Share or print this story.
01 November 2020

Recruiting people with diverse abilities.

This story is part of the Inclusive employment series. 

Inclusive workplaces start at the job design phase, with roles and job descriptions created with accessibility and inclusion in mind. An inclusive workplace is one in which every team member feels welcome, is accepted for who they are, is supported to perform at their best and is given equal opportunity for career advancement.

In this section, we provide some tips for creating recruitment processes to make roles more attractive to suitably qualified prospective employees with diverse abilities and what to consider when it comes to position descriptions, advertisements and interviews. We also explore what it means to become a disability confident recruiter.

Job design for diversity.

  • Consider the skills and attributes that are essential to the role and limit the job requirements to “must-haves” only. Non-essential attributes such as having a driver’s license may discourage some people with a disability from applying.
  • Flexibility is an important part of job design for many people, not only people with disabilities. Many businesses are now more confident in their ability to support employees to work from home. Being able to work remotely and allowing employees to determine their work hours, location (such as the ground floor) and how the work is carried out can attract a more diverse talent pool.
  • Procedures should accommodate the different ways people learn. For example, make processes, policies and induction manuals available in different formats (print/large print, video, audio) and develop simplified, visual versions of workflows instead of relying on written descriptions.
  • Be willing to re-allocate tasks that a person finds difficult to do so the focus remains on ability and what they can bring to the team. Alternatively, be prepared to offer additional training or mentoring if the person indicates a willingness to learn.
  • Adjust onboarding, training and mentoring programs based on needs and skills rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Remember that every person with a disability has different needs and requirements. Be prepared to customise some of the above aspects of job design after hire based on the individual.
  • Include information about the organisation’s approach to job design in position descriptions.
  • Include mental health awareness and training in your onboarding process.

Advertising and promotion.

The NSW Public Service Commission has some great tips for creating a disability friendly job ad. We have summarised the tips below and added some of our own.

  • Use clear and simple language – avoid acronyms and jargon.
  • Focus on what should be achieved, not how
  • Provide a clear and concise description of the role
  • Be clear about the essential and non-essential duties
  • Include a diversity statement indicating your organisation has adopted inclusive employment practices and is a welcoming environment for all employees
  • Provide information about the accessibility of your work environment, public transport options and any flexible work arrangements available
  • List more than one method of reaching the contact person to accommodate different communication needs
  • Make online forms and application processes user friendly and clear
  • Provide an alternative contact person to talk through role adjustments if necessary
  • Include a link to your Accessibility Action Plan
  • Ensure online forms, information and position descriptions are accessible and screen reader friendly.

Attract a broader field of applicants by using alternative advertising pathways beyond traditional platforms such as Seek. Job vacancies suitable for people with a disability can be lodged through a registered Disability Employment Service provider.

Inclusive interviews.

Prior to the interview, ask if the candidate needs any adjustments to demonstrate their suitability for the role. If you are working with a Disability Employment Service (DES) provider, their representative will usually advise if special arrangements need to be made. In some cases, funding from the federal Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) may be available to cover the costs of special arrangements.

Adjustments may include:

  • Making changes to the location or environment
  • Scheduling at a time to suit the candidate
  • Conducting interviews via Zoom or other online platform
  • Allowing applicants to bring a laptop and other assistive technology such as screen readers
  • Providing an AUSLAN interpreter or scribe
  • Alternative options for assessments.

It’s helpful and encouraging to candidates if there are people of diverse abilities and backgrounds on the interview panel.

Many businesses are unsure about asking candidates disability-related questions. It is important to be aware your legal obligations to prevent discrimination and avoid breaking the law. You can ask about how an applicant’s disability might relate to doing the job. This gives them the opportunity to talk about their strengths and what they can bring to the role.

It is also appropriate to ask how the workplace could be changed to help the applicant perform the tasks associated with the role as well as anything that should be done to keep the workplace safe. However, you cannot ask about the person’s health or disability.

JobAccess provides clear guidelines on the types of questions you can and cannot ask.

Types of questions you can ask.

  • Will you need any special work arrangements so you can do your job?
  • Have you got any ideas about good ways to do your job?
  • Do you take any medication that might make it unsafe for you to do any of the job’s tasks?
  • How will you let us know about medical appointments so we can change your work roster?

Types of questions you cannot ask.

  • Do you take a lot of medication?
  • Are you sick a lot?
  • Does your disability make you get angry with other people?
  • Have you ever lost a job because of your disability?

Becoming a Disability Confident Recruiter.

The Australian Network on Disability (AND) has developed a program that provides tools and resources to help agencies and organisations to grow their ability to recruit talented people with a disability.

The Disability Confident Recruiter (DCR) program, which is open to AND members and non-members, provides support to identify and address barriers which may prevent people with a disability from applying for roles.

The Australian Network on Disability says that the program can help you to:

  • Become an employer of choice for people with disability
  • Access skilled and talented applicants
  • Better reflect the diversity of the community in which you operate
  • Analyse your recruitment process to identify and remedy unintended barriers
  • Reduce the risk of receiving a disability discrimination complaint.

Organisations that successfully complete the DCR program and adhere to its charter obtain Disability Confident Recruiter status and are able to use the DCR logo. Some noteworthy organisations who have achieved DCR status include Telstra, RMIT University and Life Without Barriers.


For more information about inclusive employment, check out our Inclusive employment page or download the full version of the free Leap in! ebook, Inclusive employment: A comprehensive guide for creating a culture of inclusion for disabled people in your organisation.

The information provided here is general in nature only and does not constitute business financial or legal advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your business objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any of this information, you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your business objectives, financial/legal situation and needs.

    Never miss an update – subscribe to Leap in! eNews.