"Despite evidence of recruitment industry commitment to helping disabled candidates find work, it is the 'attitude and knowledge' of recruiters that cause the greatest frustration for disabled job seekers." Disabled jobseekers don't get the help they need from recruiters and employers, survey shows.
So why don't recruiters and employers - let's call them all HR - have the proper 'attitude and knowledge'? Let us answer one question with another:
Where is all the information for and about disabled Human Resources professionals?
Where are all the academic papers, the careers advice, the case studies? If they exist, I can only say that they are well hidden from Google. What Google does reveal, however, is that the Human Resources profession clearly regards disabled people (jobseekers, candidates and employees) as a 'them and us' situation.
One of the most recent studies that I located was from the US, entitled: 'The Disability Divide: Employer Study'. The gap between employees' beliefs and those of HR professionals about the odds, timing and causes of disability and the importance of protecting against it.
The report makes for interesting reading, with insights into people's attitudes towards disability. However, disabled people and HR professionals are constantly placed on opposing sides; at no point is there any suggestion that a disabled person might be an HR professional and vice versa.
A slightly older Canadian report is also very useful, as an analysis of responses from 482 HR professionals about their knowledge and training needs regarding episodic disabilities, 'A Report on a Survey of Certified Human Resources Professionals Regarding Episodic Disabilities', Lily Wong. Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation.
Finally, and less formally, the blog of an HR Director includes a short YouTube clip that, as she says, is definitely worth watching. It's proof that discrimination against the disabled exists and that there are HR and recruiting professionals that help perpetuate it. 'Does HR discriminate against the disabled?'
These are just a few examples but there can be no denying that disabled people and HR professionals are generally considered two different categories of individuals.
Surely, the situation must improve when it comes to "helping them to become us", i.e. providing information for disabled people about careers in HR? After all, we dish out endless amounts of information to others about making employment accessible to and inclusive of disabled people; we preach equality and diversity and we emphasise the need to provide reasonable adjustments. Managers know, because we have drummed it into them, that job adverts and recruitment procedures must not be discriminatory towards anyone including disabled people - on the whole, we've done a great job because there is now widespread awareness.
Information for disabled people about careers in HR? I'm afraid other professions have taken up the baton of encouraging disabled people and run far off into the distance, leaving the HR profession a long way behind.
Let me show you a few examples.
We fly back to Canada again and into the offices of EY (Ernst & Young), a multinational professional services and one of the "Big Four" accounting firms. Look at this brilliant publication:
"Getting support, supporting others. A handbook for working with non-visible disabilities". Ernst & Young LLP (2010)
The reason that I am so enthusiastic about such a resource is because of the positive and encouraging message that it sends to disabled people about the possibilities of a career with such a prestigious firm. By focusing on non-visible disabilities, the organisation has raised the bar for attitudes towards disabled employees. If tolerance and acceptance of co-workers with non-visible disabilities is the norm at EY, then those with visible disabilities should surely have high expectations of being welcomed
Staying with accountancy but flying on to Scotland, we take a more in-depth look at disabled people working in the profession.
"Authors have identified a number of salient themes within these literatures that are relevant to the study of the employment of disabled accountants: (i) the role of stereotyping and popular discourse; (ii) the client as a discursive motif; (iii) the importance of appearance and image; and (iv) the rigid structuring of accounting practice and the significant temporal commitment required of the professional accountant." (Chap 3, p.9). "Disability and the socialization of accounting professionals". Duff, Angus & Ferguson, John. Critical Perspectives on Accounting. University of Strathclyde. (2011)
Although the report certainly highlights difficulties experienced by disabled accountants, the very existence of this and subsequent reports must be considered progress. To recognise a problem is to begin to address it and seek solutions.
A final peek at another profession, this time Architecture. "Disabled architects - Unlocking the potential for practice". Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) (2011)
Once again, this is a report that gives voice to and highlights the often unhappy experiences of disabled people during their studies and in practice and seeks to find positive ways forward that will benefit the architectural profession as a whole. As RIBA President Angela Brady states "It is clear that disabled architects can succeed and make great contributions to architectural practice".
Undoubtedly most of the wonderful work described above has had substantial input from HR professionals and due credit must be given for their expertise and commitment. This is precisely why I would have to repeat: Where is all the information for and about disabled Human Resources professionals?
To begin analysing and publishing information about disabled HR professionals will both enrich and enable the profession. It will send out a clear signal to generations of disabled people - and to everyone else - that the doors to the Human Resources profession are wide open to them.
The time has come for HR to become more introspective about the issue of disabled employees within the profession itself. For once, Human Resources needs to stop being so helpful to others and dedicate more time to itself.
This blog came about following David Souza's invitation to be included in the Book of Blogs project. You can buy the book online here.
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