My husband is on the job hunt, looking for a new opportunity after several years working for a technology help desk. This got me thinking about a topic I haven't thought about since last time I myself was on the job hunt: How to address your disability in the workplace or in a job interview.
Of course, an employer outright asking an employee or candidate about their disability is one of those taboo questions on the list of "you're not supposed to talk about this" right up there with sexual orientation or marital status. However, what if you need to address your disability to request a reasonable accommodation or weigh out your options to decide whether or not a potential job is a good fit for you, professionally and physically?
This is a gray line that many of us with disabilities must walk when choosing our careers and there can be a lot of unknowns. What if the building is not accessible, or I can't get into the bathrooms? What if I'm unable to comfortably access my workstation or the job I'm interested in requires travel? Is working from home an option? What about the environment – are there other people with disabilities that work at the place I'm interested in applying? Is an inclusive environment conducive to the workplace culture?
Disability throws in a lot of these and other unknown questions, so how do you go about finding the answers you need? After all, it's important to remember that the workplace you are interested in giving your talents to is not only interviewing you as a candidate, but you are also essentially interviewing them as an employer that you want to work for.
- I would recommend making a priority list. A "pros vs. cons" list can help you sort out your deal breakers from the things you can adapt to.
- If you can, take a drive to the building before your interview or ask other people you know who might be familiar with the neighborhood so you know what to expect before you arrive for your interview.
- Arrive early the day of your interview. Give yourself some time to make sure you can find the office, figure out parking, maneuver through the building and stop by the bathroom if you need to beforehand without having to rush.
- Remember, the job interview is about showcasing your talents and what you have to offer to an employer. If an employer is not willing to work with you to reasonably accommodate your needs or you feel they are uncomfortable because of your disability, it is probably not a place you want to work every day. You have as much choice choosing your employer as a potential employer does when choosing a candidate to fill a position.
What are some other tips you have for job seekers with disabilities? Share them in the comments!