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Hiring disabled people

Information to help employers hiring staff not miss out on the potential offered by disabled people.

The hiring process should end with the appointment of the person who best matches the job requirements. Increasing the pool of applicants by including suitably skilled disabled people increases the chances of finding the best person for the job.

See hiring for more information on the application and interview processes.

Why hire disabled people?

There are already many disabled people successfully employed across the New Zealand workforce, including in eg professional, managerial, administration, service, technical and 'manual' roles. Disabled people are sometimes not hired because of perception, fear, myth and prejudice eg accommodating a person with a disability is too expensive.

  • Many companies have found that by employing disabled people, they are better able to understand and serve their disabled customers.
  • Adapting services to cater for the diverse needs of disabled people allows business to develop greater flexibility, builds reputations and reaches out to a sizeable market. Most disabled employees don't need specific adjustments or accomodations.
  • In living their every-day lives many disabled people have learnt adaptability and problem solving skills that are readily transferrable to the workplace.
  • Disabled people are as productive and as reliable as any other employees.
  • Disabled people tend to have better attendance records, stay longer and have fewer accidents.
  • If an organisation is a good employer of disabled people it promotes good morale among staff and is good for its reputation.

Application form

When developing an application form, make sure that the information gathered determines whether the person can perform the job essentials and that the application form is available in alternative formats.

Inclusive job descriptions and assessment

  • Don’t be too specific about how a task should be completed, focus on the 'what' not the 'how'.
  • Criteria should be ranked in order of importance from essential to minor. Minor tasks could be reassigned to another person.


  • Some small wording change could produce the same result but result in a wider of pool of people being available – instead of using 'minimum typing speed' consider using 'produce quality documents using word processing software.'
  • For example, making coffee may be an additional task required of a receptionist job rather than an essential task.

Recruitment agencies

If an employer uses a recruitment agency, it’s their responsibility to make sure that the agency doesn’t discriminate against disabled people. Some of the things to check with the recruitment agency are:

  • What disability awareness training have staff done?
  • What are the agency’s disability and diversity policies? Are they aware of your policies?
  • What accessible means and media have been used for advertising?
  • Do they understand and practice ‘reasonable accommodation’? How accessible are their premises?
  • Will the agency interview a disabled candidate who meets the minimum requirements?
  • Does the agency know how to access any appropriate supports for an effective interview and on-going processes?


E-recruitment (online recruitment) is increasingly used. It’s fast, convenient, cost effective and simplifies the process giving jobseekers to access a wider pool of jobs.

Tips on making recruitment websites accessible:

  • Test websites, as well as job boards for accessibility.
  • Create job alerts or job talent pools for unsuccessful candidates.
  • Images and non-text items should have text labels. People with vision impairment can use the site using screen reading software.
  • Have flexible automated scanning.
  • When users submit online applications make sure that sorting software such as spell checkers don’t discriminate.
  • Career pages should be inclusive and show a commitment to employing disabled people. For example: “We welcome enquiries from everyone and value diversity in the workforce".


Arranging an interview

When arranging interviews, the best way to ensure that any reasonable accommodations/ adjustments are provided is to ask all candidates if they require accommodations, when explaining the recruitment and selection process.
If an applicant has told you they have a disability, contact them as soon as possible to make arrangements such as an accessible room; car parking; hearing loop; interpreter.
Briefing the receptionist and co-interviewers on the specific requirements of the person will help put them at ease.

Effective interviewing

The fact sheet issued by the Australian Network on Disability "Interviewing people with disability (external link) " has useful tips about effective interviewing.

If psychometric or other tests are included in the hiring process, ensure any assessments are in an accessible format and relate to the requirements of the job. Adjustments to tests may be reasonable, depending on how closely the test is related to the job and what reasonable accommodations you might have to make if the applicant was given the job.

Some examples of reasonable accommodations/ adjustments during hiring are:

  • allowing extra time to complete a test
  • allowing an oral test where someone has difficulty with manual dexterity
  • letting a reader or scribe help with reading or writing during a test.

Whenever possible, employers should give feedback to unsuccessful applicants, especially if there have been discussions about reasonable accommodation. It must be made clear to disabled applicants that decisions are based on their level of skill or experience, not on disability related issues.


One of the areas that employers are often concerned about is disclosure and privacy.

  • While there is no obligation on an applicant for a job to disclose a disability, if the disability may impact their ability to do the job, it may be a breach of good faith obligations if they don’t disclose it to their employer.
  • Employers can ask potential employees if they have a disability or injury that impacts on their ability to do the job. This is often done in an application form eg ‘Do you have any condition, disease or health issues that could impact on your ability to carry out the type of work you are applying for?’
  • If an employee or potential employee does disclose a disability, the employer should find out what support and ‘reasonable accommodations’ they may need. Have a conversation together. And if in doubt, talk to professionals who can assist with advice, installation and cost of any changes you may need to make to help the workplace or job fit.

Disclosure of disability and privacy

  • If an employee does disclose a disability, as with any other personal information the employer must preserve the privacy of the employee and any disclosure to other parties should only be with the express permission of the employee. For more information about privacy matters, visit the Privacy Commissioner’s website (external link)

Employer Advice Line

If you need help with hiring staff who have disabilities or health conditions, you can call the Employer Advice Line on 0800 805 405. The advice line is free and is available from Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm.

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