employers need to hire more people with disabilities … here’s how

This post is sponsored by Melwood.

I recently had a conversation with Larysa Kautz, the president and CEO of Melwood, one of the largest employers of people with disabilities in the country. Melwood offers job placement, job training, life skills for independence, and support services to more than 2,500 people each year; works with companies and federal agencies to help cultivate a culture that enables people with disabilities to thrive; and trains staff and recruiters on how to offer reasonable accommodations at the onset of the hiring process. Larysa and I talked about how employers can hire more people with disabilities.

I’ve seen you mention that people with disabilities represent a solution to America’s workforce crisis if employers just knew where to start. Can you talk more about that?

Our country is facing a historic labor shortage, with companies in all industries struggling to attract talent. At the same time, people with disabilities are unemployed and underemployed at staggering rates. As of September 2021, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 9.7% compared to 4.5% for people without disabilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Increasing efforts to attract, hire and retain people with disabilities is a solution that addresses both of these challenges at once.

Surveys show a significant number of people with disabilities who aren’t in the labor force and want to be, but have limited opportunities due to misconceptions and a lack of understanding about disabilities. Limited access to transportation, childcare, affordable and accessible housing, and other socio-economic barriers also act as barriers to employment. If we can break down these barriers and create workplaces that are inclusive and supportive of people with disabilities, we would be empowering people to live independent lives through meaningful employment while addressing the labor shortage our country faces.

Often, employers wrongly assume that people with disabilities are incapable of doing certain work, particularly high-demand and high-paying jobs, meaning they overlook candidates or don’t proactively target people with disabilities as candidates for these jobs. Deconstructing those low expectations is an important first step and opens a vast talent pool to companies trying to fill open positions. A huge untapped resource in talent is waiting for employers who are willing to make and take different or unconventional approaches to identify, recruit and retain talent. Melwood works with employers to help them take the first step. We’ve seen incredible results across a variety of sectors and industries – everything from IT to construction, retail to customer service, and more.

If someone wants to hire people with disabilities but doesn’t know where to start, what should they do?

More and more companies are rightfully placing a spotlight on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and that includes attracting and retaining people with disabilities as employees. To successfully do so, the best place to start is with intention. Without question, you already have people with disabilities applying for jobs with your company. Check your current processes and culture – do you have a plan of inclusion for people with disabilities? Are your staff and recruiters properly trained in a way to accommodate people with disabilities and committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce for your company? Engaging an outside expert is a great way to start. Melwood is an expert at employing, training, and placing people with disabilities in meaningful employment, and we frequently help companies with no prior experience in the disability space.

It’s also important to remember that no employee can be required to disclose their disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) places restrictions on disability-related questions that can be asked of applicants or current employees. Disability-related questions can be asked after a conditional offer has been made, but only if the same questions are asked of all applicants in the same job category. (Work with your legal and HR teams to ensure any changes comply with the law and best practices.)

Instead, employees are encouraged to advocate for themselves and self-disclose disabilities in order to create a path to successful employment. The best way to encourage employees to self-identify is to ensure your hiring process, interview process, and screening process are disability-friendly. The more you do at the outset to make it clear you are a disability-friendly employer and that you’re creating a safe environment in the workplace, the more likely you’ll see self-identification and disclosure of disabilities rates increase. For example, ensure your applications are following best practices for accessibility, review job postings for unnecessary requirements that could eliminate prospective candidates, and proactively ask and offer accommodations during the interview process to all prospective candidates. Acting with intention on building an inclusive space will help you become a better employer and a better colleague.

Employers aren’t always aware of the barriers their hiring processes might pose to people with disabilities. Are there common things they should look for?

For many people with disabilities, getting through the hiring round is the most challenging part of job. Just like a standardized test, the standard application and interview process isn’t necessarily the best way to showcase a person’s talents, so folks can easily get overlooked or shut out before they even have a chance to compete. There are a number of ways companies can tailor their interview process to be more inclusive – everything from the way you organize the process from start to finish, the setting you choose, how the interview is conducted, and just generally being mindful of your own implicit biases.

Consider how you source applicants – are you reaching out to the same schools or groups, or are you being intentional about expanding your network?

Practically speaking, is the process accessible – for example, is your website accessible for someone who is blind? If you typically conduct interviews over the phone, what about someone who is deaf or hard of hearing? Do you require interviewees to come in person? Consider that some folks may not be able to drive themselves or may have sensory challenges that can make a meeting in a new place with lots of people overwhelming. Many of these are situations that technology or other accommodations can help address, creating a more seamless and accessible experience that widens the pool of applicants.

It’s also important to adjust your mindset and check unconscious biases. For example, you may interview someone who has difficulty identifying or navigating social cues, like shaking hands or engaging in small talk. Part of creating a barrier-free interview process is ensuring you only evaluate candidates on qualifications for the job – and even with respect to that, consider how you might have a limited view of interpersonal skills or other qualifications that may require accommodations.

We also encourage companies to make the hiring process as transparent as possible. Share if there will be an assessment to complete, an expected dress code, and who will be participating in the meetings. Provide every opportunity for candidates to request reasonable accommodations to enable them to fully participate in the interview or application process. And for virtual interviews, take the time to ensure candidates’ audio and visual displays are working comfortably – better yet, schedule a dry run ahead of time.

As for the questions themselves, stay away from broad, open-ended questions. When asking about prior experience, be specific instead of simply asking “Tell me about yourself.” When trying to evaluate a person’s approach to a problem, provide a specific scenario and listen to the candidate’s process of starting and getting to a solution. Ahead of time, consider providing sample questions to assist the candidate in processing their intent, and provide written copies of the questions in front of them during the interview.

I sometimes hear from people who would like to ask for accommodations in the hiring process, but are nervous about doing it. They’re not sure when to bring it up or how to ask, and they worry about being discriminated against if they do. What advice do you have for them?

Unfortunately, this is a common concern that many people with disabilities face because of the stigma around disability that exists. One way for job candidates to self-advocate during the hiring process is to come prepared with the facts. For example, many employers are concerned with the cost of accommodations. However, high costs are actually a misconception. According to research from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), we know that cost is minimal – $0 for most and up to a one-time cost of $500 for some. We advise candidates to bring up what accommodations are needed as soon as possible. The goal is for you to feel fully comfortable to participate in the hiring process, and a good hiring manager will be able to provide that support.

Of course, the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workforce. If candidates believe a company is unfairly discriminating against them because of their disability status, I encourage them to reach out to a local disability advocacy group to consider possible next steps to take.

People with disabilities are likely already applying and interviewing in most companies and may be getting overlooked because of non-traditional experience, gaps in their resumes, etc. Do you have advice for them as candidates — and also for employers who want to make sure that doesn’t happen in their companies?

That’s absolutely correct, many people with disabilities are currently applying and interviewing with companies and are being passed over for the reasons identified. Again, our recommendation to candidates is always to be upfront about your disability status. Explain your strengths and how employers can help set you up for success.

Employers, take a look at your current hiring process and see what you prioritize. Are you fully concentrating on the candidate’s ability to perform the job’s essential job functions, or are you focused only the traditional background and resume? For example, is someone has difficulty multi-tasking or struggles with time management, this can lead to a non-traditional work experience, but does not reflect on someone’s work experience or ability when accommodations are in place. Recruiters tend to overstate qualifications on job postings and the interviewer will overlook gaps based on the potential they see in someone – give everyone, including people with disabilities, that same flexibility.

I know a lot of disabled people have been really frustrated that for years they’ve been asking to work from home as an accommodation and were told it just wasn’t possible — but of course we’ve seen throughout the pandemic that it really was more possible than they were told. In particular, I think people have been frustrated that it wasn’t until non-disabled employees needed that accommodation that it ended up being so widely offered.

It’s completely understandable that many people with disabilities are feeling that way. Employers hold many misconceptions and myths about accommodations, and it’s discouraging to see that companies only started providing these accommodations when it became necessary for people without disabilities. So while it is frustrating that it has taken a global pandemic for employers to appreciate the value of certain accommodations, it does provide hope for a more inclusive workplace future – one that employees will continue to demand in increasing numbers. In 2021, 1 in 4 Americans has a disability and 1 in 44 children are being diagnosed with autism. This growing segment of our community cannot continue to be sidelined in our workforce – they represent a significant amount of talent that’s going untapped, not to mention that jobs represent a critical step towards independence.

We also must take a second to acknowledge how contracting COVID-19 has left many Americans with new disabilities. This summer, President Biden pointed out in his ADA Anniversary Speech that long-haul COVID, or the lingering effects for people who had the virus and recovered, could mean millions more Americans are dealing with a disability – tiredness, brain fog, headache, dizziness, or significant and lasting damage to organs.

