Seeking employment with a disability: 5 things you didn't know about
Five things you didn't know about seeking employment with a disability
Seeking employment with a disability can be challenging in the best of circumstances.
There are laws in place to protect disabled people from discrimination in the workplace, and there are steps you can take to increase your chances of being hired by an inclusive company.
By understanding your rights, preparing to disclose your disability, requesting accommodations, and seeking out companies that value diversity, you can improve your chances of finding gainful employment.
Applying for a job can be daunting under the best of circumstances. However, when you are disabled, it can be even more challenging.
In addition to the standard concerns about whether you're qualified and whether you'll be able to perform the duties of the job, when seeking employment with a disability, you may also have to contend with employers who are hesitant to hire a disabled person.
Know your legal rights as a disabled person
The first step in seeking employment with a disability is understanding your rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including the application process, hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and benefits.
If you believe you have been discriminated against during any part of the employment process because of your disability, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC investigates charges brought against employers regarding discrimination against employees and job applicants. You can file a charge through the EEOC Public Portal after you submit an online inquiry and have an intake interview with an EEOC staff member.
Be prepared to disclose your disability to your employer
Legally you are not required to disclose your disability when applying for a job unless it impacts your ability to perform the job's essential functions. However, if you choose to do so, make sure you are prepared to discuss how your disability will impact your ability to do the job and what accommodations you need to succeed in the role.
While this conversation with your employer about your disability may appear difficult, you can research how to have an awkward conversation so you are better prepared for a successful outcome.
Don't hesitate to ask for reasonable accommodations
When seeking employment with a disability, if you need workplace accommodations to perform the job's essential functions or participate in the interview process, don't hesitate to request them from your potential employer. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified employees with disabilities, as long as doing so does not create an undue hardship for the employer.
Don't be discouraged
People who work in human resources or are responsible for hiring may sometimes say things discouraging disabled people from applying for jobs at their company.
For example, their job descriptions might not be inclusive. A poorly written job description may list physical demands in a job description that aren't actually required to be able to perform the job, or they could be performed with reasonable accommodations.
They may say that they're not looking for someone who needs accommodation (which is against the ADA) or that they don't have any open positions that would be a good fit for someone with your particular type of disability.
If this happens, don't let it deter you from applying for the job (I know that this is easier said than done); it's likely their way of trying to save time by not having to go through the accommodation process.
Seek out companies committed to diversity and inclusion.
While there are plenty of companies out there that are committed to hiring disabled people, there are others that are not as diverse and inclusive-minded. If you want to increase your chances of being hired by a company that values diversity and inclusion, seek out these organizations when searching for jobs.
In addition, if you are struggling to find a job, you can consider contacting a social security disability lawyer to help you obtain a secure income while you're seeking full-time employment.
While seeking employment can be challenging under any circumstances, it can be especially difficult for disabled people. However, there are laws in place to protect disabled people from discrimination in the workplace, and there are steps you can take to increase your chances of being hired by an inclusive company. By understanding your rights, preparing to disclose your disability, requesting accommodations, and seeking out companies that value diversity, you can improve your chances of finding gainful employment.
Jessica White, author of "Seeking employment with a disability: 5 things you didn't know about," holds a MA in feminist literature and for a long time wrote a successful personal mental health blog. Jessica lives with a chronic neurological condition and is semi-retired, working part time as a customer service representative.