Employment Advice for Students with Disabilities
- 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.
- The Workforce Recruitment Program connects students with disabilities to employers across the country.
- The Searchable Online Accommodation Resources helps employees explore possible accommodations in work settings.
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 their 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.
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 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.
Research the building before you interview there
Where are the restrooms, 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.