In April of 2016, a dozen deaf law students were admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. As more and more students with disabilities enter the legal profession, there is a need for greater awareness of how lawyers with disabilities can contribute to the legal profession in an environment that focuses more on abilities and less on inabilities.
The law prohibits discrimination based on disabilities in the workplace, as well as in the application and interviewing process. Is your firm ready to facilitate lawyers with disabilities?
Individuals with physical challenges must constantly fight for equality in society. It is no different in the legal profession where attorneys are often expected to look, sound, and act a certain way. But, as society becomes more inclusive, more individuals with disabilities are breaking through the barriers and becoming attorneys.
Here are some ways to assess your law firm’s readiness to include lawyers with disabilities in the workplace:
- Is your mission statement inclusive? – At the heart of every organization lies their mission statement. This statement is where individuals can understand which values matter to your law Having an inclusive mission statement that covers individuals with disabilities is a good start.
- Assess your employment and interviewing process – It is natural for your hiring staff to assume that all individuals have the same abilities. However, this assumption can lead to intolerance to applicants who may require modifications to the process in order to For example, are you open to a sign-language interpreter, or facilitating interviews on a lower floor?
- Focus on Non-Physical Qualifications – Many individuals with physical disabilities are clearly competent enough to complete law school – with high marks – and will have the same knowledge as those who do not have disabilities. While apparent disabilities may seem overwhelming, all candidates should be assessed based on their professional abilities.
- Making accommodations – To create a work environment that is inclusive to lawyers with disabilities, you’ll need to be willing to make accommodations. You may want to consider telecommuting, incorporating braille, or improved technology, as ways to make acceptable accommodations under the law.
There is no need to lower your professional requirements for lawyers with disabilities. More than anyone, they understand the importance of meeting performance requirements in the workplace.
Rest assured that attorneys with disabilities understand their limitations. Nonetheless, these individuals are just as capable of delivering – in a highly competitive environment – as their peers.
OnBoard Legal provides Partner, Associate, and In-House placement, as well as Contract Attorneys for our clients. We know that both our clients and our candidates are experts in their fields, regardless of any disabilities, and we deliver nothing but the best. Contact us today.