5 Things Anyone With a Physical Disability Should Know Before Applying to a Job

By Chelsea Jacksonin | Jan 15 2018-07:00pm

Getting ready for your next job search is immensely stressful for pretty much everyone (if it’s not, you need to share your secrets). However, it can seem impossible to find a job when you have a disability, especially for those of us who have a physical disability (seeing as a lot of physical disabilities are easily visible).

According to the United States Census Bureau, about 57 million Americans have some form of disability. However, just because people with disabilities are a protected class, doesn’t mean magically hiring managers throw job offers you.

In fact, the United States Census Bureau elaborates that people between the ages of 21 and 64 who have disabilities are 38 percent less likely to have jobs than those who don’t have disabilities.

Because those with disabilities are statistically less likely to get jobs over those who don’t, we need to work harder to land a job, especially since it takes extra work to combat the negative stigma that surrounds everyone with a disability. Beyond the incorrect stigma that people with disabilities are lazy, there are several things that we need to know before we even apply for a new job.

  1. You should choose to disclose your disability at your discretion

If you need to use a mobility device on a regular basis, then your disability might seem like it’s revealed once you meet a hiring manager. However, formally disclosing your disability to your company’s human resources department can help ensure that you perform your daily tasks more efficiently (by getting access to reasonable accommodations or additional sick days for medical appointments).

For those of us who have invisible disabilities, hiring managers might not notice our disabilities right away.

Staff Attorney for the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), Amy E. Scherer, tells Her Campus, “There is still a lot of stigma surrounding people with disabilities, so I think there is, unfortunately, good reason for people to be hesitant about disclosing a disability. Obviously, if the disability is visible, there may not be a choice in the matter. But, I don’t think a person should feel obligated to reveal a disability to the employer if it has no impact on the ability to perform the job.” If you’re confident that you can successfully perform every aspect of the job, without accommodations, then you might not need to disclose your disability to your employer. However, if this changes and you do need reasonable accommodations later in your professional career, you can still formally disclose your disability with your company’s HR department.

“However, it is important to note that if a person is requesting reasonable accommodations from the employer, covered under the ADA, one must disclose the disability. But, one can say that a reasonable accommodation is requested due to a medical condition, impairment or disability without having to disclose more about the particular diagnosis,” Scherer continues.

  1. You have the right to reasonable accommodation

If a specific job posting requires you to stand for long periods of time (for no other reason than to stand to greet people or otherwise), your employer needs to accommodate you if you physically cannot stand or it’s too painful for you to stand for an extended period.

For example, I have arthritis (which is especially painful in my wrists and fingers), so I need text-to-speech applications to type this article.

Because I already know that these apps help my productively and quality of work, I often indicate in my applications that I am disabled. If there’s a section in an application that asks for additional comments or any accommodations, I indicate that I need text-to-speech applications. However, I make it abundantly clear that these “accommodations” allow me to be even more productive and competent in my job.

Often, companies think that requesting additional accommodations somehow translates to you needing extra help or time on a project, which is why it’s important to inform your employer about why you need these accommodations and how they make you a better employee.

If your employer isn’t giving you access to reasonable accommodations, you shouldn’t quit. Scherer explains, “If your employer has ignored your request for an accommodation, your first step should be to make sure you were understood. Put the request in writing, and specifically mention the ADA. Even though the law doesn’t require you to be so explicit, your employer may not understand its obligations or may not have fully grasped your request. If the request continues to be ignored after that, legal action may be necessary.”

If it feels like your employer has forgotten about your request for accommodation, try to continue the conversation and make sure they understand your needs.

  1. You don’t need to accept a lower wage because of your disability

The United States Census Bureau explains that of those in that average working age (seeing as most people work between the age 21 and 64), those with disabilities earn significantly less than those without disabilities. “Adults age 21 to 64 with disabilities had median monthly earnings of $1,961 compared with $2,724 for those with no disability,” the Census Bureau says. That’s all sorts of messed up.

While the discrepancy in wages between people with and without disabilities could attribute to experience and education, it’s equally important that you know how to market yourself in an interview and that you know your worth.

Steve Aaron, a spokesperson for the National Organization on Disability (NOD) and President at SRA Communications, tells Her Campus, “For the 57 million Americans living with disabilities, the largest barriers to employment usually stem from stigma about what individuals with disabilities can achieve and contribute to the workforce. Despite an increasing number of people with disabilities entering the workforce, these pay disparities persist as another ‘face’ of these stereotypes, and they result in discrimination that devalues the work and contributions of people with disabilities.” Although the stigma against people with disabilities might seem impossible to break, you can still fight any workplace injustices–especially if you believe your employer has discriminated against your disability.

