Fair Assessment Procedures When Hiring and Testing Individuals with Disabilities

March 12, 2012   Opinion

Faces Archive | Source

GettingHired.com | Original Link
By Shelly Goldman
Career Coach and Recruiter

From screening job candidates to psychometric skills and testing, the use of assessments and evaluations can be a useful and effective way for employers to evaluate the fit of a particular job candidate during the hiring process. However, for those with disabilities, sometimes these assessments can prove to be bona fide obstacles to accurately conveying their true potential.

Most assessments have some sort of characteristic that is likely to create a challenge for job seekers with disabilities. For example, if the job candidate has a hearing impairment and the assessment includes verbal instructions, he or she is likely to be at a disadvantage. Someone with a visual impairment may find numerical reading, shapes, shading, figures, or two-dimensional objects more difficult to interpret, but still be qualified to perform the defined tasks of job they seek.

When assessment methods are introduced during the hiring process, they should be administered without any requirement that places a person with a disability at a disadvantage, unless the aptitude being tested is an essential function for a specific job and the testing is required of all candidates for the job. For example, if a key requirement of a customer service job is to have excellent verbal communication skills, it is fair to test a candidate on those skills.

Fair and responsible testing of job candidates with disabilities requires an employer to have open-minded approach. If you were a person with a disability, how would you want to be treated when competing in an already challenging job market? Add to it the extra burden of knowing you have the exact skills, abilities, and experience to do a great job in the position, but not having the chance to prove it due to an assessment that was administered unfairly which had a direct impact on your job candidacy.

As an employer, you are obligated to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to allow a person with a disability to perform the responsibilities and requirements of a job. Likewise, if you use an assessment of any sort during the application and hiring process, you are required to provide reasonable adjustments or modification to the assessment process as may be required. Examples of reasonable adjustments are: adapting the timing and scheduling of the test; altering the way tests are presented, modifying the manner in how candidates submit their answers; or conducting the test in an alternative location.

The first step to addressing the issue is recognizing the obstacles. Consider the following tips to assist you in identifying potential stumbling blocks in your job hiring assessments.

Communicate openly.

Create an environment that promotes and encourages candidates to describe the type of support they may need to best demonstrate their true capabilities and talents.
Prior to testing, give the job candidate the opportunity to share any constraints or special accommodations they may require to successfully complete their assessment.

Make adjustments.

Review the assessment, taking into account whether any part of the assessment is likely to put the job applicant at an unfair disadvantage.
Examine whether any feature of the assessment can be adjusted or modified to better accommodate a specific candidate’s disability.

Assess your assessments.

Conduct periodic job analyses to confirm that each assessment technique is accurately capturing and measuring job-relevant characteristics of the specific position.
If possible, solicit the input of a disability employment advisor, occupational health specialist, and/or disability advocate to gain a clearer understanding as to whether your assessments in their current form are fair and pertinent to the essential function of the jobs.
It is important that employers create a culture of inclusion and be knowledgeable regarding the testing needs of the diverse community of the disabled.

Here a few basic suggestions for addressing specific impairments.

For job candidates with hearing impairments:

For candidates with hearing impairments that require hearing aids, ensure the testing area is quiet and free of excessive background noise, so that environmental sounds and feedback issues are reduced.
Make sure that assessment instructions in writing are written clearly and are easy to understand.
Consider providing a sign language interpreter.
Assessment administrators should be aware that when talking with test takers with a hearing impairment, they should speak directly facing the candidate and be sure to clearly enunciate their words.

For job candidates with visual impairments:

Provide assessment options that make use of large print, Braille, audiotapes, and/or voice recognition software.
Recognize that the candidate may need special assistance with indicating their answers.
If a job candidate uses a guide dog, special arrangements should be made to ensure that the location is comfortable and suitable for both the job candidate and dog.

For job candidates with physical impairments:

Ensure the testing environment supports adjustable seating, desk heights and spaces.
In some situations, voice recognition software can be helpful, particularly if candidates have limited use of their hands and/or trouble using a mouse and keyboard.
Some testing situations may require the help of an advocate to turn pages or indicate answers.
Modify time limits if appropriate and offer testing breaks when necessary.

For additional information on workplace testing accommodations, check out the excellent information from the Job Accommodation Network on this topic at Testing Accommodations.

Keep in mind, too, that regardless of format, level of standardization, or objectivity, any assessment tool used to make employment decisions is subject to professional and legal standards. It is important to be sure the assessment does not discriminate against persons on the grounds of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion and disability.

Employers who make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities and strive to design a level-playing field for workers with disabilities help provide equal opportunities for all candidates, and ensure that they are connected with all talented candidates for their jobs, regardless of disability. Better test results are likely when fair accommodations are in place and candidates feel respected. Leaving the candidate with a positive experience of the hiring organization is not only good for the candidate, it also good for your organization and the entire community.

Author Bio:

Shelly Goldman, CEIP, CPCC, is a career industry expert with more than 20 years of experience as an executive search consultant, career coach, speaker, and author. As the President of The Goldman Group Advantage, Shelly has established an innovative firm offering individual and corporate career coaching services and accepting select recruiting and placement assignments from commercial clients. Shelly is the co-author of An Insider’s Guide To Finding A Job: Expert Advice From America’s Top Employers and Recruiters from JIST Publishing. She is a contributing author to numerous print and web-based publications, and has been quoted in publications including the CareerBuilder section of the Sunday News in 25 major U.S. markets and the Washington Business Journal (WBJ).