In our 21st century world, we have become enveloped by technology. In the age of COVID-19, we are even more reliant.
In an instant, so many of our every day processes had to be modified to fit pandemic protocol. Schools moved online, employees began working from home, some businesses closed down altogether, online shopping went to an all time high, and Zoom meetings with family and friends became the normalized way to socialize.
Another thing COVID has changed is how we acquire jobs. Specifically, it has changed the interview process for many companies, as corporations have turned to technology to navigate hiring. Many are using pre-recorded interviews, or platforms like Zoom to conduct their interview process.
Kathleen Bogart and Tara Lewis explain how this switch has made things difficult for those living with certain disabilities or diagnoses, such as facial paralysis.
But first, lets take a deeper look into how the technology has evolved.
Technology and Hiring
Although there are some advantages to this new method of doing things, there are also new hurdles. Interviews can be completed faster than ever before, but we have lost the ability to see full body language and to have physical interaction with candidates.
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects those with disabilities from discrimination in the hiring process. This includes those with facial paralysis, like Moebius Syndrome. Unfortunately, many aren’t aware of this condition or the types of protections the Act provides.
There is reason for concern that this new technology will lead to further disadvantages for those with disabilities.
Moebius syndrome is a congenital form of facial paralysis, but it can also be a result of Lyme disease, Bell’s palsy, Ramsay Hunt syndrome, facial nerve damage, acoustic neuroma, or other conditions. Facial paralysis can lead to speech issues, watery eyes, dry eyes, facial tightness, facial pain, and issues with eating/drinking. Due to the way it can limit both facial expressions and the clarity of someone’s speech, it can be difficult to communicate with others.
First impressions are often that individuals with Moebius syndrome aren’t friendly or have an intellectual disability. However, this condition has no impact on personality or intelligence.
There are other ways to communicate such as tone of voice, choice of words, and body posture; but facial expressions often contribute greatly to first impressions. Spreading awareness of conditions like Moebius syndrome can help to eliminate bias and open peoples eyes (including the eyes of employers) to differences like this one.
It’s recommended that individuals ask for an in-person interview (if able) if they feel they may be disadvantaged by new interview processes. Ultimately though, it would be best if employers provided various options from the start. Of course, in the time of COVID, this is understandably difficult. Thankfully, even if an in-person interview isn’t possible, there are other ways to improve equity in the process.
For example, employers should work to make sure they are placing more emphasis on what a candidate is saying and their tone of voice rather than on their facial expressions. Of course, emphasis should be placed on the candidate’s qualifications as well.
You can read more about this issue here.