Aaron explains that “this discrimination is unlawful.” Though it may seem impossible to retaliate against workplace injustices, you can take legal action if you believe you’re experiencing pay disparity based on your disability.

Personally, I’ve had companies (granted it was only two companies that I applied to) tell me that they needed to pay me less than the salary they advertised on their job posting because, “They needed to allocate funds to my additional accommodations,” which honestly is BS. They know it. I know it.

Conversely, Scherer reveals that “it would be rare for co-workers performing similar jobs (one with a disability, one without a disability) to be receiving different salaries solely as a result of the difference in the person’s disability status.” This makes sense because not all physical disabilities are easily visible.

“The differences are more likely to be caused by the fact that the person with a disability may work part-time due to the functional limitations of his/her disability. The biggest reason for the discrepancy, though, is the huge unemployment rate for people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities are forced into a life of poverty because employers are reluctant to hire them and therefore, they have no other income, outside of social security benefits,” Scherer concludes.

Nevertheless, it isn’t necessarily illegal for a company to offer anyone a different wage than the advertisement, seeing as a job posting isn’t a contract, so there isn’t anything that legally binding that company to offer you the advertised wage on the job posting. However, it’s generally a bad practice, and you can report them to the Better Business Bureau.

Regardless, you shouldn’t accept a lower salary offer if you aren’t comfortable with it. Instead, you should counter that you deserve a higher wage because of all of your qualifications and your potential benefit to the company.

  1. You don’t need to lie about gaps in your employment history

Depending on your physical disability, you may have had to take a brief hiatus from the working world (because your health is always more important than a paycheck). However, you don’t need to lie to a hiring manager about why you have a gap in your employment history. After all, even people without disabilities have to take extended periods of time off of work for their physical and psychological health.

Instead of creating an elaborate alibi that you rescind from your last job to go on a year-long humanitarian expedition, tell the truth. Explain to the hiring manager that you have a gap in your employment because you needed to take some time off for your health because otherwise your wellbeing and your quality of work would’ve been in jeopardy.

It may seem a bit heavy to explain this during a face-to-face interview with a hiring manager, so you could always opt to reveal this vague, but truthful, information in an “additional information” section of an application.

However, you don’t have to explain that your employment gap was due to your disability or medical condition. Scherer recommends “highlighting anything that happened during the gap (volunteer projects etc.) and avoiding the inclination to go into any detail about the medical history that led to the gap.” In this scenario, you can transform your employment gap into a positive experience, and you avoid discussing your medical history.

You could also explain your employment gap, and subsequently your disability, to your advantage. Aaron reports that you can “be honest about the reason behind any gaps in your resume” as long as you “give yourself credit for the skills you may have honed in having a disability.”

After all, your disability has allowed you to develop an incredible set of skills. Aaron explains, “Dealing with a series of cancer treatments may have given you improved multitasking skills or heightened your sense of empathy. Learning to navigate your city in a wheelchair with paraplegia may have improved your time management skills. All of these are valuable assets to employers. This fact is more than field-tested: the employers who do hire from this pool consistently rank employees with disabilities among their best, most dedicated workers, with some of the lowest rates of turnover.”

Instead of trying to seem like the perfect professional person, be truthful without revealing too much information about your medical condition. By too much, you don’t need to review your entire medical history with your hiring manager. Instead, you can simply explain that you have a gap in your employment history because you had a medical emergency, and use Aaron’s advice by explaining how your disability gives you strength in the workplace.

After all, your hiring manager would contact your previous employer to confirm whether or not you left that position to volunteer around the globe. And a company never wants to hire an untrustworthy candidate.

  1. You aren’t alone

If your inbox is filling up with rejection letters even before you get to an interview, you aren’t alone. Scope explains, “When applying for jobs only 51% of disabled applications result in an interview compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. Also on average, disabled people apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people when searching for a job.” Not only do people with physical disabilities get fewer interviews than applicants without any disabilities, but we also have to apply for more jobs than those non-disabled applicants.

Although we might have to search for jobs a bit differently, companies also need to grow and change in order to include people with disabilities in their hiring practices.

Lori Golden, Abilities Strategy Team Leader at Ernst & Young (EY) which is a member of the NOD Corporate Leadership Council, acknowledges that “one important signal in building the kind of culture that makes employees feel comfortable self-identifying is ensuring that company facilities are truly accessible to all employees. For example, are hand towels in the bathroom within reach of an employee in a wheelchair? Do emergency alarms feature accessible visual and auditory cues for blind or deaf employees? Does your company show employees with disabilities of all levels working and contributing in your company? Do they share the stories of how they are successful on the job, especially if it involves accommodations?” If more companies update their facilities to accommodate for people with disabilities, then their workplace atmosphere will appear more inviting to every applicant.