Inevitably, more and more companies will encounter employees who require accommodations. But these comments touch on an important point – creating adjustments like a work-from-home structure encourage inclusivity for people with and without disabilities. Instead of seeing accommodations as a legal requirement or a burden, companies should see accommodations as a way to tap into a new talent pool, improve workplace culture, and better retain their talent. It’s something that we can all benefit from, and I’m optimistic that it will be a long-term change in the way we view work that ultimately will also mean more inclusive workspaces.

Now that so many companies have adapted to a work-from-home structure, do you think we’ll see people with disabilities have an easier time getting hired? Are you seeing that currently?

Teleworking is one of the commonly requested accommodations, but prior to the pandemic, was one of the most frequently denied. By expanding work from home policies and giving greater telework flexibility, companies are going to have access to greater talent, who likely have a lot of the necessary accommodations at home or for whom the cost of supporting those accommodations is smaller because of the work from home dynamic. So, increased telework has been a great benefit to people with disabilities and to their employers as well.

However, workforce trends have not all been positive. It’s still essential for companies to go beyond work-from-home structures to be inclusive, not just to employees but to potential candidates as well and offer accommodations throughout the interview and onboarding process. The pandemic has exacerbated the high unemployment rates people with disabilities already face, making inclusive hiring practices all that more essential.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    It’s pretty much the same here in the UK too.

    I’ve had firms outright voice their ‘concern’ that I’ll cost more to hire than an able-bodied person and affect their budget. In reality all I need extra is disabled parking spot, access to the office that doesn’t involve stairs and a special chair.

    That’s assuming I even get as far as that. There’s been several interview requests where I’ve asked beforehand if their location is accessible for the disabled and that’s the last I hear from them.

    Trying to get a job while disabled is hard work. But once I’ve got my accommodations? You’ll have one exceptionally skilled and driven member of staff :)

    Give us a chance.

    1. preaction (he/him)*

      1. Those things (disabled parking, ramp/lift) shouldn’t be requests. The (toothless) ADA in the US mandates them for new construction (a blatant loophole, but at least we get something…)

      2. You just gave me a new thing to start asking every future interviewer: If everyone asks about accessibility, it won’t be a tell that leads to illegal (in the US), but difficult to prove, discrimination.

      1. quill*

        Good idea! Accommodations that I might need at present are covered by the nature of my job (not standing or lifting at certain times…) but in the past I’ve avoided asking specifically about accommodations, preferring to ask about the ‘dress code’ as a segue into the fact that I need to be able to be exceptionally particular about what shoes I wear. So that hiring managers won’t think of the fact that my feet are different shapes as a disability.

      2. Hillary*

        You’re right, and I don’t know if there’s a right answer in the UK. (I’m from the US but regularly visit vendors across Europe). So many of the offices I visit in the UK are in historic buildings – they’re in older spaces that haven’t and often can’t be remodeled because of preservation laws. There’s one where the only space without stairs is the lobby. I barely fit in the bathroom, it would be impossible for someone using a walker, let alone a wheelchair. I almost never see accessibility issues elsewhere in Europe, but that’s probably because the other places I visit were all leveled during WWII. Even the historic facades usually have modern buildings behind them.

        There’s a balance somewhere between all the competing interests and no right answer.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        We have a lot of very old buildings here that really can’t be modified for access, although my fear is usually regarding the parking. If I get to an office and find out the only place I can put my car is 500 metres up the road then it’s a major problem.

      4. SlothLover*

        Oh my goodness. I love this post! I work for my state’s Vocational Rehabilitation department, so this post speaks directly to my line of work. I could say so much much more, but for now, I’ll just give every point of this post a resounding YES!/Amen! and give you a big thank you for shedding light on this topic (again).

        One thing that I always think about is the fact that disability is the only minority group that anyone can suddenly enter.

        Those of use who’s entire line of work is focused on assisting people with disabilities in finding and maintaining employment salute you. (Okay. That last sentence isn’t structure very well. But you get the idea.)

        1. SlothLover*

          Sorry… I meant this as a stand alone comment, and posted it again in the appropriate place. And now I’m basically triple posting. *smacks forehead*

    2. Testerbert*

      Sadly, I’ve seen the nastiness which designated parking for people with mobility or other needs can bring out in some people in an office environment; I saw some older members of staff almost spitting blood when someone they didn’t consider ‘deserving’ of a parking spot was given one. Seemingly, just because they weren’t entirely incapable of walking, they shouldn’t have been given the spot.

      Of course, even if that person didn’t use the spot, those grumblers wouldn’t get access to it (it would have been given to management instead).

      1. Fae Kamen*

        The nastiness if you ask someone without a placard not to park in the disabled parking spot is quite something too.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Agreed. This is a topic that I know Alison deals with frequently, but I appreciate this structured single-topic look at it.

  2. tash*

    it’s really mind boggling just how unprepared we are to deal with all sorts of disabilities, in and out of the workplace

  3. WonkyStitch*

    I can’t love this enough!

    I’m autistic – diagnosed later in life after 10+ years working in HR/recruiting. I spent many undiagnosed years struggling to find jobs or to get along with people at work. Employment for people with disabilities is a passion of mine – if I had unlimited funds, I’d start my own nonprofit where I went around to local companies and gave presentations to their HR departments about my own struggles in looking for work or keeping a job, and how companies can be more inclusive for people like me.

    In my current job, I’m part of the disability employee resource group, and we’re in the beginning process of a neurodiversity hiring program. I’m really proud to be a part of a company that takes things like this seriously.

    I have found that diversity and inclusion programs tend to be focused on people of color because it’s been such a hot topic lately. That IS an important thing for companies to do! But often companies focus on just that one subsection of diversity and inclusion. At my last company, the COO flat-out told our diversity group that she intended to only focus on race/ethnicity and would not promote any programs about disability, LGBTQ+, etc.

    In my last job search (2017), I reached out to D&I recruiters on LinkedIn who worked at big companies (book of faces, the big internet search engine, etc.) to ask about their diversity programs and whether they supported remote work as a reasonable accommodation for disability. 100% of the recruiters either ignored me or told me that working in person on-site was absolutely required and the requested accommodation would not be allowed. I have worked remotely since 2018 and have done well at my last 2 positions despite it.

    I’ve also applied to “autism at work” programs at several companies that are quick to brag about their programs and how great they are, etc. Unfortunately, 100% of those programs also require in-person on-site attendance. If there’s one thing that autistic employees need, it’s a good support system, and requiring autistic people to move away from their families/support systems to get a job is absolutely ridiculous and defies the entire purpose of such a program.

    Thank you for writing this article and bringing these points to the forefront! We need more awareness of this issue.

    1. not a doctor*

      2017 was the same year I was told I’d never find a WFH job in my then-prospective field. I cried real hard because 40 hours a week on site plus commuting would be nearly impossible for me, and destroy ANY non-work life I might have had.

      How things change in just a few years!

    2. Justin*

      As a person of color who is also neurodivergent, we definitely need to be intersectional in any approach to justice. Anti-racism without anti-ableism isn’t much.

      (+ all other axes of oppression, obviously)

      1. JohannaCabal*

        This. I think too many companies focus on what I call “stock photo diversity” and not true D&I.

    3. Schrammy*

      This resonates with me so much – I work in recruiting, and proudly neurodivergent as well (diagnosed with ADHD from a young age and giving some serious consideration to whether I should seek out a possible Autism diagnosis as well). I struggled in my first professional office job and have been extremely grateful that I’ve been working since 2019 for a non-profit that supports people with disabilities, and really upholds the company values for employees as well as the people we support. It’s been the most encouraging environment to work in and it’s such a relief to know that when I do need to ask for accommodations, not only is it taken seriously but they have been so incredibly willing to work with me and made me truly feel valued. I just wish everyone could have the same experience!

      The neurodiversity hiring program you’re working on sounds amazing! And if you ever start that non-profit of your own, can I join you??

    4. Emily*

      I applied for so many jobs and asked for accommodations and was ignored or told it was not possible. I don’t think companies or recruiters are educated enough. I attended an online job fair for companies hiring people with disability and did a self-recording video and no response from any recruiter.I even left my resume on disability job site and no bites. I’m looking for a remote position that can be done abroad or a freelance position not related to teaching.

  4. AndersonDarling*

    I like to think of it this way, if my top performer suddenly needed accommodations, how far would I go to retain them? I would allow them to work from home, I would purchase additional equipment to help them complete their job, I would train teammates on how to be inclusive, I would do whatever I needed to retain my best employee.
    So why wouldn’t I do that for a new employee that may be my next top performer? If I can do it for a current employee, then I can do it for a potential employee.

