Having a disability can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t prevent you from achieving your career goals. In additional to laws designed to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, there are a variety of strategies that you can employ to your advantage when job hunting or while on the job—and knowing your rights is a powerful tool.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a key set of federal laws; its purpose is to prevent discrimination against people who have a disability and to guarantee equal employment opportunities for individuals with a disability. This includes issues involving hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and benefits. In addition, if you require certain accommodations in order to effectively perform the responsibilities of your job, your employer may be legally required to provide these accommodations without any undue burden to you. These protections span all industries across the public and private sector, including private business, employment agencies, educational institutions, local and state government entities, and labor organizations.
If you’d like to learn more about your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, we recommend that you visit the official website at ADA.gov. If you feel as if you’ve been unfairly discriminated against, there’s also a wealth of information available here for how to protect your rights and file a charge, if needed.
Job hunting can be challenging in even the best of circumstances—in addition to the constant stress and anxiety of countless interviews and emails, there’s the endless waiting for responses and cycle of excitement and disappointment that inevitably follows. If you have a disability, it could add extra hurdles to an already challenging situation. Use the following tips to help you successfully navigate your job hunt and ensure that nothing stands in the way between you and your next great job opportunity.
Only share what makes you comfortable.
There’s no reason for you to feel pressure to fully disclose your disability unless you feel like doing so, or if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed (like if you need to climb stairs to get to your interview but can’t, for example). Remember, your rights are protected under the ADA, and just like anyone else you’re under no obligation to disclose your complete medical history during an interview; furthermore, it shouldn’t be used as a factor to make a hiring decision.
That said, some people freely choose to bring up their situation on interviews and assert the notion that their disability will in no way prevent them from performing the tasks associated with the job. How you handle this is totally your call.
Focus on what you can do.
Whenever you’re trying to convince a hiring manager or HR professional that you’d be a valuable addition to their team, you want to make sure that you make it clear what you offer as a prospective employee—including your skill set, experience, and prior accomplishments. Although you might have a disability, the focus of any job interview you go on should be what you can do, even if it requires you to overcome an obstacle or utilize some additional accommodation.
Your goal here is the same as any prospective job applicant—to convince the interviewer that you can figure out an effective way to handle every responsibility of the job. Remember, those with a confident, “can do” attitude in the face of any and all challenges are much more likely to get hired than those who go out of their way to demonstrate that they’re not up to the tasks required of the position.
Demonstrate your value.
You may feel additional pressure to show that you’re more than up to handling the tasks associated with the job you’re going after, despite your disability. If this is the case, you can alleviate your anxiety by making sure that every aspect of your job hunting game is razor sharp. Start with a cover letter and resume that really sell yourself and get readers intrigued to learn more about you. Then follow up with a stellar interview approach—from what you wear, to your body language (project confidence!) and how capably you field the questions posed to you. The key is to sell yourself as the best possible candidate for the position, regardless of any disability you may possess. Bottom line: try your best to make yourself the obvious choice for the position because of all the great things you bring to the table, disability or not.
Know your rights.
Although we’ve briefly covered your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are a host of available websites to help you fully understand your rights, both as an employee and as a prospective one while you’re on the job hunt. The following are a few helpful resources:
- United States Department of Labor
- Job Accommodation Network
- ADA Network
- S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Enable America
Every person has the right to be a productive member of the work world and achieve career fulfillment and success. If you’re an individual with a disability or know someone with a disability, consider using the tips presented here to get informed and empowered regarding workplace rights.
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