Career Resources for Students with Disabilities
Disclosing and asking for accommodations
Often when meeting with students the question about when to disclose a disability during the internship/job search arises. There are several factors to consider include whether accommodations will be needed during the interview process or on the job. The following discusses the need for disclosure, timing of disclosure and request for accommodations.
Is there a need to disclose?
Before asking the question, “Do I need to disclose? “gather as much information as possible. Consider the following:
- Can you speak with an alumni who can comment on the company culture?
- Does the company value diversity?
- Is the company collaborating with any disability related recruitment programs?
- What if any is the company policy on hiring students with disabilities?
- Is testing required in the interview process? If so, what is the format for testing?
- Do you know the essential internship/job functions and do the align with your skill set?
- Will the accommodation strategies you’ve used in (class, student organizations, past internships) be needed on the job?
- Will you need accommodations for the application process, interview process, or at
- Are you familiar with your rights provided by the ADA?
- Are you aware of your strengths and functional limitations?
- Have you previously used accommodations at a work-site?
- Have you practiced disclosure with a family member, close friend, or career counselor/advisor?
When is the right time to disclose during the application process?
Disclosing a disability in a resume or cover letter may feel empowering. However, it’s hard to tell if the employer may have stereotypes about disabilities which prevent you from securing an interview. Let’s consider the timing of disclosing with the following:
Before the interview
- (Pros) Gives employer time to make any accommodations that may be needed during the interview, and time to research proper etiquette or refresh knowledge on ADA.
- (Cons) Employer may consider their stereotypes about disabilities and bypass an interview.
- (Pros) You are able to read employer non-verbal queues and disclose in a brief, positive manner.
- (Cons) Employer may feel uneasy and ill prepared to respond with appropriate and legal questions.
- (Pros) May have legal recourse if disclosing disability negatively affects the hiring decision. There is time to get accommodations in place before the job starts. Positive relationship has already been established with employer.
- (Cons) Employer may feel that you have been dishonest in the application process, which may erode trust.
After the job begins
- (Pros) Gives opportunity to build trust and credibility before your disclosure. You may speak with co-workers about disability related issues.
- (Cons) May take time to secure requested accommodations. Employer may believe you have not been honest which may negatively affect your relationship.
- (Pros) Difficulties may not arise (i.e. you may never need to disclose).
- (Cons) Employer may have difficulty changing their perceptions of your work performance, feel betrayed or wonder why you waited so long.
- (Pros) Disability information is kept private.
- (Cons) Not protected from discrimination under the ADA
How to disclose to an employer (during the application process)Prior to the interview
- Let the employer know what you need to be successful during the interview process.
- Educate the employer by articulating or demonstrating how you can perform the essential functions of the job. Have resource information available for the employer.
- Explain the benefits of your disability regarding your personal growth or resilience.
- Face employer concerns by talking about your compensatory strategies or accommodation solutions.
- Use general, functional terms to briefly explain the impact of your disability on the job; avoid technical language and medical diagnoses.
- In a private setting, remind your employer about your right to confidentiality
- Frame the disclosure around how you work best
Below are resources to help you become more familiar with disability legislation:
Office of Disability Employment Policy: Provides national leadership to increase employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities while striving to eliminate barriers to employment.
American with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public.
Equip for Equality: Serves as a legal advocate and as an independent watchdog for individuals with disabilities. Providing free legal advice and representation for Illinois residents.
Requesting Job Accommodations
Here are some resources to consider when thinking of accommodations in the workplace:
Job Accommodations Network: The leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.
Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC): A national network of centers that provide information, referrals, resources, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Below are several resources that might lead to great opportunities for both internship and employment:
Bender Consulting Services: A technology-based consulting firm, specializing in creating employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, in the information technology, engineering, finance/accounting, and various other competitive employment areas.
Emerging Leaders Summer Internship Program: Emerging Leaders is a highly competitive program that places undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities in fulfilling summer internships and provides them with leadership development opportunities.
Getting Hired: A national employment portal connecting job seekers with employers.
Jobs for the Neurodivergent: Connecting neurodivergent job seekers with welcoming employers across the world. Jobs for Humanity paves the way to a fairer future for all by connecting historically underrepresented talent to welcoming employers.
Lime Connect: We are a global organization that's rebranding disability through achievement. Lime Connect represents the largest network of high potential university students connect them with professionals who happen to have disabilities in the world.
Workforce Recruitment Program: A free resource that connects federal agencies nationwide with recent graduates with disabilities. It is the primary portal to federal employment.