Finding a job can be hard enough in the best situation, but if you have a disability it might be even harder. The unemployment rate for disabled Americans is considerably higher than it is for Americans in general, and it has always been this way.
However, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are protected from workplace discrimination connected to your disability. If your disability is too severe for work, you could be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.
If you can work, you do not need to give up in your search for employment. You just need to know your rights and where to look for a job.
Many employment services are designed specifically for disabled people. First and foremost, the government has several programs that may help you. The federal government hires individuals with disabilities non-competitively under a Schedule A Hiring Authority. If you can prove a severe disability, you may be eligible to apply for one of these positions.
USAJOBS.gov has many government job openings and also has a part of the site focused on disabled members of the workforce. Finally, the Workforce Recruitment Program provides opportunities for recent graduates with disabilities.
If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you qualify for the Ticket to Work program. The goal of this program is to help you find a job and make progress toward self-sufficiency, so you can eventually stop relying on Social Security benefits. This program will connect you to a local Employment Network so you can get a job and career counseling locally.
In addition to government programs, you can find jobs on several private job sites targeted at people with disabilities:
Employers cannot discriminate against you because of your disability. That means you should be evaluated based on your qualifications regardless of your disability.
During an interview, your interviewer should not ask about your disability, except as it is relevant to carrying out the essential functions of the job. If you are qualified to fulfill these essential functions, you must be considered on equal footing with other applicants.
Even if you need a reasonable accommodation to fulfill the essential job functions, you are still protected. Employers are responsible for providing the reasonable accommodations necessary for qualified, disabled employees.
You are not required to disclose your disability to employers during the interview or at any time after that, but you may want to. Since your employer cannot ask about your disability, you will need to start the conversation if you need a reasonable accommodation. Once you are hired, you could avoid misconceptions if you are forthcoming about your disability and its effects.
If you are turned away from a job and have a good reason to suspect discrimination on the basis of disability, you should seek out legal advice and file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Photo by Maryland GovPics via Flickr