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A few ideas to help you with your job search.

Are employers really looking for disabled people?
Online Job-Hunting Resources
Disclosing Your Disability
Job Accommodations
Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Tips for Job Seekers who are Blind or Visually impaired
Disability and Innovation
Proyecto Vision - An employment-focused organization for Latinos with disabilities.
Telecommuting - Working from your home.


Job Search Handbook for People With DisabilitiesJob Search Handbook for People with Disabilities

Cover: Job Hunting for the So-Called Handicapped


Job-Hunting for the So-Called Handicapped



Are employers really looking for disabled people?
by Rob McInnes

Employers aren't looking for people with disabilities. If they were, you could turn to your newspaper’s classified ads and see “Disabled Person Wanted”. But you don’t see that. What you will see is “Sales Manager Wanted”, “Software Engineer Wanted”, etc.  

Employers aren’t looking for people with disabilities; but they are looking for people who can fill their job openings – whether or not they have a disability. Richard Pimentel, a fabulous spokesperson on employment and disability issues, tells employers; “There are no good jobs for people with disabilities in your company; but there is a good person with a disability for every job in your company.” 

As we all know, people with disabilities have historically been denied opportunities for jobs. This was due largely to misinformation, prejudice and discrimination. In recent years, attitudes, legislation and workforce demographics have all been changing that.

Many employers are now “proactive” about hiring people with disabilities. They understand that disability, in and of itself, may have little impact on the talent and productivity of an individual. They understand that there are capable people with disabilities who can be productive and valuable employees… and they are keenly interested in hiring them.


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By Rob McInnes

Once you have connected with an employer that invites you to an interview, the fun really begins! Here are some ideas to consider as you enter that process…

Requesting Interview Accommodations

If you need an accommodation to interview effectively, work with the employer/interviewer. Make it as easy as possible for them. Remember, you want them to see your disability as something that can be accommodated reasonably and effectively.

For instance, if you are Deaf, don’t just send an email saying “I’m Deaf. I’ll need an Interpreter”. Remember, the employer probably doesn’t know much about Deafness. Rather, send a message like “I am really pleased to have the opportunity to interview for this job. However, I am Deaf. To interview effectively, I will need the assistance of a Sign Language Interpreter. If you are not familiar with this service, I can help you make these arrangements or you can call Acme Interpreters directly at …” 

Relieving the Tension

You are going to get the best interview from someone who is relaxed and comfortable.

For good reason, your Interviewer may be uncomfortable at the beginning of the interview. Think about it… they probably don’t meet someone with your disability every day. They are probably concerned about being “politically correct” in reference to your disability, anxious about the legal protocol demanded by the Americans with Disabilities Act or similar legislation, and generally nervous about their ability to interact effectively with you.

You, yourself, can do a lot to relieve the Interviewer’s tension. Be friendly and personable. You want to be professional; but you can be professional and relaxed. Humor is often a good way to break the ice.

Resolving Concerns

An Employer is not likely to make you a job offer until all of his/her concerns about your ability to do the job are fully resolved. You should keep one goal foremost when you interview for a job – giving the Interviewer the  confidence that you have the ability to do the job well.

If you have an "invisible" disability - one that other people do not readily perceive, you have no legal obligation to disclose it in the interview. If you can carry out the job duties without any accommodations, you may choose not to disclose even after you are hired. If you know you will require the employer to make a reasonable accommodation for you to perform well on the job, you don't have to bring that up until after the job offer has been made.

An Interviewer who is aware of your disability may have real concerns about how it may affect your ability to carry out the job duties. They may be awkward or unsure of how to ask you the kinds of questions that would help to resolve these concerns. Yet, if those concerns are not addressed, they will likely never make you the job offer.

Not all employers are well-versed in the ADA. Those that are will know that they are not allowed to ask you disability-specific questions. For instance, if you have only one arm and the job requires placing bulky items on shelves up to six feet high, the interviewer might be concerned about your ability to do that part of the job. They may have no idea how to speak to you about that. (An employer wee-versed in the ADA would simply ask you to demonstrate or describe how he/she would perform this function, with or without an accommodation.) If need be, take it upon yourself to guess what the Interviewer’s concerns may be – and to explain how you can accomplish all of the tasks related to the job.

I remember once interviewing a young woman who used a wheelchair. The job involved a lot of filing. Our file cabinets were 4 and 5 drawers high. Mentally, I had begun to consider the possibility of converting all the cabinets to 2-drawer units – or making sure that all the files she would need would be in the lower 2 drawers of all the cabinets. Those thoughts were interrupted when she said “You may have some concerns about my ability to use the files in this office. Don’t worry, I can’t walk; but I am able to stand – so it won’t be any problem.”

