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Frequently Asked Questions: Employing People with Disabilities

Disability Etiquette

What is Disability Etiquette?

Disability etiquette refers to respectful communication and interaction with people who have disabilities. It mostly requires common sense, simple sensitivity, and common courtesy.  People with disabilities often face interaction barriers due largely to negative perceptions and discomfort resulting from lack of knowledge and understanding.  

Key strategies for effective communication include:

  • Maintaining natural tone and language when interacting with individuals with disabilities.
  • Considering the person first and the disability second. Sensitive use of language can help reinforce this "person first" perspective. Reference to "people with disabilities" rather than to "disabled people" helps maintain this stance as does focusing on the person's ability rather than his or her limitations.
  • Accepting people with disabilities as individuals. Disabilities range significantly in type, extent, manifestation, and impact on the person. Factors such as the degree of impairment, duration, individual coping strategies and styles, available support structures and a host of personality traits all combine to influence the nature of the individual's needs.

How do I interview a candidate with a disability?

The interview must focus on abilities and how the candidate will accomplish tasks and perform the essential functions of the job. Ask all applicants the same questions including whether or not they have any needs that will require reasonable accommodation.

Many disabilities are non-visible and it is not necessary for a candidate to disclose a disability during an interview. Requesting an accommodation is the responsibility of the applicant and questions regarding the need for it should not be raised until the applicant brings it up.

However, EEOC has issued a written opinion confirming that federal contractors have the ability to request that an applicant voluntarily disclose a disability, prior to the job offer. This is a mandatory process under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and therefore is not considered a discriminatory practice. The applicant may still choose whether or not to disclose a disability.

Additional Resources on Interviewing Candidates with Disabilities:

Recruitment

How can I recruit diverse candidates?

Successful recruitment should utilize a variety of resources and networks to actively recruit people with disabilities.

College Students with Disabilities

  • Request candidates from the Workforce Recruitment Program, a referral source that connects employers with current college students and recent graduates with disabilities for internships or permanent employment. Complete the online candidate request form to find qualified candidates for vacant positions.
  • Network with offices of Disability Student Services at colleges and universities when recruiting on campus to gain access to graduating students with disabilities.

People with Disabilities

  • Contact State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies – State VR and the National Employment Team (NET) assist employers in disseminating job postings to representatives in the appropriate geographic locations. To find local resources, contact Kathy West-Evans, Director of Business Relations, at kwest-evans@rehabnetwork.org.
  • Contact American Job Centers – A Disability Program Navigator and/or Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor is available to assist employers with recruitment. Local Veterans' Employment Representatives (LVERS) and Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program Specialists (DVOPS) can also assist with veteran recruitment. To locate your local LVRS/DVOPS, visit the directory.
  • Post job openings on Job Boards for People with Disabilities – Please note that there may or may not be a charge for posting a position.

Veterans with Disabilities

Additional Resources on Recruiting People with Disabilities:

How can I ensure that individuals with disabilities are included in my recruiting efforts?

  • Review existing recruitment programs to identify any barriers to hiring members of underrepresented groups, including individuals and veterans with disabilities
  • Include people with disabilities in diversity recruitment goals
  • Create partnerships with disability-focused community organizations
  • Contact offices of Disability Student Services at colleges and universities when recruiting on campus
  • Post job vacancy announcements in disability-related publications and on websites
  • Participate in job fairs targeted to candidates with disabilities, including veterans
  • Establish internship and mentoring programs for college students with disabilities

What information do I have to provide on job advertisements and job applications?

The EEOC advises employers to include in advertisements and vacancy announcements:

  • Essential job functions to attract applicants, including individuals with disabilities, who have appropriate qualifications.
  • A statement indicating that the organization does not discriminate on the basis of disability or other legally prohibited standards. For example: "We are an Equal Opportunity Employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or disability."

Information about job openings should also be accessible to people with disabilities; therefore, company career websites and online job applications need to be accessible.

Additional Resources on Job Advertisements and Job Applications:

Must I make the online application process accessible?

Employers must either make their on-line application processes accessible or provide an alternative means for people with disabilities to apply for jobs, unless they can show that doing so would cause an undue hardship.

Who is a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA?

A qualified applicant or employee must:

  • Satisfy the essential job requirements in terms of educational background, employment experience, skills, licenses, and any other qualification standards that are job related; and
  • Be able to perform those essential job functions, with or without reasonable accommodation.

The ADA does not interfere with an employer’s right to hire the best qualified applicant. It simply prohibits discrimination against a qualified applicant or employee with a disability.

Reasonable Accommodations

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that enables a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation is designed to ensure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.

The only limitation on an employer's obligation to provide reasonable accommodations is if it would cause "undue hardship". "Undue hardship" means significant difficulty or expense in relation to an employer’s resources and circumstances for providing a specific accommodation.

What is the typical cost of an accommodation and is there funding available?

According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), more than half of all accommodations cost nothing while the rest typically cost only $500.

Tax incentives are available to employers that hire individuals and veterans with disabilities. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), the Disabled Access Credit (DAC), and the Architectural and Transportation Barrier Removal Deduction are available to assist with equipment and modifications to make businesses accessible.

Additional funding may be available through state vocational rehabilitation and veterans organizations.

What accommodations must be provided for job interviews?

Employers have an obligation to make reasonable accommodations to enable applicants with disabilities to participate in the interview process. Accommodations for interviews may include: an accessible interview location for people with mobility impairments, a sign language interpreter for a person who is deaf, a reader for a person who is blind, and modified testing for a person with a learning disability.

According to the Job Accommodation Network, 70% of people who have disabilities require no special accommodations to participate in interviews or to  perform their work, making the interview process no different than that of any candidate.

Accessibility and Inclusion

How can I create an accessible and welcoming environment for individuals and veterans with disabilities?

Employers can create a welcoming workplace by fostering a culture that promotes clear communication, active listening and respect. An inclusive workplace includes persons with disabilities.

  • Make sure all facilities and services are accessible to all employees.
  • Provide information and training to dispel myths and misconceptions about people with disabilities.  
  • Establish onboarding support for individuals and veterans that are new to the company.
  • Form a disability employee resource group (ERG) to increase awareness, gain disability perspectives, increase recruitment and enhance business initiatives.
  • Provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities to enhance productivity.
  • Inform community organizations about your company’s interest in hiring individuals and veterans with disabilities.
  • Notify community recruitment sources about current job openings for an ongoing pipeline of qualified and diverse applicants.

What are the basics of workplace accessibility?

  • Accessible parking spaces close to the work site entrance.
  • Pathway from the parking area to the entrance without abrupt level changes or steps.
  • Appropriately graded ramps with handrails.
  • Doors with lever handles and wide enough (32 - 36 inches) for people who use wheelchairs. Exterior doors should open with less than a 5 lb. force pull.
  • Accessible human resources office or location within the work site where the application and interview process is administered.  
  • Accessible public restrooms, water fountains and telephones.
  • Elevators with control panels lower than 54 inches from the floor with raised symbols or numbers.  
  • Symbols and graphics on all signage appropriate and accessible for persons with visual, learning and cognitive disabilities.
  • Emergency warning system  with both audible and visual alarms.

Page last updated on Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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