On Interviewing People With Disabilities
On Interviewing People With Disabilities
February 10, 2022

In 2019 in North America, only 19% of people with a disability were employed.

That number paled in comparison to the 66% of persons without who had found employment.

What these numbers show us is that there is a drastic underrepresentation of people with disabilities in the workforce today. This imbalance of diversity doesn’t just mean opportunities are unfairly prioritized towards an ableist mindset, it also means opportunities are being missed by diversity-minded organizations.

It’s been found that when companies increase the representation of people with disabilities accordingly in their staff, they see an increase in other desired areas. Things like 28% increased revenue, or 30% increased profit margins — or even two times their prior net income.

If you’ve read this far, it’s likely that you are already on course to make room for disability in your workplace diversity. But you’re probably wondering how best to go about making it happen.

Well, we’ve put together the 3 best ways to update your interview process to make sure you are making candidates with disabilities feel welcome, and that you are providing them an equal opportunity to help make your team even stronger!

1. Know the rules

People with disabilities, like all workers, are protected by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

This organization enacts and enforces human rights, including those of employees and employers. They publish the “Human Rights Code” (or more commonly referred to as simply “the Code”).

The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, sex, disability, and age, to name a few of the 17 grounds. All other Ontario laws must agree with the Code.

When you need to get a lay of the land to understand how to interact with people with disabilities, this is a great starting point.

It’s suggested that you work with your HR representative to ensure your interview and recruitment process complies with all the requirements set out in the Code.

2. Evaluate your expectations

It’s always important to pay attention to one’s own bias during any interview.

As humans, we’re wired to make quick assessments of the people and environments around us. But more often than not, in a professional setting, that natural instinct can get the better of us.

It’s more than just “not judging a book by its cover”. While we should look past a candidate’s physical appearance to assess their worth, we also need to take certain behaviours with a grain of salt.

We all have our own innate bias towards certain behaviours and characteristics. This can be because of our culture, our upbringing, or other social factors that guide our decision making. But we need to appreciate that others have their own idiosyncrasies, too.

If we judge others based on those aspects and not on their potential as an employee, then we’re not seeing the forest for the trees.

One common example is making eye contact, smiling, and shaking hands. While, at first, these might seem like desirable and positive behaviours, when seen through a different perspective they can become negative obstacles.

Just like some cultures may see those behaviours as undesirable, people with certain disabilities (visible or invisible) may not be able to perform them and see them as challenges to their candidacy.

Make sure your interview expectations don’t rely on behaviours that may be inaccessible to some.

3. Incorporate inclusive practices

Inclusivity doesn’t just mean allowing in one new group at a time — it’s about putting processes in place to make you feel more welcome to all.

Preparing best practices for your interview process that make things more accessible for people with a variety of disabilities will not only make the process more comfortable for them. Many of these practices are actually universally ideal for candidates.

Here are some practices you can use to accommodate people with certain types of disabilities. While this list is not comprehensive, you will still find that many of these will make the experience easier for both you and any candidate you are interviewing!

For applicants with hearing disabilities:

  • If you have multiple interviewers, avoid speaking simultaneously.
  • Hand out printed sheets with names, titles, and departments of all present.
  • Face the candidate directly, and find a location with good lighting.
  • Speak clearly, but naturally. Don’t exaggerate your mouth shapes, this can make lip reading more difficult.
  • When addressing someone, use their name before saying what you want them to hear.
  • Speak at an even tempo, don’t speed up or slow down.
  • Try not to cover your mouth.
  • Avoid background noise, even ambient sounds.
  • Provide important details in writing, such as dates, salaries, etc.

For applicants with vision disabilities:

  • Identify and name all parties before beginning the interview.
  • Provide them a description of the room and advise them where to sit.
  • Ask before shaking their hand.
  • Be mindful not to rely on body language.
  • Tell them if you need to move locations or end the conversation, instead of simply standing up or motioning for them to follow.
  • Do not talk or pet to service animals.

For applicants with speech-related disabilities:

  • Do not pretend that you understand them when you do not. It is ok to ask for clarification.
  • Speak normally, keeping your usual tone.
  • Do not rush them or finish their sentences for them.
  • Make sure they are finished speaking before you speak.

For applicants with physical disabilities:

  • Make sure the interview location is accessible (not just the room, but the pathway to get there from the public entrance).
  • Treat a wheelchair like part of someone’s body; don’t touch without permission.
  • Have a chair for those in wheelchairs. Some may prefer to transfer out of their wheelchair for the meeting.
  • Have somewhere nearby where people can store canes or crutches, and never remove them from the person.

For neurodiverse applicants:

  • Like we discussed earlier, you should look past certain behaviours; just because they don’t align with social norms does not mean they would impact their ability to do this job and do it well.
  • In some cases, you will need to allow them more time to answer a question. If they think about it longer, be patient before jumping in.
  • Don’t react with shock or frustration over small social missteps.


The interview is the gateway to employment for most people.

It’s important that you gatekeep your business in a way that does not prevent the best and brightest from getting in. And if your hiring process is biased against people with disabilities, there’s a very good chance that you’re missing out on some of the best candidates for your team.

For more help with inclusive hiring processes, talk to ReStart today.