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  • Writer's pictureKate Walker

My Experience as a Disabled Job Candidate

Job searching with a disability can be a difficult process. Despite having the skills and qualifications, many individuals with disabilities encounter obstacles that prevent their ability to secure employment. While there are legal protections against discrimination, many employers may have unconscious bias and misconceptions leading to discriminatory behaviors that affect disabled people. From preconceived notions about productivity to concerns about accommodation costs, these biases often lead to automatic disqualification, regardless of an individual's skills or potential contributions.


This summer, I will be interning at Sam's Club as a Supply Chain Analyst. While this opportunity is a little intimidating, I hope it will be an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Because I understand the challenges of job hunting with a disability, I thought I would share my experiences and insights from my own journey.


 

Step One: Searching

In choosing positions to apply for, I prioritized positions that offered remote, hybrid, or flexible work arrangements, recognizing the importance of accommodating my medical needs. If a job posting didn't explicitly mention these any aspects, I looked for companies with higher ratings on Glassdoor for factors such as work-life balance, disability accommodations, and support for hybrid work models. It was important for me to find a workplace where I wouldn't face judgment for needing disability accommodations, and I made sure to consider these factors in my job search.


I applied to around 25 different positions, created a resume reflecting my active involvement as a student, and tried to use my networking skills from from career fairs and other professional events. It was disheartening to experience so many rejections despite my best efforts. My resume didn't explicitly mention my disability, but a quick glance at my LinkedIn or Instagram made it obvious. I also always filled out the disability disclosure on applications. While I don't attribute every rejection solely to my disability, I believe that it likely played a role in certain instances.



Step Two: Interviewing

In the few positions I got interviews for, I made a conscious decision not to hide my disability. Prior to the interviews, I informed recruiters about my speech difference, emphasizing that it didn't reflect my intellectual capabilities. During the interviews themselves, I openly talked about my disability and didn't hesitate to draw from my experiences as a person with a disability to answer questions. However, I didn't discuss specific details of my accommodations until after receiving a job offer. I wanted to ensure that my potential employers saw me first and foremost for my skills, qualifications, and experiences, rather than being defined solely by the accommodations I would need.



Step Three: Discussing Accommodations

The scary part! The ADA says that an employer cannot rescind a job offer because an employee asks for "reasonable accommodations." However, navigating the ADA can be complex, as the definition of "reasonable accommodations" often varies depending on individual circumstances and employer interpretations. To be proactive, I asked for accommodations that would cover my needs in a variety of different scenarios.


In negotiations before accepting a job offer, I asked for accommodations such as additional time off for out of state medical appointments and flexibility for physical therapy sessions during working hours. I prioritized open communication with my employer to ensure mutual understanding and agreement regarding my accommodations.



 

Working as a disabled employee often involves being in uncomfortable conversations and situations, but it's an unavoidable part of the journey. Not every company will prioritize accessibility or offer support, but that's okay. Resistance can reveal a lot about an organization's values and culture. Ultimately, if a company isn't willing to accommodate your needs, it may not be the right fit for you. Prioritizing your mental and physical health and feeling valued and supported is the most important thing.

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