Students with disabilities may have job search concerns that are unique to them. This web page aims to provide students with disabilities with the necessary information and resources to successfully navigate their job search.
There are always questions to explore before making a decision. Deciding whether or
not to disclose a disability can sometimes be a stressful event. Keep in mind under
the ADA the employer is only obligated to make reasonable accommodations for known
disabilities. Therefore, if the employer does not know about the disability, it is
left up to the individual to make their own accommodations. It may be helpful to conduct
research about the potential employer’s attitudes about people with disabilities and
the company they are representing. If you decide to disclose your disability, be prepared
to negotiate terms of employment and accommodations. If you decide not to disclose
your disability at all to the employer, you may be under a great deal of stress keeping
your disability concealed.
The employer is not allowed to ask you if you have a disability. If you are an individual with a visible disability, be honest and upfront when relaying information about who you are and educate the employer about the disability. Providing appropriate information is likely to ease any doubts and also answer any unspoken questions that the potential employer may have. If you have a non-visible disability it is up to the individual with a disability to divulge any information. The following are thoughts on disclosing in the various stages of the job search:
Generally not a good idea at this stage unless you know that one of the essential duties of the position involves working with people with disabilities.
When called for an interview
If you need an accommodation for the interview or testing, then you will need to disclose in order to secure appropriate accommodation.
When job offer is extended
Employer may wonder why you did not disclose earlier and may be distrustful. You need to explain how the disability will not interfere with your ability to perform
After you start work
On one hand, you have a proven track record; however, the employer may feel you were less than honest, which could change your relationships with colleagues. Also, the longer you put off disclosing, the more difficult it becomes.
After problem on the job
You probably will have built up some successful experiences prior to the problem; however, perceptions and relationships may shift. It could make it more difficult to repair the damage
You may be constantly afraid that your disability will be uncovered; however, if you are sure that your disability will not impact your job performance, then the issue of disclosure becomes less critical.
Employer's Responsibilities Include, But Are Not Limited To:
- Remaining fair in their judgment of your ability to perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodations
- Discussing accommodation alternatives
- Providing reasonable accommodation(s)
- Seeing and supporting the person, not the “disability”
Questions for Employers to Consider During the Accommodations Process
- Was the employee actively part of the accommodations process through all of its phases
- Does special equipment take advantage of the employee’s unique abilities?
- Was a simple, minimal cost solution found?
- Was the “right” problem solved?
- Is the solution portable and appropriate for other assignments within the company?
- Has an accessible career path been provided for the employee?
- Were all the accommodations that the employee requested truly “reasonable?”
Reasonable Accommodations Include
- Modifying the physical layout of a job facility to make it accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs or who have other impairments that make access difficult
- Restructuring a job that enables the person with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job
- Establishing a part-time or modified work schedule (e.g., accommodating people with disabilities who have medical treatment appointments or fatigue problems)
- Reassigning people with disabilities to a vacant job
Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices (e.g. buying a hearing telephone amplifier for a person with a hearing impairment
- Adjusting or modifying exams, training materials, or policies (e.g., giving an application examination orally to a person with dyslexia or modifying a policy against dogs in the workplace for a person with a service dog)
- Providing qualified readers or interpreters for people with vision or hearing impairments
Costs of Reasonable Accommodations
- About 50% of the reasonable accommodations surveyed cost nothing.
- 30% cost between $40 and $500
- 10% cost between $500 and $2,000
- 10% cost in excess of $2,000
Most interviewers are not out to discriminate against job applicants. Many of the illegal questions that interviewers ask are unintentional -- in fact, if you tactfully point out the question is illegal, the interviewer will likely realize his or her gaffe and immediately retract the question.
The challenge for you is to figure out what to say while you're sitting in that chair, faced with an illegal question. You have three basic options:
One: Just answer the question. If you don't mind providing the information and you don't want to make waves, you can respond to the question and move on to the next one. Keep in mind, however, that you should only answer the question if you truly are comfortable providing the information -- it could come back to haunt you.
Two: Refuse to answer the question. Inform the interviewer that the question doesn't seem to be legal or relevant to the specific requirements of the job. Be forewarned, though, that such a direct response should really be saved for questions that are offensive or deeply troubling.
Three: Don't answer the question, but answer the intent behind the question. This is usually the best option, since it allows you to provide a tactful answer without sacrificing your rights. To answer the intent behind the question, try to figure out what the interviewer REALLY wants to know. For example, if the interviewer asks if you are a U.S. citizen (which is an illegal question), a smart answer would be, "If you mean to ask if I am legally authorized to work for you, the answer is yes." In cases like these, it's best to rephrase the question into a legal one and then answer it. This displays flexibility and composure -- strong job skills.
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An important aspect of career development for a college student with a disability is to consider the impact of one’s condition in employment and to begin and plan for a successful transition into the workplace. The same disability laws that ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunity in education apply in employment. Below are a few resources that students can use to learn more about employment and disability.
Tips for Researching Employers:
- Review the anti-discrimination policies of the organization
- Know in advance what accommodations you require
- Participate in employer information sessions, career fairs and campus recruiting
- Access Career Computer Lab resources
DisabilityInfo.gov- Includes multiple links to resources related to employment for somebody with a disability
A Guide for People with Disabilities Seeking Employment - PDF Document “A Guide for People with Disabilities Seeking Employment”
Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD): Association of Higher Education & Disability: Provides info on accommodating students with disabilities under the ADAAA
Business Leadership Network USBLN Disability at Work - Business Leadership Network: A business‐led initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) mission is to improve the employment rate of college students and recent graduates with disabilities on a national basis. COSD works with higher education institutions and assists them in developing collaborative relationships between the Disability Services and Career Development Center offices on campuses
Disability Student Services Professionals Linkedin Group - Disability Student Services Professionals (DSS Pro) group
Disaboom is provides comprehensive information, insight, and personal engagement for the disability community
GettingHired.com - Careers and community for people with disabilities, mentors, job listings, videos, and a fully accessible portal for people with disabilities
Hireability.org – Helps people with disabilities obtain competitive jobs, helped employers find often overlooked talent, and helped employers and workers integrate people with disabilities into the workforce
LimeConnect offers a wide range of opportunities for both students and alumni with disabilities via The Lime Network
National Federation for the Blind – Resources for those working or seeking employment
Proyecto Vision –A Bilingual Website for Youth with Disabilities - Maintains a list of internship programs that are specifically designed for students with disabilities
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) can help with questions about workplace accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related disability legislation
The National Business and Disability Counsel (NBDC) is a resource for employers and job seekers in integrating into the workplace. The NBDC hosts the internship program Emerging Leaders. Emerging Leaders is a highly competitive program that places undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities in fulfilling summer internships and provides them with leadership development opportunities
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Fact Sheet for Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act: provides information regarding your rights
Wright Choice – Organization that serves educational institutions, business and non-profit communities by sourcing and developing under-represented talent
***Adapted from “Disclosure Options” handout by Aase and Smith, University of Minnesota and “Disclosing Your Disability” handout from Cal Poly, Pomona