Kate Katulak will never forget her first job interview, because it never actually happened.
“I was asked to leave,” she recalled. “The woman who would have been interviewing me put her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘We don’t have a position for someone with your condition.’”
Katulak’s story isn’t unique – individuals with disabilities like visual impairment face barriers at every stage of the job search process. Oftentimes, they encounter hiring managers who are uncomfortable interacting with non-traditional candidates.
A new online course created by Perkins School for the Blind and Harvard Extension School seeks to change that. “Introduction to Inclusive Talent Acquisition” (INC1.1), which launches October 11, teaches hiring professionals how to successfully interview and hire candidates with disabilities.
“Recruiters and hiring managers are the gatekeepers of an organization,” said Perkins Community Resource Manager Rachel Kerrigan, who helped create the course. “This is an opportunity for them to think more broadly about where they’re recruiting from and how they can make the hiring process more inclusive.”
The course will be available for free on edX, the preeminent online educational platform utilized by top colleges and universities. Participants can take the course in one 3-hour sitting or absorb the material week by week. Either way, they’ll emerge with plenty of strategies they can implement immediately.
“It’s a really powerful toolkit,” said Karina Lin, an online course developer at Harvard Extension School who helped design the course. “They’ll walk away knowing exactly where to go, what to do and what’s next for their organization.”
“Introduction to Inclusive Talent Acquisition” is broken up into four sessions, each focused on a different phase of the hiring process. Participants learn how to build a diverse recruiting pipeline, how to interview candidates with disabilities, how to create an accessible workplace and how to foster an inclusive work environment.
Each session includes compelling video footage, opportunities for reflection and interactive activities. Participants can also exchange ideas with classmates on a discussion board.
“A big goal for our team was to make sure this course was interesting, that it changes the way people view things and they actually learn something at the end of the day,” said Lin. “I think we achieved that.”
Many of the videos feature individuals with visual impairment talking about their personal experiences with the job search process. Some stories are positive and some, like Katulak’s, are examples of the hurdles candidates with disabilities still face when looking for employment.
The personal anecdotes serve two purposes, said Kerrigan. They provide participants with valuable information about inclusive hiring while also introducing them to the type of bright, passionate candidates they may encounter by putting the course’s lessons into practice.
“It adds personhood to the employment issue,” she said. “People with disabilities can lead fulfilling careers and I want participants to be able to envision people of different abilities in their own workplace.”