    1. Anon Fed Agency manager*

      This! You’ve just captured my argument for future remote site as an option for all.

  5. Green great dragon*

    Sometimes all it needs is a little thought. Maybe you have 4 people sharing reception and filing duties, all of whom need to be able to see, hear, carry things down stairs, and chat to people. But if you’re open to someone applying for reception duties only, or filing duties only, you’ve halved the requirements. We had someone for whom even mildly annoyed customers spiked his anxiety, so we exempted him from helpdesk slots, and he did all the paperwork that everyone else hated.

    Obviously this doesn’t guarantee a great employee, but they’re likely to start off with a huge morale boost from just being thought about, and that’s a pretty good start.

    1. Fluttervale*

      I think a lot of employers don’t want to do that because people complain that it isn’t “fair” that so-and-so doesn’t have to do whatever task, but that’s really just lazy management. Your team will be just fine with someone not being expected to do work they can’t do if you constantly reinforce that the employee has your support and that you would provide the exact same support to everyone else if they needed it (and then provide that support!). I hate managers that don’t value their people. You get great, amazing employees by supporting them.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I was slightly surprised how easy it was! The rest of the team were just ‘yeh, we can see it upsets him, he shouldn’t do it, and this is much better than being short-staffed again’. Never heard a single complaint.

      2. Green Beans*

        Honestly the best type of labor division is one where other people like the parts you hate. One of my coworkers and I used to always go into planning meetings and both of us would say to the other, “I feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick, are you sure you’re okay with this division?” because we both hated the other person’s duties but really liked our own.

    2. Gumby*

      I ate a a restaurant where the person who seated customers was deaf. There was a sign that explained that and asked you to fill out a laminated card with relevant info (# of people in your party, etc.). It immediately made me like the restaurant more. It would have been so easy to think “being able to talk to customers is a core requirement of this job” but with a little ingenuity – it wasn’t!

    3. Jill of All Trades*

      I would have taken a massive pay cut to be on a team where I could do the paperwork and everyone else deal with clients. That sounds like an amazing solution and I’m so glad it worked out for your team.

  6. Xavier Desmond*

    One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard for employers dealing with employees or applicants with disabilities is to ask what accommodations they may need. The worst thing to do is to make assumptions about what a person may or may not be able to do because they will obviously know much more about their disability than anyone else will.

    1. not a doctor*

      Oy, definitely. Remember that letter where the LW’s company rearranged the office to accommodate her wheelchair, but without asking her, and it ended up being LESS accessible than it was before?

  7. Alice*

    I’m concerned that my company’s laissez-faire approach to masks is basically saying “You’re not welcome here if you are disabled (immunocompromised, diabetic, etc).”

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      This is absolutely true. Even when an employer is physically accessible to me, I don’t want to take the risk of going in to their office if I’m not sure appropriate protections are in place — not just for me, but for everyone.

    2. J*

      It absolutely is. My workplace technically requires them but when I stopped in back in September for 10 minutes to grab documents to scan, people weren’t wearing them in open workspaces (let alone offices) and some had them on their chins. The message to me was that my workplace is not safe for me and that no one in leadership will enforce the rules they claim to have. Covid is airborne but they won’t address it.

      They also never gave me time off for my vaccines. As a high risk person, I got mine 1 year ago today and again in February and they only authorized time off for vaccines for April through September because of government funding. I was eligible for my booster in October, they authorized booster time for November-December. Now I’m due for my 4th shot next month because I’m high risk. Their policies for everything reflect the government but that also reflects the appeal to the able-bodied.

      It’s so many little things but the message is clear that they haven’t ever thought about the risk I have no choice but to think about. What’s worse is that we are actually a place that claims to prioritize hiring for the disabled and it increases their funding from their grantors. Then they don’t use those funds to keep me safe. I took a 50% pay cut at the pandemic to work here because I had a guarantee of remote work through mid-2021 (and thankfully it ended up being longer). I’m back to job searching as they demand a return to office in 6 weeks when my state is still seeing increasing rates of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. While vaccination now means I won’t likely die for capitalism, I’m certainly not going to end up more disabled for it.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This speaks to general safety as well. If they can’t be bothered to keep employees safe from a deadly pandemic, what else are they slacking on?

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      Not only is it unwelcoming to disabled workers, but it is also unwelcoming to people who live with vulnerable people. No one in their right mind wants to move away from family just because their employer operates an unsafe environment. (Yes, I’m aware that early in the pandemic some medical workers just about had to do that to keep their families safe. They shouldn’t have needed to.)

      The nice thing about WFH is that it never becomes a consideration. My current employer saves a fortune on office costs because the majority of new employees are remote all over the country.

  8. Law Student*

    Great post. As someone currently on the legal market, I want to point out that arbitrary GPA cutoffs at law firms (and all employers) are ableist and classist and exclude many talented attorreys with disabilities.

  9. not a doctor*

    One thing I’ll add to the many excellent points about self-advocacy: the data we have on hiring and employees with disabilities is likely to be skewed because of the overwhelming number of people who are afraid to identify as having a disability on those EEOC self-identification forms. Please check the box, folks! I know some unethical companies will expose those forms to hiring managers, but 99% of them won’t, and better data helps all of us.

    1. HereKittyKitty*

      Yes! I always check those boxes. I understand the hesitancy, but quantifiable numbers can often lead to more funding and accessibility. I know some people don’t identify as “disabled” if they have ADHD, PTSD, or other hidden disabilities, but the form includes those, so feel free to check them.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I work from home exclusively, and at a previous employer I spent three years hiding my disability before finally admitting that no, I wasn’t going to be available to travel to a rural location to visit a vendor site. Fortunately my bosses were great about it! Now I try to disclose early in the process. I am very happy at the moment with an employer who is cool with remote work and has even agreed to the accommodations I need to travel to a conference later this yeart.

          1. allathian*

            Only if they have decent seating… I don’t consider myself disabled as such, but I do have limited mobility, largely because I’m fat. Sitting on the floor or on my haunches is not an option. :)

    3. Curious Oranj*

      I wonder about this, too. I have several invisible disabilities, and when applying for a job over the weekend, I really hesitated about whether I should identify as having a disability. Nominally, the government agency I work for says that it encourages people with disabilities to apply, but I can’t…quite…bring myself to trust them, after having been burnt on so many more simple interactions where my disabilities threw up barriers. I honestly can’t say I trust my organization not to look at someone self-identifying as having a disability, and create some kind of filter that trashes the application of someone who does self-identify. I mean, how would we ever know, right?

      1. quill*

        I tend to be less trusting of the application site’s ability to handle things than I am of bringing up an accommodation to a supervisor without saying the word disability. I should probably have been firmer in my original jobs that no, “you can wear lace up shoes as long as they’re not athletic shoes” is not an accommodation, though.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      A discussion about this came up in the most recent open thread, and I found it useful to hear others’ perspectives on self-identifying. Next time I job search, I plan on answering differently on different applications and tracking how the companies respond to me (if they respond at all).

      If anyone else is curious about the thread I mentioned, search for “The Curious Gaucho*” on the “open thread – January 21-22, 2022” post. I’ll put a link to it in a follow-up comment.

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I should start doing this. I have depression. I don’t need accommodations at this time, but it is still a disability

      1. Mimi*

        I’ve wondered about this. I have a GI intolerance and do not consider myself disabled (I’m careful about what I eat and mostly don’t have issues), but hoo boy, it could be extremely disabling if I didn’t have that degree of control.

        If the job market is this hot the next time I’m job searching, perhaps I will check the box and see how things go.

    6. AnotherLibrarian*

      You can encourage all you want, but personally I never disclose until I got to the point where I need an accommodation. Frankly, I don’t think it is the business of the government or my employer what my status is until it needs to be.

    7. Curmudgeon in California*

      I have both visible and invisible disabilities. I actually check the boxes. Yes, if the company is unethical, they might hold it against me, but then I wouldn’t want to work there anyway.

      I’ve actually had interviews where it was really, really obvious that people were uncomfortable with the fact that I was physically disabled. I didn’t get those jobs. Some of the follow-ups afterward were downright cringeworthy.

      Sometimes you can tell from the job ads that they don’t want disabled or older employees. But since it isn’t “obvious” (legally, even though when I read it it’s plain as day.) it isn’t actionable under the ADA, etc.

  10. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    A huge issue in my field is the tendency to hire people based on how “personable” they are, but absolutely 0% of the job has to do with being “personable”. We are data folks. All you really need is a generally polite demeanor and good attention to detail. How much someone wants to spend time with you isn’t as important because 95% of the folks in my field spend 95% of their time hanging out with number only

    1. Xaraja*

      When i was going through the interview process at my current employer, i had a conversation on the phone with the HR lady where she said first, you know IT people can be kind of dry and not very personable, are you sure you can get along with that? And when i said yes, then she was like, ok, well can you be personable with non IT people?

