Having disabilities should not stand in the way of people having productive careers. While physical handicaps, illnesses, or mental disabilities might limit many areas of one’s life, there are ways to overcome the problems individuals may be forced to face. Below are several ways Career Coaches can help their disabled clients rise above the unique challenges they may face in the workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) covers not only the deaf, blind, and wheelchair-bound, but was also written to include those suffering from chronic illness, mental impairments, and learning/development disabilities. This act also protects people if they have had a history of disability (past illness or mental disorder). It is illegal for an employer to deny promotions, job opportunities, or training based on knowledge of a disability, and employers are obligated—to the best of their ability—to provide accessible facilities and telecommunication options to accommodate different needs.
Stay Positive and Tenacious
According to Donna Johnson of Minnesota University’s Disability Services, it takes an average of 10 additional contacts to get disabled interviewees past the first step. This is often because of employers’ misconceptions related to a visible disability. Despite this challenge, people with disabilities have unique skills, traits, and abilities that they can bring to the table. If applying for jobs that they are qualified to do, Career Coaches should help them communicate their talents. Note: Potential employers are not allowed to ask about disabilities on an application or during an interview. It should not be a factor to your client or the interviewer during the screening process.
Look for Work at Large Companies
The ADA only requires companies with 15 or more employees to comply with the federal law. Depending on which state individuals live in, there may be local laws that require all employers to follow the rules. Regardless, larger, well-structured companies will likely have a professional human resource department to mediate the needs of employees and have the proper facilities and technology already in place—saving time and stress.
Stay Reasonable During Job Search
A disabled person is more likely to hear more rejections than an able-bodied person during a job search, not unlike minorities or immigrants. Unfortunately, it is a fact. To counteract this, coaches should help their disabled clients create a refined job search strategy. Coaches need to know what they can and cannot do, take an inventory of their skills and abilities, and come up with reasonable options for employment considering their needs, limitations, and most importantly, their wants. Opportunities exist that will satisfy all of these areas, and having confidence in their ability to do a job will make it a bit easier for disabled clients during this emotional period.
Since the ADA went into effect nearly two decades ago, it continues to shift its perception of what the term “disabled” means. As society continues to grow and better comprehend that “disability” does not equal “unemployable,” Coaches have to learn to be advocates for consumers with these challenges. Coaches need to empower people, understand their rights, and help them accept their situation.