In Equity, Inclusion, Quality Jobs

This October, the United States celebrates the 77th National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The month, organized by the United States Department of Labor celebrates the contribution of workers with disabilities across the United States. This year, the theme is Disability: Part of the Equity Equation, recognizing the role that people with disabilities play in building a diverse and inclusive workforce.

In July of this year, Workforce Southwest Washington released the Quality Jobs Framework in partnership with Worksystems, inc. and Clackamas Workforce Partnership through the Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative (CWWC). The Quality Jobs Framework is a key piece to the Quality Jobs Initiative, which is a commitment to designing and developing a regional approach with workers, employers, job seekers, community-based organizations, economic developers, and local municipalities to define, support and promote quality jobs. The Framework outlines strategies to create inclusive and equitable quality jobs across the region.

One of the pillars of the Framework focuses on Accessible Hiring and Onboarding Practices. Through this pillar and the corresponding strategies, Workforce Southwest Washington hopes to support businesses to create jobs that are accessible and equitable to all workers, especially those with disabilities.

Awareness and training

A first step for companies is to provide training to their existing employees and leadership on disability awareness to learn best practices, both during their onboarding and beyond. Training will help prepare leadership and employees to provide equitable workplace accommodations and treatment to coworkers.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services provides Awareness and Etiquette training that can help get your company started. The Job Accommodation Network also provides a multitude of online video trainings for those interested in learning more about workers with disabilities, how to provide accommodations, how to ask for accommodations and much more. The Job Accommodation Network provides a primer course entitled Just-in-Time Training Module: Disability Awareness to Increase Your Comfort, Confidence & Competence.

Hiring employees with

Across the U.S., the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities, aged 16-64, was 35.2% as compared to the 76.5% labor force participation rate for people without disabilities in 2021.

According to the American Community Survey 2016-2020, the labor force participation rate in Clark County for people with disabilities aged 16-64 was 46.7%. In Cowlitz County, the participation rate is 41.5% and 24.7% in Wahkiakum County. In Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum, people with disabilities ages 18-64 represent 10%, 18.4% and 18.3% of the population, respectively.

The CWWC’s Quality Jobs Framework outlines several strategies to help companies create and sustain equitable and accessible practices during the hiring process. Employers can start by standardizing the use of Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliant job description text and accessibility of all job application materials. While online job postings offer more reach and accessibility than ever, employers should ensure their recruitment platform and job postings are compliant with ADA standards.

Ideally, employers should include contact information in the job description or recruitment platform for candidates requiring assistance. Job descriptions should be simple skill-based, include core competencies, essential job functions necessary to perform the job and salary range.

Employers should expand recruitment efforts to reach a larger pool of qualified, diverse applicants by looking beyond their traditional channels. Delivering Jobs, Employment Network Finder and the Talent Acquisition Portal are services that recruit job seekers with disabilities. In addition, companies can implement resume review technology that removes bias. Affinda offers resume redaction software, while Applied is an all-in-one debiased hiring platform. Both offer free or low-cost trials or demos of their products.

Provide accessible onboarding that encourages employees to seek accommodations

One way to provide a welcoming and accessible environment to new employees is to seasoned employees as mentors for a set period at the beginning of employment who can help them navigate the workplace and answer questions. Regular check-ins can help surface any concerns and help make the onboarding process smoother for future hires.

Be sure to provide comprehensive, effective and consistent onboarding for all new hires, ensuring all employees have equal access to information and processes. Employers should incorporate reasonable accommodation practices into onboarding, making sure that employees are aware of the internal process for requesting an accommodation should they need one.

Share resources with your team, both during the onboarding process and as they become available. Encourage employees to share resources with each other. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation offers a multitude of resources for individuals with disabilities.

Providing reasonable accommodations  

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides a list of steps for employers to follow when providing reasonable accommodations to employees:

  1. Recognize the accommodation request
    1. Err on the side of caution
    2. Act Immediately
    3. Assign Responsibility
    4. Conduct Training
  2. Gather information
    1. Find out what the limitation is
    2. Get information from employee
  3. Explore accommodation options
    1. Keep an open mind
    2. Ask employee what would work for them
  4. Choose an accommodation
  5. Implement the Accommodation
  6. Monitor the Accommodation
    1. Check effectiveness
    2. Maintain accommodation
    3. Encourage communication

For expanding information on each of the steps, please visit the Accommodation and Compliance guide provided by JAN.

Reasonable accommodations will look different depending on the situation. Some examples of reasonable accommodations include job site modifications, such as use of a sit/stand desk, reserved parking and/or reducing visual and auditory distractions. Another example of reasonable accommodations is assistive technology and resources, such as screen readers, interpreters, visual aids and headphones. Employers should consider the employee’s needs and preferences when providing accommodations.

The United States Equal Employment Commission (EEOC) recommends that employers:

  1. Analyze the job involved and determine its purpose and essential functions.
  2. Consult with the individual with a disability to ascertain the precise job-related limitations imposed by the individual’s disability and how those limitations could be overcome with a reasonable accommodation.
  3. In consultation with the individual to be accommodated, identify potential accommodations and assess the effectiveness each would have in enabling the individual to perform the essential functions of the position.
  4. Consider the preference of the individual to be accommodated and select and implement the accommodation that is most appropriate for both the employee and the employer.

Information from JAN

For companies interested in improving equity, accessibility and job quality for workers with disabilities, read the Quality Jobs Framework to learn about more targeted strategies for the Portland-Vancouver Metro area.

To learn more about how Workforce Southwest Washington can support your business needs, contact Darcy Hoffman, Director of Business Services at or 360.608.4949 or submit a request and we’ll contact you.

Additional resources for businesses

Looking to learn more? Check out these resources for more information:

Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) – EARN offers information and resources to help organizations of all sizes recruit, hire, retain and advance people with disabilities; build inclusive workplace cultures; and meet diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility goals.

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) – DVR is a statewide resource assisting people with disabilities to prepare for, secure, maintain, advance in, or regain employment. DVR partners with organizations and businesses to develop employment opportunities. DVR serves people who seek meaningful, secure employment but whose disabilities may result in one or more barriers to achieving an employment goal.

Job Accommodation Network – The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on job accommodations and disability employment issues. Serving customers around the world for more than 35 years, JAN provides free one-on-one practical guidance and technical assistance on job accommodation solutions, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities.

Year-Round Employer Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion – U.S. Department of Labor ( – National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) activities don’t have to end in October. NDEAM also offers an opportunity to launch year-round activities that highlight the importance of including disability in all your organization’s diversity endeavors.

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