Job search tips for people with disabilities

Job search tips for people with disabilities

Job search tips for people with disabilities

With another academic semester ending, a new class of graduates will be transitioning to life after high school or college. This means finding a job.

The prospect of entering the job market can be dauting for some people with disabilities, especially if you’re not sure where to start or what to expect. To help in the transition from student to young professional, here are some tips to get you started.

Know your rights

Did you know there are federal laws in place to protect job seekers with disabilities? Understanding those protections and your rights can help you identify the right jobs and employers. It can also be a confidence booster, knowing that there’s a safety net and how it works.

Review the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act in relation to jobs and the workplace. Some important protections include:

  • A person with a disability may not be denied employment, harassed, demoted, fired or paid less because they have a disability.
  • Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to enable an employee with a disability to perform essential job functions.
  • You’re not required to disclose your disability, and employers may not ask specific questions about your disability in an interview or on the job.  

Play up your strengths and practice, practice, practice

Use your cover letter and resume to communicate your strengths. Focus on your accomplishments and successes from previous jobs, school or volunteer work.

Make sure you include any positive outcomes you were directly responsible for. If you have experience in certain areas, mention it. And don’t forget to list out your specific skills that are relevant to the job.

Before your interview, think about what types of questions you might be asked and plan out how you can answer them. Use the accomplishments and successes from your cover letter and resume to support your answers.

Grab a friend or family member to run through a practice interview so you can try different questions and answers. You can also think about tricky questions and how you might reframe them to showcase your skills.

Don’t be afraid to discuss accommodations

Disclosing any information about your disability is a personal choice. You’re not obligated to do so. If you do choose to disclose, only go as far as you feel comfortable. It’s ok for you to let a perspective employer know what you need to succeed.

Remember that employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Think about what accommodations you might need to attend an interview and perform successfully in your role.

For example, feel free to ask if the building is wheelchair accessible ahead of an interview, or where you can find accessible parking. If you use an assistive device or service animal, let the interviewer know so they can make appropriate arrangements. If you need specific software on your computer, or maybe a modified work schedule, you can discuss this in your interview. Point out how you will use this accommodation and your skills to tackle job-specific duties.

This demonstrates confidence, foresight and an ability to plan for success – all highly desirable traits for any employer.

Take advantage of career services

There are many career services available to people with disabilities that can provide training, help you in your search, and even connect you with companies, agencies and organizations seeking employees.

Look into your local and state services. Self-advocacy and support groups are a great resource for job seekers. Independent Living Centers (ILCs) often provide job coaching, and Vocational Rehabilitation agencies will offer job training for those who qualify.

On a national level, programs such as the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), provide free consulting services for people with disabilities. And the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) connects college students with disabilities to federal government agencies for employment.

If you’re preparing to graduate within the next year, it’s never too soon to start preparing. Check in with the career services at your university. They can help you:

  • explore possible careers
  • conduct free career assessments
  • search available jobs and internships
  • prepare resumes and cover letters
  • go over interview tips.