The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that across all age groups, the employment-population ratios for persons with a disability are substantially lower than for those without a disability. This includes many people who are not in the labor force, but even when those are accounted for, the unemployment rate for those affected by disabilities is markedly higher. Fortunately, there are suggestions that people with a disability can follow in order to minimize the impact of any handicap in the hiring process:
Use Resources Online for Disabled Workers
There are several valuable resources at your disposal, including the following:
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Disability Resources Page has extensive information on U.S. government disability programs and employment.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Recruitment Program is a program that connects federal and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs.
Go to the Federal Government’s job board at USAjobs.gov and click on “Individuals with a disability.” The Federal Government hires each person using a hiring authority (the term comes from the Federal regulation that describes it). Federal agencies can use the Schedule A Hiring Authority to hire an individual with a disability.
The Job Accommodation Network is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on disability employment issues and workplace accommodations when you do get hired.
AbilityJobs.com is the largest job site for people with disabilities and is the only employment site where 100% of posted jobs are from employers specifically seeking to hire people with disabilities.
GettingHired is a website dedicated to helping individuals and military veterans with disabilities connect with inclusive employers.
The Imprimis Group is a staffing company with deep connections with many DFW area employers and a knowledge of the most inclusive companies, and available jobs within these organizations.
Consider Whether to Disclose Your Disability
Pride should never be a factor in your decision to disclose your disability, nor should a lack of understanding about some important factors, including the law. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against qualified job applicants or employees with either mental or physical disabilities. The ADA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for candidates with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that can enable an employee with a disability to perform essential job functions.
These rules only apply if you do disclose. However, note the key word “qualified,” as it is very difficult to enforce this law and with two equal candidates, it may be easier for an employer to take the one that does not require accommodations.
In most scenarios, it is advisable to disclose for a variety of reasons. It may be visibly or otherwise clear to the interviewer that there is a disability, yet the law does not allow the interviewer to ask. An employer may want to do its best to hire and accommodate disabled candidates, but won’t be able to learn about what you need until you do disclose. You may be discussing job scenarios in the interview, for which you may need assistance, and it may be helpful to address these issues sooner than later.
Focus on Your Abilities and Experience
It’s important to talk about your disabilities as challenges to be accommodated for and worked around, rather than obstacles to your success. Disabilities aren’t incapabilities, but you can’t be sure about the subconscious biases of any one interviewer. So be sure to focus on your strengths and abilities and how you will be able to perform the essential functions of the job.
Provide evidence for how you have excelled in the functions of the new job in past roles, and use numbers to quantify your achievements, when possible. Address how you were able to overcome your disability in a scenario or two that an interviewer may naturally wonder about. For instance, if you are hard-of-hearing, how did you manage meetings, or if you get around in a wheelchair, how were you able to meet clients if their buildings didn’t have access ramps?
We are fortunate to live in a country in which fairness is a value that employers generally embrace. We’re proud to say that the vast majority of employers in DFW are eager to find ways to accommodate job candidates with disabilities and to create as level a playing field as there is in the United States.