Career Resources for Job Seekers with Disabilities

Career Resources for Job Seekers with Disabilities

Discussing Your Disability and Accommodation Needs with an Employer

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Acts of 2008 (ADAA) prohibit an employer from discriminating against a qualified applicant or employee with a disability. These laws apply to private employers with 15 or more employees and to state and local government employers. The employment provisions of the ADA and ADAA are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Like any job applicant, the applicant with a disability must be able to meet the employer's job requirements. The applicant with a disability must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without "reasonable accommodation." The most important thing to keep in mind is that the success of any job search depends upon the applicant's ability to convince the employer that he/she possesses the skills, abilities and other attributes required to successfully perform the job. As a person with a disability, you must be well prepared to talk about what you can do and what you can offer to an employer. That doesn't mean that you ignore your need for reasonable accommodations or assume that you won't have to address some issues related to your disability. It does mean, though, that your primary concern should be convincing the employer that you are the right person for the job.

Deciding if and when to disclose a disability is a personal decision. How you approach this depends to some extent on whether your disability is obvious or not. Keep in mind though, "Are my chances of getting this job hindered if I don't request a needed accommodation?" Also, "Will I need an accommodation in order to perform the essential functions of this job?" If you answer "yes" to either of these questions, then you should be prepared to disclose your disability and ask for the accommodation(s) you will need to be successful.

Here are some of the questions a person with a disability may have when it comes to applying for and performing a job.

  • Do I have to disclose a disability?

    No. You are not required to disclose a disability at any time during the application/interview process or after you have been offered a job. However, an employer is not required to provide an accommodation if none is requested. Also, an employer may have grounds for termination if you are hired and you are not able to perform an essential job function because you have not disclosed a disability and requested a reasonable accommodation.

  • Should I talk about my disability if it is obvious?

    As noted above, you are not required to talk about your disability, whether it is obvious or not. However, the person interviewing you may have misconceptions, biases or questions that he/she cannot address if you choose not to discuss your disability. By talking about your disability yourself, you can control the conversation and address the issues you feel are important. The interviewer cannot ask you follow up questions or ask questions about your disability. Keep in mind though, if you will need an accommodation for your interview or to perform an essential function of the job, it is in your interests to request that accommodation. Finally, the employer can ask if you need an accommodation if a disability is noticeable, but cannot ask about the disability itself.

  • Should I talk about my disability if it is not obvious?

    If not disclosing your disability and requesting a needed accommodation will negatively impact your ability to successfully complete an interview or perform essential functions of the job, then it is in your best interests to disclose and request the accommodation.

  • I will need an accommodation for the job interview. Is the employer required to provide it?

    Yes. The employer is required to provide a "reasonable accommodation." The exception is if the accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense. This is a high standard, however, and an accommodation cannot be denied simply because it involves some expense adjustments on the employer's part.

  • Can an employer ask me if I have a disability or ask about my disability before a job offer is made?

    No. Employers are prohibited from asking questions that may reveal a disability before making a job offer. This includes questions on an application or other forms. Even if you disclose a disability and ask for an accommodation, the employer cannot question you further about your disability. However, the employer can discuss your accommodation request in order to fully understand your request and why it is needed. If your disability is not obvious, the employer may also request documentation of your disability and the need for the accommodation.

  • I will need an accommodation to perform the job. At what point should I disclose my disability and ask for the accommodation?

    This depends upon whether you will need the accommodation for the application/interview process, or only when you would begin work. If you know you will need the accommodation for the application/interview, it's best to make the request as soon as you know it will be needed. You would not want to arrive for an interview knowing that you need an accommodation that you have not requested.

    If you do not need an accommodation for the application/interview process, but think you will for the job, you should probably wait until you have actually been offered the job. Once you learn more about the job during the interview, you may have a better feel as to whether or not you will need an accommodation. However, request a needed accommodation before you start the job.

  • What can an employer ask or require of me after a job offer has been made?

    Employers are prohibited from asking questions during the application/interview process that might reveal the presence of a disability. Such questions can be asked after a job offer is made provided that such questions are asked of all individuals who have been offered the same type of job. Similarly, an employer can request a physical examination after a job offer is made provided that it is required of all individuals offered the same type of job.

  • Do I need to provide documentation of my disability?

    Yes. You should be prepared to provide documentation of your disability if you intend to ask for an accommodation.

  • Can an employer require me to take a medical examination?

    An employer cannot ask you to take a medical examination before a job offer is made. You can be required to take a medical examination after a job is offered provided that it is required of all individuals offered that type of job. Furthermore, an offer cannot be rescinded because of the results of medical examination provided that you are still able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

  • Schedule an Individual Appointment

    You can schedule an appointment to meet with one of the DSS staff to discuss your specific issues and concerns pertaining to disclosing disability information, job accommodations and any other job search issues.

  • Additional Resources

    Job Accommodation Network (JAN) sponsored by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) http://askjan.org

    Arizona Center for Disability Law http://www.acdl.com

    ADA home page http://www.ada.gov

    DisABLED person.com (job board and information resources) http://www.disabledperson.com