BOB LANKARD: Disabled face concerns
October 06, 2013 1:50 AM

Job seekers all have a lot of things to keep in mind:

How to write a resume?

How to answer questions about previous jobs?

Do I really want to work nights and weekends?

A job seeker with disabilities has these and more to consider.

Here are some hints for those with disabilities:

• Job-search related concepts

Disability: According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a physical or mental impairment must substantially limit at least one major life activity to be considered a disability. A person is considered disabled if the condition impairs a person’s ability to do a job.

We think of people with an artificial limb as disabled, but if the person does sedentary work in a cubicle, he or she is not disabled by ADA standards.

Essential functions: Employers must what the employee must be able to do. These are essential functions that describe what, but not how, a specific activity is to be done.

Accommodations are any changes in the work environment or in procedures for getting a job done. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to enable a worker to perform the essential functions. As a person with a hearing disability, I was given a special receiver.

• What I must tell the employer.

A job seeker is required to tell the employer of a need for accommodation but not to reveal a medical condition. He must say, “I will need a ramp to get to the reception area” but is not required to say, “I’ve got this old football injury.” A job seeker who does not reveal a need for accommodation is in danger of losing his or her job if later they are unable to perform essential functions.

• When should I inform them about my disability?

A person with a disability is never required to discuss his or her disability with an employer, but is required to tell the employer of a need for accommodation. Fred may need to tell an employer prior to an interview of his need for wheelchair accommodations, but not give any details.

The employer cannot make pre-employment inquiries about a disability, but may ask about the ability to perform the essential functions of the job.

• Will the interviewer be uncomfortable with me?

This is a particular concern for those with a noticeable disability. In the 21st century, human resource people are well-prepared to interview people with varied disabilities. Most likely they have practiced this in a class.

• What if I am asked an illegal question?

Most employers know better than to ask “What did you do to your leg?” They know what they can and cannot ask. But improper questions still happen. I recommend against confrontation over an illegal question. Reply in an indirect manner to focus on your ability to perform the job duties.

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