Employment Advice for Students with Disabilities

Western Michigan University supports students with disabilities by making education accessible. Whether you utilize accommodations or not, we know that you face some unique challenges both in the classroom and in the world of work, and we want to help you through these during your job search.

Resources

  • Disability Services for Students - This office believes that a student is a student, regardless of the issues, challenges or conditions faced. While offering support and accommodations to students with disabilities during college, they also provide resources for the workforce.

As today’s workplace continues to grow and evolve with an increase in technology, on-the-job training and software innovations, students with disabilities have the ability to find a workplace that will recognize their value and individualized needs. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a workplace must be able to provide “reasonable” accommodations to all employees.

What is reasonable accommodation? Under ADA law, the employer makes a reasonable effort to accommodate the employee’s individual needs given his/her disability. As a student, you are learning the best environments, technological fit and accommodations that make you a successful student. You will apply this knowledge as you enter an internship, graduate school or employment. What can you do to ensure you find a work environment that provides the right accommodations?

Research to see if the employer is a disability inclusive employer

Does the employer support disability initiatives and are they committed to a culture of inclusion? Google the employer name + diversity and see what you can find.

Have multiple mentors

One of the best things anyone can do is to engage often with people who have created a satisfying career path for themselves. Engage in open conversation with other people with and without disabilities who feel satisfied and engaged in their work. Ask them about their career path, interviewing experiences and advocacy for self at work.

Use your resources

Get to know your campus student resources, professors and other students. It is often helpful to know of ways to engage in campus work, mentorship, tutoring, leadership and more. You will be able to ask specific questions about accommodations in research labs, for example, if working in one is your goal.

Check out the local (community) resources

Many organizations who are inclusive and already practicing individualized accommodations want to be connected with area community partners. In Kalamazoo, we have the Kalamazoo Office of Disability Network of Southwest Michigan. The staff are well-versed in ADA-compliance, peer and professional advocacy, offer workshops, a newsletter and more.

Research the building before you interview there

Where are the restrooms, WIFI, ramps, etc? Be prepared so that once you land an interview, you will know what to expect, have a strategy and focus on answering the questions.

When do I disclose my disability?

You do not need to disclose a disability until you have received offer for internship and/or work. In general, you will want to share with the employer on a need to know basis and when to do so is your choice. Some students with disabilities disclose in the cover letter, some during the interview and others at the time of offer. Best practice includes thoughtful discussion about how their disability has allowed them to think more about team, workplace safety and technology.

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