Recognising the benefits of employing disabled people in the legal profession, and attracting talented disabled candidates is a great start, but of little use if your recruitment process is not inclusive nor accessible. Although unintentional, there are many ways that disabled people can be excluded from the recruitment process.
Your website is a good starting point. Is it accessible? As recently as 2016 it was estimated that 70 percent of UK websites do not meet the accessibility standards required by the Equality Act 2010. If your website doesn’t work with text browsers, it will be inaccessible to some candidates with sight impairment, for example.
Do you make it clear in all your material that you will offer adjustments that disabled applicants might require for the recruitment process? This could include interviews in a wheelchair-accessible venue, the provision of a British Sign Language interpreter, or assistive technology for any tests.
Are the people responsible for recruitment trained in inclusion and accessibility? The much discussed “unconscious bias” can come into play when interviewing or assessing candidates who have a physical, emotional or mental difference. For example, an autistic candidate may have all the qualities required for a role, but not be particularly good at the social side of interviews, preferring structured specific questions.
Do you offer work experience, apprenticeships or internships as an alternative way of learning and demonstrating ability? Increasingly, law firms are offering these as an additional route into the profession.
Ensuring that your recruitment process is accessible is absolutely not about lowering standards, but about removing barriers that may exist to prevent disabled applicants demonstrating their suitability for a post. You are looking for the best candidate for the job, and it’s important that you don’t exclude potential talent from showing you their skills.