      I was being hired for a niche IT position that is almost entirely doing stuff on the computer sans any others human involvement. I have occasional email interaction with the people in my same position at customers and vendors and a few people inside our company who are familiar with this specialty to an extent because they work on big accounts that use it. It would have been much more important to find out if i get bored not taking to people all day!

  11. SnootyGirl*

    The first sentence incensed me – we are NOT facing an historic labor shortage! What we are facing is a huge problem of employers wanting to continue to underpay/under benefit workers while demanding the employees work harder/longer hours and treating them, or letting them be treated, poorly. In the USA the federal minimum wage has not gone up since 2009. Anyone else still paying 2009 prices for housing, fuel, food, goods, etc.?

    1. HereKittyKitty*

      YUP! The labor is out there- you’re just not paying enough and our society doesn’t have enough social safety nets for people to work. When making a few extra bucks keeps you from getting disability, you’re eliminating people from the workforce. When it’s more cost-effective for one parent to quit their job and stay home for childcare than to make a wage, you’re eliminating people from the workforce. Our lack of safety nets eliminates people left and right from the workforce and then businesses complain about a “labor shortage.” ugh.

    2. pcake*

      Besides low wages and poor or no benefits, most people I know currently work at jobs that treat them awfully in ways that just show their managers are petty tyrants and THEIR managers and the parent companies either don’t know what’s happening or don’t care.

      I’m talking about employees whose elementary schools shut down suddenly from Covid, and their managers tell them they can’t take the time off to pick up their kids. Folks who ask if they can swap a shift when a co-worker is willing to swap who are refused for no reason. People who were told by managers they were highly productive working from home being forced to come in despite the workplace having multiple Covid-19 positive people. Folks who call in because they’re sick and are disbelieved and told to come in regardless or forced to go to the doctor for a note (and pay the copay) for a one-day absence.

      Employers seem to expect to be able to treat people poorly, pay them poorly, and still have them show up to work.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      I know the title and first part threw me a bit. At first I was thinking that they were referring to the labor shortage in places like restaurants and stores. And thinking that we should just have more people with disabilities working there. Like great, people with autism, down syndrome or other “mental” handicaps don’t already get treated badly, lets’s throw a bunch of Karens who are crazy that they can’t get their Starbucks at them.

    4. John Smith*

      Here! Here! In the UK, our utter embarrassing excuse of a Prime Minister (at least he’s PM at time of writing…) keeps banging on about how many vacancies there are without bothering to mention the vast majority are low pay, low benefits, low prospects part time work that are unfulfilled purely because of Brexit or people getting fed up being treated like dirt whilst at the same time being called “heroes”.

    5. Sandiera*

      I came to the comment section to see if anyone else objected that that sentence. There’s plenty of people that want to work. They just want to be paid fairly for that work.

    6. Curmudgeon in California*

      This. It’s not a labor shortage, it’s a shortage of employers willing to pay people living wages. IIRC there is nowhere in the USA that a person can afford a typical 1 Br apartment on 40 hours at minimum wage, much less support any other family.

      Plus, most minimum wage jobs are part time so the cheapskate employers don’t have to pay benefits. Some folks say those are “learner” jobs, and follow it with “If you want more money, get a different job!” But oh gosh howdy, the whining, screaming and excoriation that people get when they do just that! “Nobody wants to work anymore! Make them work for my pitiful wages Mr Government!”

      People holding out for decent wages is just the market at work. But OMG how the uber-capitalists hate it.

  12. waiting 25 years for a shoulder replacement*

    Argh, I am currently dealing with the issue of my employer SAYING they’ll offer accommodations, even as far as to hire a consultant to determine the best setup for my office, and …. nothing. As far as I know, that report went to the shredder. I sometimes think they don’t take me seriously because while I have limited mobility in one of my arms due to my injury, I don’t LOOK disabled and I have a lot of outdoor hobbies (that I modify/do with accommodation). It feels like the thought is, “you’re really athletic so how can you have a disability?” ARGH

    1. quill*

      Solidarity here. I love to hike, but my problems that might need accomodation at work are because my feet bones are the worst. You know what I do to accommodate my disability when hiking? If my bones already hurt, I don’t go!

      1. waiting 25 years for a shoulder replacement*

        Right? For me, sitting at a desk doing computer work is the WORST thing for my issue. Hiking is not.

      2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I saw a post on LinkedIn from someone who was extolling the virtues of getting out of the office for a walking meeting. I’m sure it was nice, but if it became a standard way of doing business, wheelchair users like me would be excluded unfairly.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          It would be exclusionary for me, too, because I use a cane and have a limited walking radius and a really slow, limping speed. I would have to nope out of those kinds of meetings.

          Some days the ableism on LinkedIn is astounding.

  13. The OTHER Other*

    Terrific post, especially this:

    “I know a lot of disabled people have been really frustrated that for years they’ve been asking to work from home as an accommodation and were told it just wasn’t possible — but of course we’ve seen throughout the pandemic that it really was more possible than they were told. In particular, I think people have been frustrated that it wasn’t until non-disabled employees needed that accommodation that it ended up being so widely offered.”

    Whenever anyone brought WFH up to an old boss, she would literally close her eyes, SHUDDER, and talk over us until the offending subject was purged from the conversation. When owners decided to move the call center to a smaller office to save on costs, guess what happened–yup, many people started WFH. Those with disabilities that had been clamoring for this were initially left off the list (IMO as retaliation for bringing up the Subject That Shall Not Be Named) until upper management intervened.

    Many accommodations for the disabled are good for everyone, far beyond their intended audience.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Seriously! I’m reading through all the recommendations above and reflecting on the accommodations I have seen in my life (work and elsewhere) and I can’t think of one that made abled people’s lives harder. At worst there is no impact and you don’t notice

      1. KaciHall*

        The one I remember from a case study in college was where an accommodation for one disability actually made another issue for people with a different disability. I think it was sidewalk cuts for wheel chair access that then made it impossible for blind people to know when they were at the curb? But even that isn’t affecting EVERYONE. And there was a change that was easy to implement (the bumps on the cuts. )

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Accommodations for different disabilities clashing I can totally see. Things like dog allergies/phobias and service dogs come to mind, and definitely would need navigation. Or something like flashing lights on phones for folks with hearing limits triggering someone else’s epilepsy or migraines*. But odds are abled people wouldn’t be totally unaffected by any of these changes or anything needed to deconflict.

          *Spit balling here because I don’t know enough about any of these 3 conditions to know this

          1. La Triviata*

            Where I live, the curb cuts have a bumpy section so that people who can’t see the curb cut easily can feel them. There are also bumpy sections on the subway platforms. On a couple of occasions, I’ve had to warn someone that their cane was going to go between subway cars or under a truck parked across the sidewalk, but those were rare occurrences and I believe that someone else would have notices (for the truck, someone else jumped in after I yelled and escorted the blind person around the truck and got them on a safe path).

            And the curb cuts have helped non-disabled people – those with mobility issues that make going up a curb can use them, they’re helpful for people with strollers or shopping carts and so on.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Yes, but those bumpy dots for the blind? Are a trip hazard for people with hemiparesis that have foot drop. I’ve lost count of how often I’ve stumbled over those.

              Trying to accommodate everyone is hard, and never perfect.

    2. Blomma*

      THIS. In January 2020 I got an accommodation to work remotely 1 day/week because of pain and fatigue (especially pain in my right foot when I drive…due to breaking my ankle *at work* and permanently messing it up). However it was made clear to me that this accommodation was being given on a trial basis and it had to work for the entire team. *eye roll* Now we’ve all been working remotely since March 2020 just fine. I’m planning to push to stay remote permanently and have begun laying the groundwork for that with my manager, but I anticipate some coworkers objecting to it.

  14. Cavalier Librarian*

    I am autistic and the greatest issue I had when finding work was public transportation. The United States has terrible public transportation. It takes me 45 minutes to get tom work now and its a 15 minute car ride. I live in a big city with a light rail system. If I take the light rail home its an hour long commute.

  15. sofar*

    I’ve also noticed that accommodations discussions for employees with disabilities shine a very necessary light on improving our own internal processes! Things like consistently documenting plans IN WRITING; planning AHEAD to avoid flailing and fire drills; CLEAR goal-setting rather than amorphous “read between the lines and figure out what is needed;” centralized written documentation of processes (rather than a billion decks and sheets floating around); core hours when meetings can be scheduled and policies about how far in advance meetings must be scheduled (so that those with disabilities that affect their sleep, or who have a lot of doctors’ appointments don’t have to suddenly accommodate an 8:30 am meeting scheduled the day before); subtitling Zoom meetings; Zoom meetings being recorded so they can be viewed later. Oh, and a consistent onboarding process.

