Looking for a job is hard work. Resumes, interviews, negotiations…phew! But for job-seekers with a disability, finding the right career isn’t just about completing these steps successfully, it’s also about finding a workplace that meets your needs AND your professional goals. To help navigate this process, we reached out to our partners at YVR who are committed to inclusive hiring and accessibility.
In order to learn more about current hiring procedures and what employers are looking for we chatted with Gwen Dimen, an Employment Advisor with the Vancouver Airport Authority who works closely with prospective employees with disabilites. FYI, the Vancouver Airport Authority is a not-for-profit organization that manages YVR. They employ more than 500 people and there is a total of 26,500 jobs on Sea Island with a variety of employers.
Read on for Gwen’s tips and advice!
What advice do you have for someone with a disability who is applying to a job at the Vancouver Airport Authority?
Job applicants have the option to voluntarily self-declare having a disability during the online application process. I always encourage applicants to do so because we provide a summary of all the applications received to hiring managers. This report includes a section specifically highlighting candidates who have identified as being a person with a disability. This process allows us to ensure all diverse candidates are considered.
Do you recommend people disclose their disabilities to employers right away during the application stage, or later in the hiring process?
The Airport Authority appreciates knowing as soon as possible as it allows us to have open discussions about possible accommodations early in the recruitment process. Since we are taking extra steps to increase the representation of persons with disabilities in the organization, early self-declaration at the application stage is an important step in the recruitment process.
Are there any best practices when it comes to disclosing your disability?
As a job seeker, I encourage you to do your research in advance and ensure you are applying to organizations that will support and embrace you in the workplace. Company websites are a great source of information about whether an organization will support you once you disclose your disability. Another great resource is the Presidents Group website at accessibleemployers.ca. All companies involved are committed to increasing positive employment outcomes for persons with disabilities.
Do you have any recommendations for jobs that might be a good fit for someone in a wheelchair? (Obviously, everyone is different, and we realize this answer will depend on multiple factors!)
I think it is important to differentiate between airport jobs in general and the Airport Authority. I really can’t speak for the jobs with the other companies. I think in general though office-type jobs would be a good fit depending on an individual’s experience. The Airport Authority has a wide array of office based careers in finance, IT, legal, operations, human resources, marketing and communications to name a few. All office workstations include adjustable desks to adapt to the height of your wheelchair and we’ll also work closely with individuals to ensure we provide them any required assistive devices to do their job.
A good fit is ultimately a position that matches your interests, training and experience. Remember, volunteer experience counts!
What are some of the challenges or barriers that exist for hiring people with disabilities?
Some jobs, such as some of our airside positions with physical requirements, cannot always be accommodated due to the nature of the work. I think it is important to have an understanding of what your strengths and interests are and apply for opportunities that support those skillsets. If you’re uncertain, I’d encourage you to apply and have a conversation with a member of our Human Resources team to determine if there are any barriers to that position for you as they may be able to recommend another career opportunity or discuss accommodations for the role.
What can we (community organizations, employers, or the general community) do to help eliminate these barriers?
I think education is key—we started by offering our management team unconscious bias training back in 2016. Since then, we have added to that with more specific disability awareness training. Our Human Resources team also works closely with hiring managers during the recruitment process to ensure we continue to promote inclusive hiring practices. We also hosted our first Open House and Inclusive Hiring Fair for Persons with Disabilities in 2019.
What’s one thing about the hiring process that might surprise people with disabilities?
Employers may have unconscious biases of some kind towards persons with disabilities even prior to the hiring process. What’s great is that studies show that persons with disabilities make great employees, with high retention, strong performance and low turnover.