Challenged But Not Disabled

It's tough breaking into the job market when you're physically challenged. However, with planning and persistence you can overcome barriers to your success.

not sure, ask about the agency’s success rate in helping to place minorities who are disabled, specifically black people.

Never get discouraged. Continue contacting employment agencies and job recruiters until you find the one that’s right for you. Include job search firms that don’t specialize in placing people with disabilities but focus on the most qualified candidates (see our “Executive Recruiter Directory,” this issue). Also enlist the help of relatives and friends. They’ll be happy to pass along leads and other useful information.

5. Ace the interview.
Prepare for your interview by researching the company. Know the company’s mission, how it’s organized and what kind of year it just had — information you can find in the company’s annual report. Also, if you’re not sure, check with a secretary to see if someone in a wheelchair can access the building.

By law, the interviewer can’t ask you if you have a disability, but you can opt to bring the subject up during the interview to find out how the company would accommodate you should you accept the position. If the company seems uncomfortable with your needs, then you’ll probably end up feeling uncomfortable working there. If you choose to reveal during the interview that you have a disability, explain how certain aids help you to compensate and then quickly move the discussion back to your abilities.

Remember the basics: dress conservatively, bring breath mints, go light on the perfume or cologne and bring extra copies of your resume. Send a thank-you note to your interviewer immediately after the meeting, reminding him or her of why you are the best candidate for the job.

6. Focus on the right companies.
The right companies are those that have a good reputation for hiring and accommodating the disabled. WE magazine, a lifestyle publication for people with disabilities, recently compiled a list of the top 10 companies to work for if you have a disability.

According to Charles A. Riley, editor in chief of WE, criteria for inclusion included how many employees were willing to identify themselves as having disabilities, what the company did to accommodate them, how the company helped employees return to their jobs after becoming disabled and efforts to recruit, hire and advance the careers of those with disabilities. Making the list were IBM, Marriott, AT&T, Hertz, Nabisco, Ford, Prudential, Colgate Palmolive, Amway and Northwest Airlines. (Two others frequently cited by agencies who place people with disabilities are UPS and MCI.) Companies that understand “the disability dividend,” as Riley puts it, are the best places to focus your job search efforts.

7. Ask for what you need.
What happens once you’ve gotten the job? Make it fit your needs, say experts. Eason, who wears two hearing aids, uses a specialty telephone that features padding, a handset and a speaker to get her work done. She and others advise those requiring special accommodations to make their requests as reasonable as possible. Present a strong business case to your employer by showing how the
modification or acquisition will improve your job performance and productivity.

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