    ALL these things benefit ALL employees. My company has a LONG way to go, but this stuff only started being discussed in the framework of hiring more people with disabilities. And I’m grateful for that.

    1. TechGirlSupervisor*

      This, this, this, a thousand times. I work in software and we need this, like always, for everyone. So much wasted effort because of unclear requirements, hard to read documentation or just flat out no documentation.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Oh, yeah, I have to tell my management at every job that if I don’t get things in writing, I may not remember it at all. Many times they come back with “then you write it down”, and I have to counter with “If you give me verbal orders while I’m on my way to the bathroom, I can’t write it down right then and probably won’t remember it by the time I’m through.” Some haved gotten the picture and been good about it, others… not so much.

  16. irene adler*

    I hope this article gets reposted everywhere.
    It so good to read these thoughts. Just hope that it will prompt employers to see outside the hiring box, so to speak.

    Many of the on-line applications I’ve filled out ask the applicant to declare any disabilities. It’s a gov’t requirement, I believe (USA). My take: it’s also an easy way to weed out those who have disabilities and toss their application into the ‘reject’ pile (note: there is no place for the applicant to indicate any interview accommodations – given they have declared a disability.). I’m far from the only one who thinks this. So I never put anything down.

    Sure, some applications will include a sentence about reaching out to HR to request any sort of disability accommodations. I’m not sure that’s adequate to let applicants know the employer is on the level with hiring folks who happen to have a disability.

    1. not a doctor*

      No, please check the box! 99% of hiring managers will NEVER see that form, and the ones who do work for a company you don’t want to work for (because they do unethical and illegal things).

      1. Justin*

        Yes, check the box! I always check it off. It has not hindered my ability to get interviews.

        If anything it might help if they are trying to increase their numbers.

        1. Hairy HR Guy*

          Agree 100% with Justin and not a doctor, check the box. I’m the head of HR, and can positively tell you that we (HR) are the only ones that see who checks which box. And quite frankly… we (HR) don’t even look at it routinely until we have to do our annual reporting.

          This may make you conclude that we then don’t accommodate in interviews because we don’t look at “the box”. Nuh-uh — I’d rather have a conversation with you as a human than make assumptions about what you did/did not check in the boxes.

  17. Scotlibrarian*

    I’m in the UK and working part time providing training in how to be an autistic inclusive manager. Myself, and the other 2 trainers are all autistic. I’ve worked as a librarian for many years, and been fairly successful, I have always struggled with various stuff, so getting an autism diagnosis last year aged 49 was so wonderful for me. One of the things we say a lot is that what works best for autistic employees, is clear communication and decent management (along with some easy accomodations). I point managers to AAM for extra help on clear communication and good management

    1. anon for this*

      Shout-out to a fellow autistic librarian! Wish you could come to the U.S. and help train my new manager on autism inclusiveness. They’re doing a decent job, but could use some pointers for sure.

  18. CatPerson*

    “Teleworking is one of the commonly requested accommodations, but prior to the pandemic, was one of the most frequently denied. ”

    I would like to point out, however, that teleworking was frequently denied for everyone, not just the disabled. It certainly was at my company–until suddenly they’ve jumped on the bandwagon. Previously they said–we support flexible hours–but only if your manager approves, and oh, by the way, even if your manager approves, the answer is no.

    1. Elsajeni*

      This seems to miss the point in a similar way to the classic line that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges.” If you’ve been denied an accommodation you need, whether it’s telework or bringing your service dog somewhere or whatever, it’s not helpful for someone who doesn’t need that accommodation to say “Well, they won’t let me bring my dog to the office either, you know.”

  19. Anon today*

    I was thinking of sending question to Alison about seeking work with a cognitive and physical disability but never worked up the nerve to pull the trigger.
    Another facet is that sometimes we can only work part time or need a modified schedule or only be able to do so much work per week.

    1. Anon today*

      Another facet is that we might have skills but might need to change fields to work within our disability but that is extra tough when employers are not willing to look at transferable skills.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        It took me over three years to change fields when I became physically disabled. My spouse cashed out their 401k just to make up for the income that I couldn’t get during that time. I only got hired when companies were desperate for anyone with skills in my new field. Even now, it takes me twice (or more) as long to get new jobs due my disabilities, one of which is a really poor and scrambled memory.

    2. Anon for now*

      I didn’t know it when I took the job, but my job allows for flexible working hours. Yes, there are mandatory meetings I’ll have to make, but otherwise if I want to work 12pm to 10pm, I’m free to!
      This + WFH has been a god-send. I have a mental illness and social anxiety surrounding that (I’m terrified of people seeing me when I’m having an episode). But now, if I wake up one day and feel like I’m on the edge of an episode and “oh god I don’t want anyone to see me like this”, I can just work from home, no prior arrangement necessary.

      1. Anon today*

        I understand.
        In my case I have some specific cognitive deficits and a ton of experience but I also have limits on amount of work per week, part time for sure.

  20. Mary*

    We are not facing a labor shortage. We are facing a shortage of positions with equitable pay and benefits.

      1. La Triviata*

        It’s also a concern that companies/organizations will feel they can pay a person with a disability or who requires accommodations even less than the current crappy pay. I know that in the past – don’t know if it’s changed – that there were special places that provided employment for them that required little in the way of skills and paid below the miserable minimum wage.

        1. HereKittyKitty*

          That’s still a thing. For someone with a “severe” disability, you can legally pay them BELOW minimum wage. Basically quarters. Part of the “justification” is that earning too much money will cause them to lose their disability benefits.

  21. Anon for this*

    As someone, in Europe, with a disability who is currently looking for a job in a high demand market (I am told: coding/data science), I would like to add another accommodation that would greatly benefit me: part-time opportunities.

    I simply cannot work full-time. Beside my need for frequent medical appointments (in my case therapy and visits to my psychiatrists), it turns out that if I work 5 full days a week, I will burn out within two months. I have been there, done that a few times and it just doesn’t work.

    So I am currently looking for a job that is about 24-28 hours a week. I could maybe work 32 hours after the initial period, and with enough flexibility in terms of schedule and WFH. Since I cannot start out doing that, I cannot look for positions for that amount of hours.

    I am in a country where part time work is very accepted and still the amount of jobs I can apply for is maybe 10% of the number of full time jobs. Sometimes a job description really speaks to me and I will ask, but I have never had a positive response to me asking whether part time working would be possible.

    I understand there might be all kinds of practical considerations for that to be impossible (sometimes there is too much work), but sometimes it also seems more laziness than anything else (such as when candidates are being attracted on a rolling basis and they are clearly jumping for people).

    1. irene adler*

      See, this situation just screams “job share”. Which would require a little bit of ‘outside of the box’ thinking on the part of the employer. But entirely “do-able”.

    2. J*

      I agree with this so much. I know it likely comes with a cut in pay but limited time and flexibility would make such a difference for me. Medical appointments alone are so limiting but they are often so far out that they can be easily accommodated but I hate burning through my vacation time to take them because there are so many and frankly, I need/deserve vacation and self care too. And I do exhaust more easily but I know my limits and still always meet deadlines. I tend to choose jobs with a lot of asynchronous schedules to allow me the flexibility but reducing my hours via jobshare would make me healthier, happier, and would probably keep my output exactly the same. I’ve seen some workplaces allow it for parents or for those approaching retirement but never for the rest of us. We’d all benefit from it and it would make people not a target for discrimination (which parents and elderly may already be).

    3. GermanGirl*

      Coding/data science is absolutely in high demand. Please keep applying and I promise you’ll find something.

      If you haven’t done so yet, one tip is to look for “family friendly” in the company’s self description. That usually means they’re open to part time work, even if they routinely advertise their positions as full time just because they’ve always done it that way *bangs head against wall*.

  22. Dino*

    Employers, please familiarize yourselves with Video Relay Services!! So many of my deaf friends have lost out on jobs because someone reached out about an opportunity and then got weirded out by not hearing ringing immediately upon dialing, or when hearing a female interpreter’s voice when the application says John Smith.

    Even when the hiring manager doesn’t immediately hang up, they still penalize the deaf candidate for things that are inherent to using interpreters. There’s a lag between when you stop talking and the deaf person answers because the interpreter has to wait to hear enough of your sentence to interpret it accurately, then the deaf person needs time to formulate their response and sign it, and then there’s a delay for the interpreter to again see enough of the sentence to accurately interpret it into English. Yet hiring managers dock deaf candidates for “unnatural, not-flowing conversation”. So please, examine those biases and familiarize yourself with a variety of accommodations and their impact.

