Your interview is in two hours! You are as ready as you will be to meet the hiring manager with one exception. Even though you are qualified for this job, this will be the first time you interview as a person with a disability. This time you may need accommodations to perform your job.
Accommodation is a big word and means different things to different people and employers. You may wonder when to bring up the subject of accommodations or if you should bring it up at all. Here are some helpful ideas.
Read the Job Description
Some employers will list the actual physical and emotional requirements of the job. For example: “Must be able to lift 40 pounds regularly,” or “ability to remain professional under stressful situations.”
Sometimes you will need to “read between the lines” on a job description. For example, “attendant at busy information booth” means that you may have to deal with impatient people or people who do not understand the information – which could be stressful and overwhelming for someone with emotional disabilities.
Know Your Disability
If you have found an ideal job for your skills, but it means mostly sitting, which will aggravate your back, you can have a strategy in place. By looking at the job description you see different walking or standing tasks. In this case, you could be prepared to ask the interviewer, “Do you think it would be possible if I arranged my time a little differently? Could I do some typing for an hour then file for a while to break up my sitting time?”
You may also need to gather information to determine whether or not you will need accommodations. For example, you cannot drive but the job description, among other responsibilities, requires the “the ability to drive customers to and from the airport.” Because it is just one of many responsibilities it may be an area where there might be more flexibility. You might ask, “How often would you need me to drive customers to or from the airport?” Or “Is there a lot of driving in this job?” This will allow the interviewer to elaborate if it is a common need or very rare. Then you will know if it makes sense to ask if you can “trade the task with a co-worker.” If it is a large part of the job, then this job may not be a suitable fit for your disability.
Try to easily integrate this accommodation question into the conversation or you can also mention it when the interviewer asks for your feedback about the position.
Other ways to suggest physical accommodations to an interviewer might be:
- “It is difficult for me to climb ladders. Would it be possible for you to schedule someone else on the job that requires climbing a ladder?”
- “I would love to work here, but I am unable to stand all day. Would it be possible to use a stool during part of the time?”
- “I really like my ergonomic keyboard. Would you mind if I brought one to use at the office?”
While reasonable accommodations are legally the responsibility of the employer, for example providing a ramp into a building to make it accessible, many times from a practical standpoint, it is preferable and easier to bring your own accommodations. Unless a person needs extensive modifications or has a very visible disability, it is generally more practical to provide your own accommodations and only discuss your disability accommodations if it is something your employer needs to get involved in. Most people with disabilities do not want to be seen as different in the workplace and often there is no reason to disclose. Many employees, with disabilities or without, have favorite chairs and keyboards that they prefer to use.
Scheduling is also a common accommodation for people with disabilities because of ongoing medical appointments. Here are some ways to address that area:
- “With regards to the schedule, I see that Wednesdays are the truck deliveries with the heavier cargo of more than 25 pounds. That sounds like a lot of lifting for me and I would be a better fit for the other days. Could Wednesday be my day off?”
- “I can certainly fill all the requirements of the job, but it would be a much better fit if I could have some flexibility in my hours, as I have some regular appointments that I will need to keep.”
Be Prepared to Ask Questions and Address Concerns at the Interview
Remember, when you go into an interview, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you. It is illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring people because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age or disability.
However, sometimes employers cannot provide accommodations. A small company may not have the resources to have another employee do a particular task or it might create a safety hazard to have a stool in a particular location.
Therefore, it is important to only apply to jobs where your disability would not affect your ability to handle the job responsibilities or one that can be easily accommodated.
When you find a suitable job that will need some accommodations, be prepared to speak up at the right time! Having a script in place for addressing your accommodations and preparing ahead of time, will help you stay focused about your skills and abilities during the interview.
May your next interview become your next new job!
About the Blogger:
Paula Reuben Vieillet is president and founder of Employment Options Inc., an authorized Social Security Administration Employment Network in the Ticket to Work Program, which assists those on SSDI/SSI benefits in returning to the workforce. They specialize in Work At Home Employment and have long-term relationships with national employers. They also offer community on-site jobs serving 47 states.
Her company, which also has a Facebook and Twitter page, let’s interested job seekers apply online for their free services at http://www.MyEmploymentOptions.com. You can also learn more about their Work At Home Specialties. Paula is a frequent consultant to the SSA on the Ticket to Work Program and has authored three books on job placement.