Tips for Job Seekers with Disabilities

Anyone who has ever looked for work knows how challenging it can be. If you are a person with a disability you know about those challenges and may have experienced a few more. I’m offering a few tips to help you overcome some of those challenges related to job search.

Librarian in WheelchairSelf awareness is one of the first things to consider. You have a role to play in educating people around you. Think about the questions that may be asked and those that may not have been considered. Try to help employers move past any preconceived notions and stereotypes. If speaking about your disability is uncomfortable for you then go through it with someone beforehand that you trust or a person who has expertise in supporting persons with disabilities.  Your attitude and how you speak about your capabilities, skills and interests matters.

Take charge, talk openly and positively. Give examples of how YOU have adapted or made things easier for others. You can’t rely on employers to accommodate everything so by privately or publicly addressing some challenges you are demonstrating value. For instance: I have a chronic pain muscle condition. I once had a job that required me to go to various employment centres to facilitate workshops and I was responsible for getting my classroom materials to each location. Even if I was lucky enough to find parking semi close to the doors I would still need to lift a box. What I did was purchase a small collapsible metal luggage carrier that allowed me to strap the box to the carrier and wheel it in. The most I had to do was lift it from the front seat floor of my car to the pavement even if that meant taking some materials out first and reloading to minimize strain. I could have turned down the job the moment they told me about transporting materials. I could have told them my story and expected them to place the materials on location but I found another way. I took charge because not every challenge related to a disability needs to be disclosed and every problem has a solution.

Disclosure can be tricky. This is where personal choice must be respected. If you are working with an employment agency you will likely be more forthcoming. Whether through a referral, in person or on paper consider the following: Is my disability visible? Do I need accommodations for the interview or job? How do most people react and how do I deal with those reactions?  Remember: There is a fine line between disclosure and bowling someone over with details that are not pertinent, keep it simple. Plan and use examples. Don’t wast anyone’s time with trying to hide something that is obvious; you don’t want to lose your credibility as an applicant.

Facing your fears about job searching, hints for accommodation, goal setting and resources are pieces yet to be explored. Hopefully these tips were helpful and have you thinking about how you can prepare.

If you want more information and tips on job search for persons with disabilities, please contact me or continue to read this blog for more career advice!


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