  23. anonymous for reasons*

    My question is — I’ve worked and applied for jobs my entire life and only now noticed that my invisible disability is on the list. Generally, I can kinda work around it since it only flares up occasionally, but is there anything to be gained or lost by checking the box? I tend to lean towards the “it can only make things worse” side.

    On a semi-related tangent, my company sent out an email to the tune of “make sure your disability status is accurately reflected in our HR portal” since it impacts…some metric somewhere. Again, even though I could identify, I feel like it would not be beneficial.

    1. Justin*

      The people doing the hiring aren’t allowed to look. They COULD, and break the law, but then it would be a crappy place to work anyway.

      My theory is, if I hide it completely, I’ll have to hide it at work and eventually I’ll fail. I do wait until I’m at the offer stage to say it directly in interviews, but applications I include it.

      This depends on the disability, though, I’m sure, and the gradients of stigmas.

      1. irene adler*


        Can you explain how it is that the hiring people won’t look at the disability status please? When I fill out the on-line application, the disability section is just one more page in a multipage application. Just like the pages for military status, work history, education, name/address/phone. And I’m sure hiring people ARE reviewing all of those pages. So what keeps them from seeing the disability page?

        From my perspective, I can’t imagine they would NOT see the disability information. So I NEVER fill that section out. I don’t want them to use that to disqualify me.

        1. Justin*

          I suppose it technically depends on who is doing the hiring etc (like, is it HR, or is it a small company where just one person reads everything), but they can (and should) set up the system such that it’s not just one ten-page readout. Obviously some companies are slippity sloppity but those are places that would not be great to work for other reasons.

          1. irene adler*

            Thank you, Justin. In my experience, the forms are used by the big companies. So yeah, I agree, good companies abide by the rules and they won’t peek- or they won’t even get the form (per HereKittyKitty’s response). Bad companies won’t play fair and they will peek. Do I really want to be employed by a company like that? No.

        2. not a doctor*

          I’m not sure how it works when you’re hiring in HR itself or at smaller companies, but in most jobs that are large enough to require those forms (100+ people, IIRC), the person handling the application isn’t the person that’s actually responsible for choosing who gets hired. If someone is, say, a Llama Groomer, they’ll be hired by a Senior Llama Groomer, not the HR Employment Specialist. So that information is simply left out of whatever goes to the Senior Llama Groomer.

        3. HereKittyKitty*

          Usually, before the self-identifying forms pops up there’s a notice that this information is not shared with hiring. For an online form, it likely sends the resume, cover, and whatever else is needed but the self-identifying forms are not given to hiring managers. I’ve never seen these forms on any hiring I’ve ever done.

    2. not a doctor*

      Check the box! Think of it this way: the more of us who are accurately represented in the workforce, the more people with disabilities can be normalized in working society.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      I have celiac disease, which only recently started showing up on the EEOC example disability lists. Celiac disease is invisible and I personally don’t consider it a disability so I was thrown the first time I saw it on the list and ended up putting “prefer not to answer.”

      Reading the responses of Justin and not a doctor and others on this post now has me strongly leaning toward answering “yes” in the future because
      1) companies should not factor it into their decisions
      2) if they do, they are breaking the law and I don’t want to work for an unethical company
      3) lots of people have disabilities and the more who honestly answer “yes” on those forms, the less companies will be able to ignore us.

      1. Justin*

        I think, for those of us especially who have disabilities that only recently got “considered” as such, or people who, for one reason or another, have aspects of privilege, it’s important for us to normalize if we feel comfortable at all. Not quite the same, but how it’s also important for people who do match gender expectations (etc.) to use pronouns so it’s not just those who are oppressed along these lines.

        I understand people may disagree with me. Offering my opinion and analysis.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I agree with you. I was talking to a friend about whether or not I should self-identify as having a disability. My friend has ADHD and they said “I probably wouldn’t say yes on a job application because of the stigma around ADHD.” I responded “I feel comfortable saying yes because there’s pretty much no stigma around celiac.” Even though there’s no way to specify which disability a person may have, the stigma surrounding a specific disability definitely impacts how risky it feels to respond “yes” or “no.” So, because it feels low-risk for me to answer “yes,” all the more reason for me to do that and normalize that answer.

          1. Justin*

            It’s funny, because it’s ADHD that I have. But I actually just refer to it as sensory issues (because it is) if someone asks me specifically, and just check the box in general on the application.

        2. Zephy*

          I assume by “use pronouns” you mean “declare or otherwise explicitly indicate what set of pronouns to use to refer to this person, rather than letting other people guess or assume,” because I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t use pronouns (although, what a f***ing power move – use my name every time you speak about me). But you’re right, cis people that want others to use the expected set of pronouns to refer to them taking the time to make that explicit can only help. I am a cis woman, I have an exclusively-feminine first name, and I have “She/Her” in my work email signature. I also have “she/her” in my Discord handle in servers that don’t have pronoun roles. It’s trivially easy to add “my pronouns are she/her” or even just “she/her” to the standard introductory phrase of “Hi, my name is Zephy, I’m a Position in the Department at Company.”

    4. HereKittyKitty*

      Even if you do not consider yourself disabled and in need of accommodations, if you’re on the list, I think it’s important to check the box. Those metrics can matter quite a bit, as data is used for justification for funding, research, laws etc. If a company thinks less than 1% of their staff has a disability they may not prioritize accessibility, accessibility training, taking a second look at insurance they’re providing to their staff, and other things. However, when the number is 20% they may take those issues a little more seriously. I have seen people use time and time again “well there’s not a lot of X people here” as justification on why things are unnecessary to implement, so I think it’s a good thing to do.

      1. HereKittyKitty*

        (I say this with qualifications that you’re perfectly entitled not to check the box. It’s important to also trust your gut and protect yourself) I happen to be in a privileged position where I feel safe in disclosing, not everyone is.

  24. 1qtkat*

    I feel like this post seemed primarily addressed physical disabilities and less on how intellectual disabilities. On the outside I’m a perfectly normal and physically able person, but based on the reams of medical history, I have an intellectual disability that is not obvious due to childhood leukemia. The best way to describe it is that I’m a high functioning autistic person, but when it comes to academia or test taking, I require extra time to process information. I had accommodations all of my schooling and 2 bar exams. People don’t realize how expensive it is to prove you have a disability to get accommodations. I had to take multiple neuropsychology tests that cost thousands of dollars each to prove the existence of my disability and why I needed certain accommodations. And all of these accommodations just helps me show that I’m just as smart GPA wise as the average student. It’s so frustrating to have to prove yourself when you know you’re just as smart as everyone else but the grades and such don’t show that and employers base their decisions on grade or school prestige.

    1. Wild&FreeMe*

      Melwood primarily hires and places people with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities, and cognitive disabilities.

    2. Tali*

      This is something my company’s HR department has noticed too–people are willing to work around disabilities they can “see” but still carry stigma against intellectual disabilities. Especially when it comes to evaluations, reviewers just assume they’re “bad workers”. This is definitely an area where more training and D&I work can be done to include people with intellectual disabilities too.

  25. Bob-White of the Glen*

    Someone here posted that lifting requirements were discriminatory. I just posted a job that previously had a “must be able to lift 40 pounds” requirement. Thanks to that person I took that requirement out. This position is for computer work and supervising employees. Yes, there can be a physical aspect to it, but honestly we have enough employees that if the person hired cannot do it, someone will help them. So thank you to that person for helping me make a job description better and less discriminatory! I’d rather have brains than brawn in that position anyway.

    1. quill*

      As one of the people who has spent their whole career trying to dodge the lifting question, thank you!

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I 100% agree this should be taken out when it can. Of course, I say that as someone who works in a field where we actually do need people to be able to lift heavy boxes of old papers, but I have fought hard to have it removed from other library job descriptions.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      I spent years being shut out of jobs that said “Must be able to lift 50 pounds”, when I knew full well that there are lifts and carts that can do that for me, even in the data center. These lifts are often less than $1000 and can help avoid damage to the able-bodied and equipment.

      Thank you for taking that out of the job description.

