Job Searching as a Disabled Person: Questions and Resources for National Disability Employment Awareness Month

While the process of job searching can be intimidating for anyone, this intimidation can be magnified when someone lives with a disability. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the USC Career Center would like to address some commonly asked questions and highlight some helpful resources for navigating employment while being disabled. 

A question that often comes up during the job search is: when should I disclose my disability to an employer? Sometimes you might not be sure about when to disclose your disability or you might wonder whether you should disclose that information at all. Disclosing a disability is an extremely personal decision and it is up to you. The Job Accommodation Network says “Disability disclosure can occur during any stage of the employment process, including pre-employment, post-offer, and while employed – whether it be within days, months, or years of initially being hired. Generally it is up to the individual with the disability to determine the right time to disclose.”

While there is no concrete timeframe, you should disclose when you feel comfortable doing so. Consider whether you may need pre-employment accommodations, such as for your interview (a physical parking space, accessible entrances, a virtual interview vs. an in-person interview), and be clear that you will need those prior to your scheduled date. 

If you begin your new position and realize well into your time at the job that an accommodation would be helpful, that is perfectly fine as well. Sometimes you may feel that accommodations aren’t necessary for one particular job – that is up to you to decide. Consider this: you know yourself best! 

Another question that comes up is: how do I request accommodations? To request accommodations, you can do so either verbally or in writing. It may be helpful to have the request in writing so you have a record of the accommodation request and the date your request was sent. This will help you keep track of your records and will be useful if you need to follow up with your employer. 

Any employers who hire 15 or more employees are usually required to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Below are some examples from the ADA National Network of what some reasonable accommodations look like: 

  • Changing job tasks.
  • Providing reserved parking.
  • Improving accessibility in a work area.
  • Changing the presentation of tests and training materials.
  • Providing or adjusting a product, equipment, or software.
  • Allowing a flexible work schedule.
  • Providing an aid or a service to increase access.
  • Reassigning to a vacant position.

Think about the responsibilities of your position and what would help you be successful as an employee. You can also base your accommodation request on accommodations you’ve found useful in the past. While these may be different from academic accommodations in a school setting, think about what has been beneficial to you in terms of time management, physical ability, technology, and more. 

There are various resources available to employees with disabilities, including online job boards, internship programs, and more. Linked here are some resources including help with finding jobs and job training programs, and we highlight a few below:

For more information about USC’s resources for students with disabilities, you can check out USC’s Office of Student Accessibility Services (OSAS) website. For current USC employees who have questions about employment accommodations, your contact will be USC’s Office of Institutional Accessibility (OIA). 

The USC Career Center is also available for all students during any stage of the job search – for help with resume and cover letter content, mock interviews, or general career advising questions, we are here for you, in-person and virtually. The USC Career Center wishes you the best luck in your job search!

By Victoria Bandini
Victoria Bandini