Employers May be Missing Out on Disabled People with Drive

In previous posts on this Blog, I’ve made the case that when it comes to productivity, it’s the end result that counts, not how you get there. While some people make elitist and snide remarks about so- called “blind ghetto” products, others have made the choice to use blindness-specific technology to help them be as efficient as they can be in study, work, or information access. Provided the tools we choose don’t limit our potential, it’s all good, and market forces will determine which products survive and which go by the wayside.
There’s another angle on this subject I’ve not covered here before. Although I’ve been aware of it thanks to my past work as an advocate, I’ve been reminded of it recently due to matters close to home.
Having relocated to New Zealand from the United States in November, my partner Bonnie has been looking at vacancies. She’s an experienced and capable rehabilitation counsellor, so having taken time to familiarise herself with the organisations and culture, I’m confident she’ll be snapped up. Each country has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to policy and practice concerning disability, and one of the areas that really troubles me is how many job advertisements in New Zealand ask that the applicant possess a driver’s license. I understand from Bonnie that in the US, the language used in job ads is much less unequivocal, unless of course the job involves driving for a living.
Here in New Zealand, if we take the taxi drivers, the truck drivers, the bus drivers, and similar vocations out of the mix, there is still a truck-load (if you’ll forgive the pun) of job ads asking applicants to possess a driver’s license. There are even some job systems in this country which ask you if you have a driver’s license or not. If you answer “no”, you’re not permitted to proceed any further.
Having read the job advertisement, you know what the advertiser is really after is someone capable of getting from one place to another without fuss. But the potential employer has focused on the means, not the end. The end is that the client receives timely service, the meetings are held, the set number of leads are followed up each week, etc.
There are many blind people who use alternative techniques to get these jobs done that don’t involve driving their own vehicle. They get the job done well, and they’re good at what they do. And this issue doesn’t just discriminate against blind people. There are people who can’t, or don’t, drive for a whole raft of reasons who have made perfectly sustainable and effective arrangements.
Since I used the dreaded “D” word, let me stress that I’m not saying that some HR person is sitting in their office, cackling madly, coming up with dastardly ways of weeding out disabled people from the application pile. But discrimination can be inadvertent as well as deliberate, and in many respects it’s the inadvertent, subtle kind that’s harder to counter.
In the case of the driver’s license issue, the discrimination is occurring because employers are too focused on how something is delivered, rather than what is delivered and with what quality.
So what do you do? If you’re completely locked out of a job application process because you don’t have a driver’s license, you could simply answer “yes” to the question so you can proceed. The trouble is, if you do that, you’re knowingly giving false information as part of an application process. Not a good look.
I think the answer is to contact the HR person by phone or email in the extreme cases where one is shut out entirely from proceeding with an application.
If the license is merely stipulated as a requirement in the ad, the question is, should one disclose in the cover letter that you don’t drive, or just wait until you have the chance to wow them in the interview?
I would be very interested to find out the extent to which disabled people have found the request for a driver’s license to be an issue in different countries. Feel free to share your own experiences and thoughts in the comments.
One thing’s for certain though, by focusing on the means and not the end, employers could be depriving themselves of some top talent, some employers with real drive.

2 Comments on “Employers May be Missing Out on Disabled People with Drive

  1. Here in the UK it is illegal to specify a drivers’ licence if all that is required is for the applicant to be able to travel as part of their job. This was the case when the Disability Discrimination Act was in force and is still the case now we have the new Equality Act. I believe that the DDA in Australia is almost identical legislation to our DDA and thus it may well be that a similar requirement is equally illegal. I’m not sure if NZ has different legislation.
    Having said the above, here in the UK we still face significant discrimination and I believe it’s based upon fear – fear that if they embark upon the application process with a candidate who has disclosed a disability then they may not make the right adjustments and will end up more exposed to a claim of discrimination than if they had never invited them to begin the journey at all. An organisation called ‘Even Break’ that champions disabled candidates applied for 20 vacancies without ticking the ‘I have a disability’ box and, using the exact same CV and covering letter etc and only changing the names in each case, applied for the same 20 vacancies a second time and did tick the box. In the first instance they got 20 acknowledgements and in the second not a single one. This is the scale of the challenge despite very strong longstanding legislation.
    One fantastic tool we have is http://www.cleartalents.com which is an independent online tool which applicants can use to provide information about their needs for prospective employers. The tool generates a report that the recruiter can use to make timely adjustments throughout the entire application from shortlisting right through to onboarding and bridges the gap between the desire to be inclusive and the fear that they’ll mess it up. There are thousands of disabled people with real drive as you say – they just need to be given a chance to show it in the workplace.

  2. I can identify with this problem. I gave up on the Job Centre “advisor” when she advised me to apply for a job with a clear requirement justified in that case)) for a driving licence. I agree about contacting the HR person where this issue arises, that has worked well for me sometimes in the past. I was fully expecting to have this issue when applying for one particular job, and I was applying close to the closing date so contacting the HR person may have prevented me from applying at all even if they were able to sort the issue as it can take some time due to the need to involve third-party online application system suppliers etc. I ticked “no” in response to the “do you have a driving licence” question and pressed “next”, fully expecting to be locked out of the system or recorded as ineligible at about 9pm in the UK, leaving me having to try and sort the issue the next morning and with very little time to complete my application the following day. However, having taken a deep breath and pressed “enter”, the question on the next page was “If you are unable to drive, is this because you have a disability?” and I was able to continue my application from there. I subsequently got the job. In a UK context I can see why a lot of employers do have this requirement for a driving licence because public transport is not great/all that efficient outside of the major cities, but I have a support worker funded through the government Access to Work scheme for a certain number of hours a week who assists by driving me to places when I cannot get where I need to go by public transport, although I do use public transport when possible. This demonstrates that you don’t necessarily need a driving licence and that it is possible to design an inclusive application form/process.