  26. bamcheeks*

    I know a lot of disabled people have been really frustrated that for years they’ve been asking to work from home as an accommodation and were told it just wasn’t possible — but of course we’ve seen throughout the pandemic that it really was more possible than they were told

    I’m pushing this conversation at work at the moment– I have an employee who discovered that working from home was life-changing, and who has completed 100% of her duties from home for two years. We now have a hybrid working policy with the aim of having people to be back in the office three days a week. My employee is back in one day a week, and able to complete all the activities which need to be F2F in that one day. I am hoping to get an accommodation that they can stay like that. We need our management to clarify whether three days a week is:

    – an essential requirement of the job which can’t be changed
    – an expectation for all staff but not an essential requirement of the role, which means individual exceptions can be made on a case by case basis where there is a need as long as the employee can still complete all the core duties of their role (eg. an accomodation can be made for disability)
    – something to be decided on a case by case basis between manager and employee

    I don’t know whether I should be pushing for 2 or 3– in general, I think it’s better if it’s between a manager and an employee and that everyone has this level of flexibility, but getting it written down as an official accommodation means my employee is protected if I leave and a new manager takes over. Would like to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

    1. not a doctor*

      I think it should be case by case. If someone can work from home without it impacting their duties, whether or not they have a disability, why should they have to come to the office at all? Also, if it’s de facto normalized across the company, it will be much easier to get as an accommodation.

  27. Miss Muffet*

    I’m happy to see disabilities being brought forward more in terms of DEI – I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of just racial or sexual identity groups being thought of when we think “diversity” and not broaden that out more. I really like what “Danger: Gumption Ahead” said about the fact that most (if not all) of these accommodations either benefit everyone or have no impact on able-bodied people, while improving the ability of disabled employees to participate fully. It’s like a no-brainer, we just need to keep pushing.

  28. Ambiguous Utopia*

    This is a perfect example of a responsible, appropriate, and natural integration of a sponsored post that actually provides value and is interesting at the same time as transparently promoting a business. Just what I’ve come to expect from AAM :)

  29. mcfizzle*

    I loved this article, and feel terribly for disabled / (neuro)atypical people job searching. I am L on the LGBT+ continuum, and absolutely refuse to come out at work. In theory, I know I should. My employer could tick a box for a diversity hire, but the possible personal consequences to me, overtly or passive-aggressive, terrify me. And that’s with 14 years in the same job.
    Anyways, my point is that I can see why people would be extremely hesitant to disclose any disability before seeing an offer letter. But then how can they properly evaluate culture / inclusion without asking / disclosing? Just a terrible situation.

    1. Bamcheeks*

      I’m a lesbian who’s always been out at work and I disagree with “I know I should”. :) It’s 100% a personal decision about how much information you feel safe and comfortable sharing, and you don’t owe it to anyone. The boxes your employer gets to tick simply aren’t your responsibility!

      1. mcfizzle*

        Thanks Bamcheeks – I’m in a deeply red county / region, which certainly doesn’t help. Have a good day!

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Hello from someone else who is not out at work! Absolutely agree with Bamcheeks that you don’t owe it to anyone. If your employer wants to be able to check those boxes, they need to change their culture first so that you would feel 100% safe coming out. And even then, you still wouldn’t owe that to anyone.

  30. Syl*

    I’m disabled and currently employed full-time.

    I never ever ever reveal my disability before I get hired. Even if they ask about it I do not reveal it.

    Even if an employer would like to hire more disabled people, it’s likely that they are not disclosing their needs before being hired.

  31. Wineo*

    Fantastic, timely article! In my industry (wine) I see something more and more that drives me up the wall: no matter what job, a blanket “must be able to lift 40 lbs” gets added to damn near all job descriptions. This is so in theory, if a tasting room is short-staffed (or shipping or production, etc), everyone else can lug a few cases of wine around in an all-hands-on-deck situation. Which, OK, but don’t tell me that you won’t hire someone to be your cost accountant because they can’t lift a case. It’s so stupid, and I call it out whenever I see it.

    And FWIW there are easy ways to structure tasting room operations so not everyone has to lift and carry cases.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I assume in most office jobs, it’s because you *might* have to carry a box of paper? Most printers only take one ream at a time and a ream is not 40 pounds. This would be a very easy accommodation. Someone else can bring the box of paper to the printer.

      And let’s say, for example, I get a higher-level job and for whatever reason, temporary or permanent, my department admin can’t lift or handle a ream. It takes me five seconds to refill the printer myself; no big deal.

      1. Zephy*

        I struggle to imagine a business situation where the need for a case of paper is SO dire that THIS employee and ONLY they must lift and carry it themself to wherever it needs to go unassisted and can’t wait for someone else to be available to help. Maybe everyone else has been trapped by Xerox, the Office Supply Dragon, and he’s demanding an offering of cellulose before releasing them?

        But yeah, unless the entire job is carrying 40+ lb loads to and fro (like a warehouse or similar, maybe landscaping/painting/housekeeping/etc, or medical, like involving patient/equipment transport), there’s probably never going to be a life-or-death, you-must-lift-this-thing-to-save-your-coworkers scenario.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I mean, I had an office job where lifting heavy boxes was a thing (shipping chunks of heavy product samples and boxes of catalogs). I have permanent injuries from that. But for the vast majority of office jobs, it isn’t really an issue.

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I can lift more than I can safely carry. In my last office job (receptionist, junior office admin, and general facilities gofer for a tiny office that had been acquired by a huge international company with two huge offices several blocks up the street) there was a sturdy little rolling cart. I used that to haul all sorts of moderately heavy and inconveniently bulky items all over the office, and if I used it more often than someone fully able-bodied would, nobody cared.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          This. Carts, hand trucks, dollys and lift tables/carts all exist to reduce injuries and equipment damage. They aren’t that expensive, you don’t have to have a disability to use them, and they can help avoid future disabilities.

    2. Testerbert*

      I’d imagine that someone, somewhere, justifies the requirement as being necessary as if they *don’t* put it in, all their new hires will *refuse* to lift anything, ever, because it wasn’t explicitly listed in the job requirements.

      Of course, the *actual* reason it is there is that they don’t want to apply any thought to the situation, and want all their staff to be instantly substituted drones. Having a member of staff who might not be able to lift a crate ruins that convenience.

  32. SparklingBlue*

    What’s also annoying is that many people with disabilities (myself included) are afraid to even look for jobs at all because of restrictions of how much they can work and how much they can make–and they are afraid they could lose vital services if they do go to work.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Truth. This is huge, especially for people trying to just enter the workforce and those that can work a bit, but not full-time, since these jobs don’t pay enough to live on. Benefits often get reduced more than the amount coming in and working comes with a whole set of costs that the person didn’t have before (e.g. more frequent transport, wardrobe)

    2. Wild&FreeMe*

      Such a good point. The way our disability benefits are structured disincentivizes full time work and career advancement – we have to address the benefits cliff to engage more people with disabilities in the workforce!

  33. J*

    I’d also like to highlight that the process for getting a doctor’s paperwork for a workplace accommodation is so burdensome. My doctor charges paperwork fees. I have to attend multiple medical visits, eating into my PTO that could be better used if my illness flares up as is (assuming I’m not also getting intermittent FMLA which is another batch of paperwork). I have to miss work for HR meetings which then makes my colleagues mad at me. There’s a lot of accommodation that could be authorized without a doctor telling them I need to work at home in a pandemic. The paperwork alone I had to fill out following an emergency surgery meant spending 2 extra hours in the hospital just so they could document I needed an accommodation to allow me to work from bed (my work at home policy requires we sit up or stand hilariously enough).

    If you want to be disability friendly, you have to get rid of outdated bureaucracy too. I had to print all that paperwork which meant trying to get to the library for mobile printing while I’m bed bound since the only paperwork I’ve printed in 5 years is HR paperwork. You should consider what’s an essential function of a job description and what’s not rather than copying and pasting the last job description. You should also plan for intermittent disability for which paperwork is a burden. I had an attorney break his wrist snowboarding and they could deal with him better than the 3 days a year I needed to not walk outdoors due to cold.

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Hear, hear! I agree with so much of what you have written, especially that so many job descriptions are just a bad copy-and-paste from eons ago. I’m on a team at my current job looking to create standards around how often JDs should be reviewed and/or updated (and in meaningful ways; not just skimming and saving as new) and I found that we need to start a step or ten back and impose a standard format for our JDs. Some of them refer to the company by the name we went by 3 acquisitions ago. Some describe responsibilities or functions that are now obsolete (Blackberry, anyone?). And far too many end with the dreaded “other duties as required.”

  34. JJ Bittenbinder*

    I love that you have posted this great interview and I’m grateful to both you and Larysa for your expertise.

    I hate that the conversation hasn’t advanced much since I worked in voc rehab 18 years ago, though. I left in 2009 because it was impossible to earn a living wage (seriously—we pay the people who provide services to children, people with disabilities and the elderly SO poorly and then get upset when there are no services for children, people with disabilities and the elderly) and so much remains unchanged in this space. Back then, we were presenting businesses with the statistics about the labor market and the number of people with disabilities who were un- or underemployed and wanted to work; offering training and technical assistance for HR departments and managers; reminding the world that we were talking about hiring the most qualified candidates and not “doing someone a favor”…and so on.

