Addressing Disabilities at Work
Finding a job is difficult enough for the average worker, but it's even more of a struggle for disabled workers. With an unemployment rate of 16.1percent, disabled workers must fight twice as hard to gain an employer's attention in this down jobs market. The recession has dealt more blows to the disabled workforce, as employers combine job descriptions so they could handle workloads with fewer employees, a trend that has squeezed out many candidates including those with disabilities.
Although the job situation for disabled workers can be daunting, there is a plethora of information and resources to assist them. When searching for a job, it's important for people with disabilities to be informed about their rights and prepared. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President Bush on July 26, 1990 and is the most comprehensive formulation of the rights of the people with disabilities in the history of the US. After the act became law, more than 50 million disabled Americans automatically fell under its protection.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all employment practices. Most importantly, the ADA specifies that disabled workers have a right to request a reasonable accommodation for the hiring process and on the job.
In addition to laws, there are many professional associations and agencies at the federal and state level that help disabled people find work, as well as online job boards that cater to this segment of the labor pool. One example is the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, whose goal is to shape employment polices for the disabled to help them find access to jobs.
Employment agencies that specialize in helping disabled workers are also excellent resources. Job placement counselors work to educate employers on how people with disabilities can contribute to the workplace. They also can help guide disabled employees on how best to approach their disability at work.
For instance, when approaching any employment situation, the best advice is one that is relevant to all employees – be as forthright as possible. This means if you have a physical disability that is self-evident, addressing how it may limit you in performing some aspect of your job is appropriate. If you have a hidden disability, disclosure should be addressed on a case by case basis. Being transparent is always the best approach for any employee, and outlining any issue that may impact day-to-day job performance is recommended.
As with any situation, maintaining a positive attitude is best. Showcasing your strengths and abilities and how you can complete work assignments is a trait that all employers admired.
Do not hide from your disability, but do not focus on it if it has no impact on performing your duties. Alternately, be sure to address any issues that are relevant to your jobs situation, including any assistive technologies that may help you in performing your job more efficiently.
For more career advice, or to search for jobs in our Disability Career Exchange, visit us today.