Company attributes like these also help applicants find employers with their best interests in mind.

If you’re still having a difficult time landing an interview, try reaching out to one of these organizations:

  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services: If you’re having a difficult time affording medical devices or issues finding employment, try contacting your local Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.
  • National Disability Rights Network (NDRN): A non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. NDRN is also the most prominent, legally based advocacy dedicated to protecting the rights of people with disabilities.
  • Scope: While this non-profit organization is in the UK, their mission is to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the same employment opportunities as people without disabilities.
  • National Organization on Disability (NOD)This organization is a national leader in helping businesses tap the disability labor pool, and offers companies a complete set of solutions, including benchmarking, program design and planning, and customized local hiring engagements. NOD’s employment experts make the journey with companies, from initial exploration through stage after stage of improvement, all the way to success.
  • American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD): Although AAPD that promotes change positive change and growth for people with disabilities, this organization helps connect people with disabilities to the proper resources to ensure we have the same employment opportunities.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): If you believe that you are being discriminated against during an interview, at your work or you simply aren’t receiving reasonable accommodation, then you should contact the EEOC immediately.

Although there’s a stigma that disabled people are just lazy people who live off of the government (which by the way is ridiculous, especially since the average SSI disability paycheck barely keeps people with disabilities above the poverty line), people with disabilities want to work and a lot of us are actively searching for employment opportunities.

For those people with disabilities who want to work (or just don’t want to go through the hell that is the SSI application), only 17.9 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We can’t really put the same effort into applying to jobs as people without disabilities and expect to receive equal job opportunities. Instead, we have to think of fancy new tricks before we apply to jobs, because we can’t just attach a business card dispenser to our mobility devices and expect hiring managers to swarm toward us. Instead, we have to fight the stigma against people with disabilities even before we start drafting your application material.

Read on HerCampus.

Willing and able: Disabled workers prove their value in tight labor market

Paul Davidson, USA TODAY | Published 4:00 a.m. ET March 5, 2018

Julie Propp landed her first-ever job about 18 months ago — at age 55.

A part-time retail helper at a Kwik Trip convenience store in Marshalltown, Iowa, Propp cleans and ensures coffee cups and other items are well-stocked. She previously loaded boxes in workshops run by agencies that help disabled people but never had a traditional job because of a developmental disability.

She prefers her current gig. “It’s more money down there and more hours,” says Propp, who earns $10.90 an hour and will soon get a bump to $11.25. “Some customers are so nice.”

With the low 4.1% unemployment rate making it tougher for employers to hire and retain workers, more are bringing on Americans with disabilities who had long struggled to find jobs. Many firms are modifying traditional interviews that filter out candidates with less-refined social skills and transferring some job duties to other staffers to accommodate the strengths of people with disabilities.

“In a tight labor market, employers who usually might not hire some of these people are reaching (deeper) in the queue,” says Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University.

Kwik Trip launched its program to place people with disabilities in retail helper jobs in 2013. About half of the company’s 634 stores in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin have such workers. Turnover for retail helpers was just 9% last year compared to 45% for all part-time employees, says Joalyn Torgerson, Kwik Trip’s return-to-work coordinator.

Propp is “always looking for more stuff she can do,” store Manager Sheila Earney says.

Advocates for people with disabilities say recognition of their value in the workplace is long overdue, and they hope employers’ current hiring need spurs a more enduring shift. The share of working Americans who are disabled was still small at 3.2% last year, but that was up modestly from a range of 2.9% to 3.1% from 2011 to 2016, according to the Labor Department.

“There’s a growing cadre of companies that look at people with disabilities as an untapped talent pool,” says Carol Glazer, CEO of the National Organization on Disability. “When people spend their entire lives solving problems in a world that wasn’t built for them, that’s an attribute that can be translated into high productivity in the workforce.”

The portion of working-age disabled Americans who are employed averaged 29.3% last year, up from 26.8% in 2013, figures from the Labor Department and Moody’s Analytics show. That’s still far lower than the 73.5% of non-disabled Americans who were working, though the latter has not increased as sharply. The unemployment rate for disabled people is 8.8%, down from 16.9% in 2011, but more than double the U.S. jobless rate.

