Tips to Find Jobs for People With Disabilities
Make job searching less tedious with these tips to highlight your skills and experience.
While many companies have made it a priority to offer jobs for people with disabilities, these job seekers face a unique set of challenges that can make the search and interview process more difficult.
"Even if you're highly qualified for a job, you might be self-conscious about your disability," says Jonathan Kaufman, a career coach and psychotherapist who focuses on disability issues. "There's a huge psychological component at play." Born with cerebral palsy, Kaufman was also a former policy advisor to the White House on diversity and disability.
If you worry whether prospective employers will question your ability to perform well on the job, know that you're not alone. "There is still a significant level of stigma surrounding people with disabilities in the workplace," says Rebecca Cokley, disability rights program officer at the Ford Foundation and former director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress.
The good news is that more and more companies have pledged to widen their diversity hiring to include people with disabilities. For example, Microsoft, SAP, and Walgreens have programs in place to offer jobs for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Ready to start your search? These five tips can help make job searching with a disability less tedious and make sure you're in the spotlight—not your disability.
Ask for What You Need
Confidence is paramount to any job seeker. First off, know that there are federal laws that protect job seekers with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 makes it illegal for employers to ask job candidates about their medical history during a job interview. More important, it requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" to qualified job applicants or employees.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that will enable an employee with a disability to perform essential job functions. (Reasonable accommodation examples include modifying the height of desks and equipment, installing computer screen magnifiers, or installing telecommunications for the deaf.)
"You cannot get accommodations without disclosing your disability" before accepting a job offer, says Cokley. "You should feel no shame about requesting an accommodation you need in order to be successful at your job."
Understand Disability Disclosure
Share what you need to, when you need to. For example, you don't have to disclose your disability on your resume or cover letter.
Obviously, if you're asked to attend a meeting at a building with no access ramp and you're physically incapable of walking up the stairs, you'll have to tell that to the interviewer ahead of time—and when you do, point out that you're really looking forward to explaining how your skills and expertise would be a tremendous asset to the company.
If you have a disability that doesn't require any accommodations or affect your ability to perform the functions of the job, you are under no legal obligation to disclose your disability to a prospective employer.
Focus on Your Strengths and Abilities
For job seekers who require accommodations, framing your request in a positive light is key. "You want to explain [to an interviewer] that hiring you is a win-win for you and the company," Kaufman says. For example: "As long as I can adjust my computer monitor's resolution so that I can see everything clearly, I'll be plowing through those spreadsheets with ease."
Dan Ryan, author of the Job Search Handbook for People with Disabilities, says it's important to be as specific as possible. Knowing what technologies would help you excel on the job can make you more attractive to prospective employers. (For instance, speech recognition software such as StickyKeys can make using a computer easier for someone with dexterity problems.)
"Show you've done your research and know exactly what you need to perform all the essential functions of the job," Ryan says.
Leverage Your Job Experience
One way to play up your strengths to a hiring manager is by talking about how you've excelled at previous jobs.
"Showing you've already done the functions of the job you're applying for is extremely beneficial," Ryan says. "It provides verifiable evidence that you can do the work and do it well."
For extra wow-factor, use numbers to help quantify your achievements. Don't just say you oversaw a budget and reduced spending. Instead say, "Oversaw an annual budget of $50,000 and cut costs by 15%."
But don't just sing your own praises. Create a solid reference list of former bosses and coworkers who can endorse your skills and qualifications.
Take Advantage of Resources
There are a number of disability advocacy and support groups that offer free job training and job-placement assistance.
Ryan recommends the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service provided by the United States Department of Labor that offers advice on workplace accommodations for a wide range of disabilities. There's also the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), a recruitment and referral program that connects federal sector employers nationwide to job seekers with disabilities.
Attending networking events that offer jobs for people with disabilities can play an important part in helping you find companies that have excellent facilities and support systems already in place. Don't hesitate to put yourself out there.
Monster Can Help Find Jobs for People with Disabilities Just Like You
The value you bring to a job is unquestionable, but that doesn't make the job search any less stressful. Want some help with that? You can create a free profile on Monster and get connected to recruiters in your field. We can also send you custom job alerts from companies of your choosing. Let Monster help advance your career.