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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DSI)

Involving candidates with disabilities: reasonable accommodations

In today’s workforce, diversity and inclusion (D&I) are becoming increasingly important topics. One of the D&I challenges in selection processes is how to include candidates with disabilities. Therefore, employers are recognising the importance of making ‘reasonable accommodations’ to ensure a fair selection process, in which each candidate can participate in an equally fair way. A reasonable accommodation, in this context, is any change, adjustment or modification to the selection process during any or all stages. For example:

  • Providing a bigger screen monitor for a candidate with a visual disability
  • Providing extra time to read verbal information for a candidate with dyslexia
  • Providing a quiet test environment for a candidate with autism

Reasonable accommodations are in no way intended to favour candidates with disabilities over candidates without disabilities. In reality, they mean quite the opposite: they are necessary to compensate for specific barriers that people with disabilities might encounter when using certain assessment tools or when entering a specific test environment.

So reasonable accommodations enable candidates with disabilities to demonstrate their skills and abilities to the fullest, but attempting to provide these accommodations can sometimes raise questions. There are several factors that test administrators and selection officers need to take into account, instead of blindly implementing reasonable accommodations. For example, they need to consider what competencies and skills are relevant to the job, whether an accommodation is ‘reasonable’ or not, and what possible effects accommodations can have on the comparability of test results.

However, in this blogpost, we want to shed some light on another important aspect that should be kept in mind during the selection process: involving your candidate! Below you can find some guidelines.

1. Provide the opportunity to request an accommodation

First of all, make sure that candidates with disabilities always have the possibility to notify the test administrator or selection officer in advance if they need an accommodation. You can, for example, provide details of a contact person for candidates with disabilities either in the job vacancy or in the selection invitation. Make sure that you know in advance which candidates might need some form of accommodation, in order to have enough time to prepare and to avoid having to improvise or arrange any last-minute modifications.


2. Discuss the selection procedure in advance

Secondly, it is important to inform candidates with disabilities about the nature of the assessment tool(s) that you are planning to use and the anticipated course of the selection process. It might be very difficult to predict the type of challenges that certain disabilities can pose for a candidate. Therefore, discuss in advance with your candidate how you plan to set up the selection process. Providing all necessary information beforehand allows the candidate to have a better idea both of the specific difficulties they can expect to encounter and of the accommodations that might be appropriate.

It might also be useful to ask candidates how they usually deal with some of these difficulties in their work life if they have encountered them before, so that you can adapt the selection process accordingly.


3. No one-size-fits-all approach 

Lastly, you cannot place all people with a certain type of disability in the same category. It is therefore important to listen closely to a candidate’s specific situation, as no one-size-fits-all approach exists. Each individual is unique and therefore will experience difficulties and challenges differently.

Take, for example, two candidates with a visual disability, where both candidates are partially sighted. Using a screen magnifier on the computer might be sufficient for candidate A, while providing an enlarged paper version of the test might be more appropriate for candidate B.

This is why it is crucial to get input from the candidates themselves. Involving your candidate allows you to discuss together what accommodations might be appropriate to cater for their specific needs. On top of that, involving the candidate early on will make them feel included and more at ease when participating in the selection procedure.

About the author

Shirley Dewitte | Consultant Research & Development

Amelie Vrijdags | Expert Psychologist Research & Development

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