By Susan Ashmore
While searching for employment, disabled workers face unique challenges that may leave them feeling discouraged. Being prepared is the key to convincing employers that a disability doesn’t affect performance and that one’s abilities outweigh any disabilities.
Here are some helpful tips for those with disabilities to succeed in finding employment:
Focus on your abilities, not your disabilities. Instead of listing your limitations, focus on your strengths. Employers are legally barred from asking about your disability during the interview process, but they can ask about your skills and what makes you the right person for the position. Be ready to tell them what you can do.
Connect with others. Not only can networking help you establish relationships with potential employers, but it can also put you in touch with a mentor. Look to connect with someone who has comparable issues and holds a job that appeals to you. Ask how the person obtained the job and does it well despite the disability. Reach out to the nearest chapter of the national association that deals with your condition as they might be able to put you in touch with a mentor.
Practice your responses. Search the internet for a list of potential interview questions and practice answering them with a friend or family member. Not only will this help you avoid being caught off guard during an interview, but you will appear more confident and relaxed.
Disclose your disability. If you plan to address your disability to a potential employer, be cautious not to focus your interview around it. In other words, make the employer aware of your disability but continue to focus on your skills and knowledge needed for the job. Also keep in mind that if you require accommodations, your employer will need to know that.
Be realistic. Although accommodations are available to workers with disabilities, they may not always set you up for success. When applying, be aware of the job requirements and your ability to perform them comfortably.
Volunteer. A good way to establish and develop your skills is to volunteer. If you are not confident about working with your disability, volunteering will provide excellent practice for future employment.
Know your rights. Become familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act prevents an employer from denying you a job due to your disability. Knowing this information may protect you from answering illegal or discriminatory questions.
Lastly, use your resources. Federal and state programs are designed to help disabled workers find successful employment. Search websites that are geared toward finding employment for people with disabilities such as Disability.gov and Gettinghired.com. If you're receiving disability benefits from Social Security, look into the Ticket to Work program. You may qualify for free employment help such as career counseling, job placement and training.
Your local Workforce Solutions Alamo career center can provide information and help determine which options work best for you. Check us out online WorkforceSolutionsAlamo.org.
Susan Ashmore is Deputy Executive Director at Workforce Solutions Alamo.
**Cover image courtesy of Workforce Solutions Alamo