More employers are trying to hire a diversity of races, genders and sexual orientations. While those diversity efforts are helpful, they often overlook another important demographic: the disabled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four people have a disability, yet people with disabilities encounter unique problems in the job searching process. To help job searchers with disabilities and employers connect easier, Tangram Business Resourcing and the Autism Society of Indiana will host the Ability Aware Reverse Job Fair.
The job fair will showcase 25 young job seekers with disabilities. They consist of recent college graduates, soon to be college graduates and some people without a degree but have a certification. The job seekers boast a wide variety of expertise, with IT being the most popular skillset.
“People with disabilities can come into a higher-level job,” Angie Vandersteen, business development manager at Tangram Business Resourcing, said. “It’s about finding the right fit, the right person, who just happens to have a disability, for this higher-level job.”
It’s a reverse job fair because job seekers do not approach employers. Employers approach job seekers. Traditional interviewing processes can unintentionally filter out people with disabilities, especially if the disability is not readily noticeable. For example, Vandersteen said interviewers tend to repeat questions if they don’t receive an answer in one and a half seconds. That time frame is much too short for people who process information differently. In addition, online assessments that ask the same question multiple times in different ways can confuse people on the autistism spectrum.
“Let’s call a job interview what it is,” said Todd Root, the director of development at the Autism Society of Indiana. “It’s a sociability test. That’s all it is. If you have an issue with social [skills] you are going to fail. Things are stacked against you.”
When the employer approaches the applicant as opposed to the other way around, it relieves social anxiety. Being able to better approach disabled applicants is also useful for businesses because employers don’t miss out on employees who bring a unique perspective as well as possessing natural problem-solving skills that come from dealing with challenges,Vandersteen said.
For example, Root, who is on the autism spectrum, said his brain is like seven different monitors running at once. While that way of thinking can occasionally complicate workplace communication, it allows him to focus on large quantities of information simultaneously.
The job fair also promises a unique solution to the skills gap: if many companies experience difficulty finding qualified candidates due to low unemployment, then they should search among groups with traditionally high unemployment such as disabled people.
“Right now, employers are having a tough time because of the low unemployment rate that is out there right now, and we all are thinking differently about that workforce and how to attract that workforce, and here we have individuals that have skillsets,” Tammy Robinson, managing principal Engaging Solutions, a company that will attend the job fair, said.
The event can even benefit organizations not looking to hire. Not only do business owners get to interact with the disabled community but they can also attend disability awareness and etiquette training sessions, allowing their company to become a better environment for both future and current disabled employees.
“So many companies are really putting more into diversity and inclusion,” Vandersteen said. “However, there’s still a misconception out there that diversity is [only] race and gender. … Disability is as much a part of diversity as those other classifications.”
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.
While there is no more room for job seekers in the Ability Aware Reverse Job Fair, there is plenty of room for potential employers.
When: 3-5 p.m. March 6
- Disability Awareness and Etiquette Training
- Session One, 2 p.m.
- Session Two, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Rapp Family Conference Center at Eskenazi Health Campus, 720 Eskenazi Ave.
Registration: Contact Angie Vandersteen at 317-968-9035 or firstname.lastname@example.org