Communicating Confidence

The Interviewer needs to have confidence in your ability. Confidence is contagious! Take it upon yourself to boldly communicate your confidence in your own abilities. Look for opportunities to bring meaningful anecdotes about yourself into the conversation. They can be work-related or not – as long as they are good examples of your skills and attributes.

I remember interviewing a young man in a wheelchair once. He wove in stories about his post-accident motorcycle trips, hang gliding adventures, etc. By doing that, he left me with little doubt about his ability to overcome any barriers that he might encounter on the job or anywhere else!


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by Rob McInnes

For many job seekers with disabilities, the issue of “disclosure” (if, when and how to alert an employer to their disability) is a major area of concern.

As you go about looking for a job, you will need to decide if and when to disclose your disability. There are no hard rules. It will be up to you to make those decisions. It will all be a strategic judgment call on you part.

As you know, having a disability can be a liability in the job search – due to the possible misconceptions and/or prejudices of the people you will encounter. Sometimes, however, having a disability can be an asset! When you are applying to proactive companies who have a reputation for hiring people with disabilities, they may have a specific interest in applicants with disabilities.

Probably more important than “when” you disclose your disability is “how” you do it. They way that you present your disability can greatly affect how the employer will view it. Are you presenting yourself as a person with a disability who has some skills – or a person with skills who happens to have a disability? Don’t be mistaken, this is an important distinction! Employers don’t hire people because they have disabilities – they hire people because they have skills. Make sure that you are presenting yourself as an enthusiastic and qualified candidate FIRST and someone with a disability, SECOND.

If you don’t have a visible or otherwise obvious disability, you have the choice of when, how, and if you will disclose it to any employer. Even if you do require a reasonable accommodation on the job, you do not need to disclose your need for it until after you have been offered a job. 

(See below for some great online resources.)

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Online Resources
by Rob McInnes

Here are some Online Resources that may be helpful to you!

Career Development


Job Accommodations

  • If you want advice about accommodations that will help you to be more effective at your job, or a particular task, contact the folks at the Job Accommodation Network (1-800-526-7234). They are terrific and, best of all, they are FREE!


  • Ball State University has some great online guidelines on how to prepare for an interview. Here 

  • It might be helpful to study up on the guidance that employers might get on how to interview people with disabilities. Here are a few selected sites:

Legal Rights

  • The SEEOC has an online Handbook of your employment-related rights under the ADA Here

Job-Search Resources

  • Deaf Digest is a free weekly online newsletter on Deaf Issues. Each issue is accompanied by job postings, (primarily education-related), from across the country targeted at Deaf applicants. Here

  • A Systemic Approach to Arming Students and Job Seekers with Disabilities and their Advocates in Securing Meaningful Employment by Ollie Cantos Here

Resume-Posting Sites

  • Disability: There are a small number of job matching sites that are targeted at candidates with disabilities: See "Recruiting Sources": http://www.diversityworld.com/Disability/recruit.htm

  • Diversity: Some disability-related sites have partnered with “diversity” organizations. Your resume will be added to a much larger pool of talented people from other groups that have historically faced employment barriers (i.e. visible minorities). Some of these include:

  • General: Don’t overlook the online resume bases that are open to everyone. If you have the talent to compete in the open marketplace, go for it! Here are some of the more popular ones:

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Job Accommodations
by Rob McInnes

If your disability affects your ability to perform on in the workplace, do everything you can to familiarize yourself with the kind of accommodations that you need to be as productive as possible on the job. You may have accommodation needs that are similar to those of other people with your disability; but, in selecting accommodation tools and strategies, you will also have your own unique set of circumstances and personal preferences.

Job Accommodations can include many different aspects of the job, such as :

    • Specialized or customized tools (i.e. modified equipment)
    • Access Technology (i.e. screen readers)
    • Flexible Work Schedules (i.e. permission to arrive late because of transportation issues)
    • Reassignment of non-essential job duties (i.e. if taking notes at staff meetings is shared by all employees, and you are unable to do so, having someone else take this responsibility.)

For your sake, and the sake of your current or future employer, you should be conscientious about selecting accommodations that are both effective and cost-effective. You should be able to approach a job interview with confidence that you are familiar with the reasonable accommodations you will need to perform that job well. Your potential employer will likely be impressed with the confidence and know-how that you possess.

Some people with disabilities find it very helpful to develop their own formal accommodation "plan". In developing this plan, they thoroughly research all the accommodation solutions available to them to perform work-related tasks that they might encounter. Where these solutions are items or tools, they then arrange to test various brands or models – both to be familiar with the range of options available to them, and to learn which ones best meet their personal needs.

