Job search advice for the disabled

Many people with disabilities are unsure of when to mention this fact to a potential employer. Here are some guidelines to use.

More than 49 million people across the nation have some level of disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And many of those people find it hard to find a job because of an employer's reluctance.

Dr. Daniel J. Ryan, a recipient of the Professional Service Award from the Association on Higher Education and Disability, has just released a book called  Job Search Handbook for People with Disabilities, Third Edition, in which he offers solid job search guidance enhanced with expert advice on issues specific to job seekers with disabilities.

For job seekers who are wondering when and if to disclose disabilities to potential employers, he offers this advice:

  • If your disability is visible, your interviewer may have questions about your ability to do the job. You should be prepared for these questions, and you can do that by first making contact with the Job Accommodation Network.
  • If your disability is visible, it is best to address it directly early on in the interview. Because human nature is what it is, a failure to disclose the disability may result in the interviewer going through the motions, trying to be careful not to break any laws, but focusing less on your answers.
  • When addressing your disability, point out that it will not impact your ability to perform the functions of the job, or that it will require only minimal accommodations. Although there is no guarantee, this approach is your best bet at getting the interviewer's attention focused where you want it-on your ability to do the job.
  • If your disability is not visible, it is up to you as to when or if you ever disclose it. In most cases, I have advised clients to wait until after an offer is extended to disclose any disability. After you have agreed upon the terms of employment and have established a starting date, you should mention any accommodations you may need so that the employer can have them in place for you when you start.