But the vast majority of them are running on manual processes that require extensive coordination between multiple stakeholders. As a result, they are struggling to not only manage costs but also keep the wheels of innovation turning. This is not new for the staffing industry though. Between 2002-06, the HR and recruitment sector developed a few scalable models and technology platforms to reduce manual work in recruiting. That was when cost-effectiveness was first brought into the purchasing function for talent acquisition. Now we have reached a tipping point where pilot programs are unable to take the next big leap and make a bigger impact.

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How do we leverage technology to address these challenges?

Tech-driven Template

Based on my experience working for the disability community in a tech-driven environment, I would like to propose the following measures:

  1. We need technological innovation to put processes in place.
  2. We would also require technology for process improvement and customization. Incremental improvement is fine as long as there is progress.
  3. The use of automation would help businesses set up measurable goals while facilitating communication, collaboration, and feedback.
  4. Artificial intelligence and machine learning would enable relevant patterns to be discovered for better forecasting and informed decision-making.

Bringing It All Together

It’s important to not only bring technology to the table so individuals with disabilities can land gainful employment, but also develop a tech-enabled employment ecosystem where inclusive hiring becomes mainstream — a pivotal chapter in the HR playbook — and not just a “nice to have” D&I initiative.

Nish Parikh

Nish Parikh
Nish Parikh is co-founder and CEO of Rangam Consultants Inc., a New Jersey-based company specializing in developing solutions for special needs education, vocational skills training, and inclusive employment. He also is founder and executive director of LetUsConnect™, an employment research park designed to identify and implement sustainable self- and community employment practices for the disabled in Princeton, NJ.

Nish Parikh

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