Sources for researching effective accommodation strategies:

  • Explore the online resources of the Job Accommodation Network and place a toll-free call to one of their trained Job Accommodation Consultants (1-800-526-7234)
  • There are national associations that focus on most types of disabilities. Contact the association that focuses on your disability type and question them about commonly-used job accommodations. (To find the right organization, a good place to start is DisabilityResources.org)


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Disability and Innovation
By Griff Hogan
Corporate Disability Consultant, Griff Hogan & Associates

A friend of mine recently ran crying out of a movie theatre, halfway through A Beautiful Mind. As the mother of a young man with chronic depression, she was all too familiar with the rejection often experienced by those with mental illness. While there is no denying the difficulties that come with psychiatric problems—or any significant impairment—there is another aspect to consider: disabilities can carry with them important benefits, both for people who have them and everyone else.

As evidence of this phenomenon, consider the endless list of historic figures who have had disabilities: artists from van Gogh to Pollack, writers from Homer to Christy Brown, musicians from Beethoven to Stevie Wonder, political leaders from Julius Caesar to John McCain, scientists from Sir Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking.

Why have so many people of incomparable talent been disabled? Some mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, autism/Asperger’s syndrome, bi-polar disorder and depression, are commonly found in highly creative and productive individuals. The “insane genius” is a misleading stereotype, but like most clichés it contains a grain of truth. While a full-blown psychosis is invariably debilitating, mild mental problems, or those in remission, seem often to provide incentive and even inspiration. There is no denying the brilliance of Albert Einstein; but his delayed speech (he didn’t talk until he was three), poor interpersonal relationships, unkempt appearance, preoccupation with abstract concepts, and compulsion to wear soft clothing are all symptomatic of autism, a usually incapacitating mental illness. Einstein’s preoccupation became his incomparable legacy.

Learning disabilities are also common among the gifted. Thomas Edison did so poorly in school that his teachers thought he was “slow.” Today, psychologists refer to unique learning styles in gifted children as “the Edison factor.” At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where some of the most scientifically capable students in the world are educated, so common are reading problems that dyslexia is often referred to as “the M.I.T. disease.”

Aside from whatever else it might entail, having a disability places those affected in a situation demanding adaptation, and adapt they do. People who use a wheelchair learn an awful lot about mobility options; those who are deaf must find alternate means of communicating; blindness brings with it a host of necessary adjustments. Most people can get through the ordinary routines of daily life with scarcely a thought about them. Not so if you are disabled. You are always adjusting, adapting, improvising—doing whatever it takes to get along. When adaptive thinking becomes habitual it can be a powerful skill.

Too often people assume that successful disabled people have “triumphed over” their impairment without recognizing the important role that the disability itself may have had in their achievements. One of the great ironies of the previous century was that the atrocities of the Third Reich, which began with a pogrom against disabled Germans, were ended by Allied Forces led by two great disabled men: Franklin Roosevelt, who had polio, and Winston Churchill, who had chronic depression. Many historians credit their disabilities with preparing both leaders for the many setbacks that came before final victory in the war. Where would we be today had they led more ordinary lives?

Disabilities often provide those who have them, or are interested in them, with a uniquely valuable perspective. Most of us know that Alexander Graham Bell’s interest in deafness led to his invention of the telephone. Fewer know that the typewriter was invented as a “writing machine” for an Italian countess who was blind, or that Dr. Vinton Cerf, who is partially deaf, was accustomed to communicating by teletypewriter long before his research earned him the title “Father of the Internet.” (The next time you type at a keyboard accessing the Internet over a phone line, remember who made it possible.)

The most celebrated invention of 2001 was the Segway HT (a.k.a.. “Ginger”), the scooter-like creation of Dean Kamen. The gyroscopic technology that made Ginger possible came from Kamen’s earlier work with a “standing,” stair-climbing wheelchair.

We all benefit daily from provisions made for people with disabilities—automatic doors, ramps, large-print signs, oversized restroom stalls. Engineers have termed this the “curb-cut effect” since curb-cuts were originally developed for people using walkers and wheelchairs, but are now also used by cyclists, roller-bladers, delivery personnel, parents pushing strollers—everybody. There’s also something known as the “electronic curb-cut effect”—technological innovations that are developed for people with disabilities but are soon embraced by the masses. The most obvious example is television captioning, originally created to assist deaf TV viewers, but now found ubiquitously in sports bars, airport lounges, and bedrooms where someone wants to view a late-night show without disturbing another’s slumber.

In Origin of the Species Darwin theorized that organisms progress due to the adaptation of the strong, i.e. “survival of the fittest.” He had it half right. History and experience show that great progress can also be attributed to those who adapt to their limitations and weaknesses. Better understanding this phenomenon should make us more tolerant of impairments—our own and others’—and more appreciative of the many ways in which we all benefit from them.

(Griff Hogan is a corporate disability consultant. This article is adapted from his newly published book The Inclusive Corporation: a disability handbook for business professionals.)

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Telecommuting - Working from your home

National Telecommuting Institute - work at home online jobs for Americans with disabilities.

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