To the Editor:
While the recent article by Mordy Walfish, “Humanize Your Hiring Process — Here’s Why and How,” was insightful, it left out a major dimension of the human experience: disability. This omission was particularly disheartening because the piece was published on the 32nd anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the landmark civil-rights legislation that includes protections to ensure people with disabilities have equal employment opportunities.
Despite these protections, employment inequities remain commonplace among those in the disability community, including in the nonprofit world. One in four adults in the United States is disabled, and yet people with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. Making accessibility a priority is critical to solving the problem — not just as a strategy but as a core aspect of all phases of the hiring process.
Defining a specific job with “crystal clarity” and avoiding an emphasis on credentials, as Walfish’s organization, Leading Edge, does, are essential steps toward leveling the field. But what if someone whose strengths align perfectly with the role can’t engage with the application in the first place? Consider, for example, whether a person with a vision disability could navigate an organization’s recruitment software using a screen-reading program that converts speech to text. If the software used by a nonprofit for hiring is inaccessible in this way, it creates a barrier to connection and the likelihood that excellent candidates won’t apply.
Another crucial part of accessibility is transparency, and I applaud Leading Edge’s commitment to providing extensive details in its job postings. Its efforts to “strengthen support systems around wellness, mental health, and internal communications,” as Walfish writes, are laudable, as are its explicit information about remote and hybrid work policies.
However, notably absent in the sample FAQ document that Walfish shared is any mention of how applicants can go about requesting reasonable accommodations for the hiring process. Having clear language about accessibility in job postings, as well as taking action to provide reasonable accommodations when requested, sends the message that an organization is truly striving toward an equitable hiring process.
It’s also important to recognize that accessibility isn’t one-size-fits-all. I can appreciate that Leading Edge seeks to “minimize bias” in its hiring process through measures such as eliminating cover letters in favor of videos and holding structured interviews to allow for what Walfish calls “apples-to-apples comparisons” of applicants. But not every human being is an apple. Some are mangoes. Some are strawberries. In other words, an accessible hiring process is one that leaves room for flexibility.
For instance, a neurodivergent person might be more comfortable expressing their interest and qualifications for the position in writing rather than on camera, but this shouldn’t make them any less of a viable candidate. By ensuring the hiring process is accessible to everyone, nonprofits will not only be able to connect with a broader talent pool but will open up opportunities to diversify staff and better represent the marginalized communities they serve.
Indeed, it’s worth celebrating Leading Edge’s commitment to “a hiring process that respects and regards everyone who goes through it” and that allows applicants to “experience [the organization’s] values.” My hope is that all nonprofits on similar diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring paths will also center accessibility and ensure disabled job candidates aren’t left behind.
Digital Content and Community Manager
Disability & Philanthropy Forum
Author, Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally