Never mind what the law says. Discrimination against people with disabilities in the job market is alive and well.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that disability discrimination claims for 2010 ballooned to a record 100,000, a 17 percent increase over the previous year.
“Job hunting with a disability can prove difficult, but there are some things to keep in mind that can help substantially,” says Lynda Zugec, managing director of the Workforce Consultants, a human resource management consulting firm.
“Prior to looking for a job , individuals with a disability would be well-advised to learn their rights and familiarize themselves with what they can reasonably expect from employers,” Zugec tells eFinancialCareers.
If you have a disability, here are some things to keep in mind when searching for a job:
1. Know your rights
Understand your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and get a handle on what accommodations must be made by your employer in order for you to be successful.
2. Go after employers that are favorably disposed to working with the disabled or that have a strong track record on diversity
“Targeting organizations that have publicly announced a desire to work with disabled individuals may prove fruitful and shorten the job search process,” says Zugec. ”Additionally, governmental programs specifically geared toward those with a disability can offer assistance, and sometimes a government subsidy can be granted to the employing organization. Connecting with the proper people and channels has the potential to lessen the difficulty experienced by those individuals who require a slightly different set of circumstances.”
3. Consider a flexible job
More employers are making it easier for employees to work from home, work four-day weeks or have more flexible hours.
“For people with disabilities, these types of jobs are a fantastic option because they provide a level of flexibility that isn’t found in traditional nine-to-five office jobs,” says Sarah Sutton Fell, CEO and Founder of Flexjobs. “For people with physical disabilities, in particular, telecommuting jobs offer an advantage because interviewing is done mainly over the phone and through e-mail, eliminating any discrimination that might sadly happen in an in-person interview,” Fell tells eFinancialCareers.
4. Play up your strengths
“If an employer wants to know why they should hire you over someone else, demonstrate your unique perspective and the value you’ll bring to the traditional workplace,” says Barbara Otto, CEO of Health and Disability Advocates, an organization leading the national Think Beyond the Label campaign. “People with disabilities are incredible at adapting and creative problem solving, and many employers seek ‘out of the box’ thinking in today’s workplace. This gives you a chance to prove the value of having a different perspective that can help the company innovate and grow.”
5. Don’t call unnecessary attention to your disability
“Your resume needs to sell your accomplishments to a potential employer,” says Lauren Goldschmidt, Rehabilitation Division Manager for Service Source, a disability resource organization that helps place people with disabilities in jobs. “Rather than simply listing your job responsibilities, discuss what you did to contribute to the success of a company, department or team. In addition, always send a cover letter with your resume. Your cover letter and resume both need to be tailored to the job and company for which you are applying. Focus your resume and cover letter on what you can bring to the job and employer. Do not include extraneous, detailed information about your disability if it is not relevant to how you would excel on the job.”