Two people sitting at a table. The man in the middle is speaking while the woman next to him listens, resting a hand on her neck. There is a third person in the frame, slightly off to the side.

Increasing diversity in the workplace: the call for accessible applications

As we transition to an independent organisation, the Unlimited team are reflecting on our systems of work and how they relate to our core values and aims. These conversations prompted one of our trainees, Marlo, to consider how Unlimited has already begun disrupting the status quo through his own job-seeking experience.

The prospect of Graduation and entering the ‘real world is not easy.

Graduation is especially not easy during a pandemic.

Yet, despite the circumstances, I decided I was going to try to find a job in the arts. While I was prepared to face rejection, one of the biggest barriers for me was the application process itself.

My Experience Job Hunting.

I am someone who has bad executive dysfunction due to my neurodivergence and mental health.  I get tired super easily and even though I got through three years of a degree, and I am highly capable, all I could see was the struggle. So when asked to regularly fill out forms it was quite taxing. Especially when the process itself is extremely repetitive, draining the small amount of energy I had.

Every day I woke up with the looming feeling that what I was doing was not enough, and my decisions were all wrong.  I still managed to submit applications, but when depression and dysfunction take over there is not a lot I can do. This dysfunction and fatigue have a way of spilling into your personal life. I was not doing the things I would need to do to support functioning on a basic level, which made trying to find work even harder.

The Problems With Most Applications.

Many application forms are not designed in a way that effectively assesses a person’s suitability for a role. They give you only one way to apply and only one way to show what you can offer. This format suits someone who knows how to game the system. The answers phrased in just the right ways so you can be seen through the algorithm. If you are just starting out, it is a massive disadvantage that does not necessarily have to be there.

If you live alone, for example, and have dyslexia or similar; proofreading can be extremely difficult. Especially, if you do not have the money to pay someone to look over your work. You may be barred from those opportunities that require you to spend long periods proofreading work. One way to get around this would be having the option to submit a video or an audio application instead; so candidates can best articulate themselves and are afforded the best opportunity to succeed.

How often do we consider whether our preferred means of communication are necessarily accessible to others? When we reflect on this, we broaden our understanding not just of what skills and formats are needed for a specific role but also our understanding of communication more generally. Catering for alternative approaches allows for more accessible processes. More accessible processes open the floor to more (and more diverse) voices. This impact is exponential.

This is why being able to apply to Unlimited was incredible for me. The application allowed different methods of submission. However, it was not hidden away. It was included as a key part of the application. They did this by allowing you to submit in a way that works best for you. I sent in a video of myself explaining my experience and why I wish to work for Unlimited and showed off my skills. Something I had been begging to do with applications for years.

It was a revelation, and it made me wonder: why other organisations do not yet encourage this even though they strive for accessibility and diversity?

A simple application opened my eyes to see that what I had wished for years was possible.

But it’s important to remember that by not offering accessible means of application, individuals aren’t the only ones missing out. Organisations are too.

Increasing Diversity

Last summer, many people started to think about diversity. This meant examing what they can do to have more diverse voices in the workplace. Increasing accessibility is one of the easiest ways to do this. It opens the door to those unable to afford (time-wise or money-wise) exclusive application workshops or unpaid employment as well as those with no connections in the industry, irrespective of disability. By addressing this, you can begin to break the cycles that keep people from disadvantaged backgrounds away from opportunities.

Accessibility is something many of us do not think about unless we have been exposed to it. I did not think of accessible applications until I was exposed to the possibility of it even though I am someone who would have benefited from it.

If at every step of a process we are considering accessibility, we are telling people their needs can be met and that we want to hear their voices. This would bring even more voices and perspectives from their community.

A Call For Action

To do this I ask you to open your doors. Create multiple methods of access to organisations and multiple methods of interaction. This is so you make sure everyone has a chance to say something that may be important to hear.

This a call to everyone, anywhere.

But how do you do it?

Firstly, our tips for accessible recruitment with a video. We also have a blog on what to consider when working with disabled artists and we even have a blog on Accessing Access to Work.

However, most importantly, you must look into communities you aren’t reaching to work out strategies as an organisation to best connect with them.

Remember: it is not only disabled-led organisations that should be considering accessibility. Anyone who wishes to create a diverse workforce, and fight for true equality in the workplace, should be placing accessibility at the heart of the process.