By Jane Hatton

When I speak to employers around attracting disabled candidates (which I spend much of my working life doing), the response I often get is that they would like to receive more applications from disabled people, but few seem to apply.

They are quick to assure me that they treat all applicants the same, and would not unfairly discriminate against anyone.

However, discrimination can be much more subtle than stating ‘disabled people need not apply’!

It could be that your hiring process is inaccessible to some people. It could be that you have few visibly disabled people working in your organisation, so disabled applicants might assume they would not be welcome. It could be that you are doing everything right, but disabled people are unaware of this!

This may not be deliberate or intentional, but it can still prevent disabled people from applying for your vacancies.

Assuming you understand the many business benefits of employing disabled people, how can you ensure your hiring process is accessible, inclusive and attractive to this pool of talent?


If disabled people already know that you are inclusive and accessible, and welcome diverse talent, they are much more likely to apply.

Many disabled candidates have faced barriers and discrimination previously, and need to be confident you will take their application seriously. Making your commitment to inclusion very clear can help, for example by becoming a ‘Disability Confident’ employer.

Having a culture where employees feel safe to talk about disability will give your organisation a good reputation as an inclusive employer.


Are you advertising your roles where disabled candidates will be looking? This may include specialist job boards (e.g. Evenbreak) or disability journals (e.g. Pos’Ability). The wording of the advert also needs to make it clear you welcome applications from disabled people.

Accessible Recruitment Process

There may be barriers in your recruitment process that prevent people with particular impairments from accessing it at all. Some online application forms are inaccessible to some people – do you offer an alternative? Some people may have gaps in their CV which may seem off-putting without an explanation. Sometimes interview venues are inaccessible for, say, wheelchair users.

The interview itself is already known to be a poor predictor of future performance, and will be even more so with an Autistic candidate, or a candidate with high anxiety, or maybe a candidate with learning difficulties. Increasingly recruiters are offering relevant work-related tests or tasks, or work trials, instead of interviews.

Reasonable Adjustments

One way to ensure fairness is to make it very easy for candidates to request reasonable adjustments throughout the recruitment process.

As above, this could include offering alternative formats for application, help with completing an application form, providing a British Sign Language interpreter, giving a candidate more time for certain tests, and many others, depending on the specific barriers each individual candidate may experience.

The role of reasonable adjustments is not to give a disabled candidate an unfair advantage over other candidates, but to remove any barriers they may face, and level the playing field.

Trained staff

It is important that people involved in recruitment are trained in how unconscious bias might impact their perceptions of candidates, and also to have some disability awareness training.

People responsible for making hiring decisions need to ensure they are looking purely at the candidate’s existing or potential ability to do the job (with workplace adjustments if required) without being influenced by irrelevant factors.

Ensuring that your hiring process is genuinely inclusive and accessible is important, and may only require small, but important, changes. If you have disabled employees you could ask them to review your current process for accessibility. There are also organisations which offer audits to externally assess your recruitment process for accessibility (e.g. Business Disability Forum).

The more inclusive and accessible your organisation is, the more attractive you will be to a talented pool of candidates that may have been previously excluded.

Jane Hatton M.Sc. FCIPD FRSA is the Founder and Director of Evenbreak. Evenbreak is a specialist not-for-profit online job board run by disabled people for disabled people, and helps employers both attract more talented disabled candidates and position themselves as a genuinely inclusive ’employer of choice’.

Find out more


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The commercial benefits of employing disabled people

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About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.