Shrinking Social Security 

The return of many disabled workers to the labor force has helped shrink the Social Security disability rolls, which swelled during and after the recession as many people with less severe infirmities applied for benefits after their unemployment insurance expired. The past three years, the number of people on disability has steadily fallen to 8.7 million from 9 million and the ranks of those leaving has exceeded those joining, notes Moody’s economist Adam Ozimek.

Meanwhile, hundreds of companies have launched programs to recruit people with disabilities in recent years, partly in response to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which bars discrimination against job applicants and requires “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace. Now that job candidates are scarcer, many firms are ratcheting up those efforts. With millions of employees job hopping for higher wages, companies such as CVS, Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers find people with disabilities are often more reliable and loyal.  And those with conditions such as autism can be more detail-oriented. Microsoft has hired 50 people with autism the past three years, mostly as software engineers.

CVS hires hundreds of disabled people annually under an initiative it began about 20 years ago, but the company has ramped it up amid the tight labor market, with the number of recruits doubling in 2017.

“We have to get creative” to fill job openings, says David Casey, CVS’ vice president of workforce strategies. Its program “is a competitive advantage. We’re getting access to a talented pool that a lot of other companies are overlooking.” Retention rates for disabled workers are double that of CVS employees overall, Casey says.

Several years ago, the company joined with state and local agencies to open “mock pharmacies” brimming with CVS products, prescriptions and signage to train disabled job candidates. In nine weeks, students learn how to run the cash register, place products on shelves, complete paperwork and deal with customers.

Kaylee Merrick, 24, who lives in Stafford, Va., and graduated high school in 2014, got her first job through the program nearly two years ago. She has anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, memory loss, attention-deficit disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In previous job interviews, “I was like — Oh, no, what if they don’t hire me? I start fidgeting really bad. I have tics.” With CVS, she says, “they teach you.”

Merrick, who works up to 30 hours a week, rings up purchases, stocks shelves, cleans and helps customers. “I’m basically running around all day,” she says. “I love dealing with people, even the grumpy ones. … And when I clean something, it’s clean.”

Opportunities at Microsoft 

The number of disabled people in white-collar jobs is also growing. Microsoft long has hired people with autism for software developer and data scientist positions as part of its normal recruitment.  But the company realized many qualified candidates were screened out during phone interviews, says Neil Barnett, Microsoft’s director of inclusive hiring. Skilled computer programmers are coveted, with Microsoft perennially struggling to fill hundreds of openings.

So the software giant overhauled its selection process for autistic candidates, stretching a typical one-day interview and testing regimen to 4½ days. Candidates are interviewed, but the conversations are spaced out and emphasis is on tasks that show how well they help co-workers and take leadership roles.

Hiring managers are told to downplay such things as whether an applicant makes eye contact. And if he or she simply answers a question with a “yes,” or “no,” the manager is instructed to follow up.

“We’re finding tremendous talent,” Barnett says. “We feel we have the types of roles that would be a good fit.” People with autism tend to pay more attention to detail and are quick to spot patterns, he says.

Joey Chemis, 30, a Microsoft data scientist who previously worked minimum-wage jobs despite degrees in applied math and statistics, says prior hiring managers “found me a little intense.” Microsoft “let us spend time on campus getting acclimated.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the big accounting and consulting firm, has learned that workers with autism focus intently on repetitive duties required in positions such as tax managers, says Brad Hopton, who oversees the firm’s disability inclusion programs.

Special solutions for special needs 

Some companies have been hesitant to hire disabled workers because of concerns about safety and liability, says Glazer and Janet Bruckshen, head of Washington Vocational Services, which places and trains disabled workers. Remedies are widely available. Smartphones with voice recognition help deaf grocery store workers talk to customers. Standing desks aid workers with attention-deficit disorder who find it hard to sit for long periods.

Robert Holder, 31, who has multiple sclerosis and recently got a part-time job at the welcome desk of a YMCA in Mauldin, Mass., has asked for a phone headset and a special keyboard. “You feel like you’re getting back to society,” says Holder, 31, who had searched eight months for work.

Some businesses are going further, modifying job requirements. Shannon Goodall, 31, of Edmonds, Wash., hunted fruitlessly for a job for five years. She has a learning disability that makes multitasking and interacting with customers difficult. But Papa Murphy’s, which makes pizza and other food to cook at home, hired Goodall about a year ago, allowing her to prepare food while shifting her customer-service duties to co-workers.

“I was looking for a job that wasn’t secluded,” says Goodall, adding that she was isolated from customers and co-workers in previous positions.

Noting that many staffers are college students who quit after a few months, her manager, Taylor Allcock, says, “It’s really nice having someone around who I can depend on.”

Read on USA Today.