    I hope that this post inspires even a few people to take a fresh look at what changes they can make.

    ~JJ (who was on SSDI for a decade and now works full-time. Figuring it all out was NOT easy. It should be easier)

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I know, and I’m sorry!

        Because state salaries are publicly-available information, I just looked up what the VR counselors are making currently and it seems to have improved somewhat—but it’s only a few dollars per hour above minimum wage in my state. The pay itself even sounds good on paper, but my state is always among the top 5 for HCOL.

        1. This is a name, I guess*

          In my state, VR counselors are paid fairly. And, then our state contracts out some disability-specific VR work to agencies like mine and pays our staff to do the same work for 1/3 the wages. Of course, VR staff in my state are whiter and more male than the nonprofit agency….

  35. stitchinthyme*

    I actually had a good experience with this recently. I use cochlear implants, which work pretty well for the most part, but I still struggle a little on the phone, especially when the person I’m speaking with has an accent. I was doing a video job interview last month, and it turned out that every one of the 4 or 5 people interviewing me had an accent, and I couldn’t understand any of them. So I told them about my CIs and said I was having trouble understanding (didn’t mention accents). The manager said they could type their questions into a chat window, so they did that and I answered verbally (I’m late-deafened, so my speech is unaffected by my hearing issues). And I did end up getting the job offer.

    That said, I don’t usually go out of my way to mention my CIs during job interviews. I might mention it to recruiters, but I’ve tended to only say something to hiring managers if I have to, as I did in the situation above. I figure that as a woman over 50 in a very male-dominated field (software development), I’ve already got two strikes against me that could trigger unconscious bias, and I have no desire to add a third.

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I love that you were able to ask for what you needed, that they had a quick work-around and especially that you ended up getting the offer. Brava!

  36. disabilityworker*

    For people with developmental disabilities specifically (although some states do use a broader definition of disability — Indiana, for one), the DD Act of 2000 provides three branches of developmental disability programs:
    1) a DD council — sets disability budgetary priority for 5 years at a time
    2) a Protection and Advocacy Agency (usually called (state) Disability Rights or Disability Rights Center in (state)) — these are the people you contact when you know something should be happening that’s not, or shouldn’t be happening that is (i.e. navigating IEPs, being removed from businesses because you have a service dog, etc.)
    3) a University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research & Service — provide training, technical assistance, and continuing education to hundreds of thousands of professionals and community members. In Indiana, the UCEDD is Indiana University through the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC).

    Don’t be afraid to reach out to these organizations if you need assistance! Even if they can’t help you, they should be able to tell you where to go.

    The Arc of the United States / your individual state, JAN, and other community organizations are also out there, reach out!

  37. Elizabeth West*

    *deep breath*

    Instead, employees are encouraged to advocate for themselves and self-disclose disabilities in order to create a path to successful employment.

    We are not there yet. We just aren’t. If I disclose my hidden learning disability that no one understands or has even heard of, they think I’m 1) lying, 2) trying to game the system somehow, or 3) too high-maintenance. If I don’t disclose, then I run the risk of being fired because I can’t do certain aspects of the job, which goes back to 1 and 2, and asking for accommodations goes back to 3.

    It’s true about disabled people being unemployed and underemployed. I’ve been one or the other my entire adult life. You have to be selective in what jobs you apply to, and that leads to a larger employment gap when you’re trying to find work; the whole process is harder and takes longer. Then you end up dealing with the perception that because you aren’t working, you either can’t (must be because you suck, otherwise why won’t anyone hire you?) or that you don’t want to. I try to screen as best I can, but employers who aren’t forthright about what the work entails in job ads or when you ask questions in the interview terrify me.

    On the positive side, the horrendous experience with ADA accommodations at Exjob has given me the chance to think about what I need to ask for specifically. I’m vaguely hopeful that the COVID aftermath will shift these perceptions, but at the same time, I’m not holding my breath.

    1. stitchinthyme*

      Yes. It’s really easy to tell someone to push back and advocate for themselves when you’re not the one who can’t afford the rent. It reminds me of people who tell women to stand up to men who catcall them — what they’re really asking the woman to do is potentially risk her own safety for the sake of making a point. If no one will give me a job after I disclose my disability in an interview, all that disclosure is doing is hurting me, and I’m not willing to risk my own livelihood in order to try and fix an ingrained societal failing.

    2. HereKittyKitty*

      Yup! I’m a big fan of self-disclosure and often do so myself. BUT I’m in a position where I can afford to do so. I have managed to have a consistent job history and education. I have hidden disabilities like PTSD, ADHD and agoraphobia. Because of this, I feel like I’m at lower risk for disclosing. Not everyone is in that position and people have reason to worry or feel fear at disclosure. You have to look out for yourself.

    3. Wild&FreeMe*

      You raise such a valid point. The uncertainty of the culture you’re joining or how proactive a company will be in terms of accommodations is, frankly, all over the place. I think we all want a world where self-disclosure is a viable strategy to being considered a full and valuable employee, but there are definitely a lot of places where self-advocacy simply isn’t going to make headway. Something to aspire to though, right?

  38. Things*

    I think we also need to look at job interview practices and expectations, because, as an Autistic person with an inability to maintain normal eye contact and tics, and with something of a monotone voice and the standard Autistic tendency to fixate on things, I’m always going to come off as “weird and off putting”, and that puts me to the bottom of every hiring list unless I can get a phone interview. I have the job I have now because I’m underpaid and nobody else will do the job, because that’s what I could get when people are naturally uncomfortable with me, and feel like something’s wrong with me. Nobody wants to hire somebody like me after a job interview, and I can’t really change these things about me. And it’s getting worse, not better, because interpersonal skills and “culture fit” are increasingly considered extremely important in an interview.

    1. Wild&FreeMe*

      Oh Things, I feel so much for you. Hiring and recruitment aside, even retention relies so heavily on just… rapport and how comfortable people feel, and the reality is there’s no nearly enough effort made by most abled people to dismantle any feelings of comfort that are entirely built on cues like eye contact and stillness. The things neurotypical people just take for granted.

      I hope you are able to find a place that values your contributions and I hope we, as a society and as leaders, DO BETTER so folks like you are seen for your talent first and foremost.

  39. Hawk*

    I basically agree with what everyone else is saying — disclosing off the bat makes me incredibly uncomfortable, especially because my disabilities are complicated and one is rare.

    Also… I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel uncomfortable that someone who works for an organization specifically hiring disabled job candidates is using so much person-first language. A lot of us (almost every disabled person I know, in fact), would prefer identity-first language. You can say “disabled people/employees/candidates/etc”. It doesn’t hurt. Really.

    1. Larysa*

      Thank you so much for this comment. I will do better. As an organization, we phased out the use of euphemisms like “differing abilities” just last year and embraced the term disability. Our employees and clients have been split on their preference for person-first versus identity-first, and I generally try to use both. That did not come through in these answers.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        As an individual who has both physical and cognitive disabilities, I tend to prefer “disabled”, or “disabled person.” “Person with disabilities” seems to me to be an awkward construction.

        Then again, if you meet me standing up, I am obviously disabled. Sitting down, you might not notice. The cognitive stuff only shows when the situation triggers it or on those nasty “cognitive skills” screening tests that are designed to screen out people with non-neurotypical traits and learning disorders.

    2. This is a name, I guess*

      FWIW, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities prefer person-centered language, though not thw weirdness that is “differing abilities.” They are usually the most marginalized and least heard members of the disability community, so I tend to follow their lead unless the person I’m speaking with has voiced a specific preference.

      Remember that the disability community is a very big tent, and the most vocal people don’t represent many large sub-groups.

      1. quill*

        Yeah, I would just look up what the advocacy groups most populated by the people affected by a specific disability use. For example, Deaf and Autistic communities often prefer not to use person first language. There are some disabilities without a widely understandable adjective to collect under, so you’re going to default to “People with X” for those.

    3. BritGirl*

      Yes it made me uncomfortable as well. I am a disabled person, I don’t carry disabilities in my handbag. The social model of disability and how we are disabled is so important to making workplaces less ableist and more inclusive for all.

  40. Annie J*

    As a person who is totally blind, I think one thing that would really help me and others in my position is to know in advance what kind of software the company I apply to uses and whether it’s screen reader accessible, I can understand why companies might not want to disclose this for security reasons but it would be nice to know in advance if, for example, a company uses salesforce which generally tends to be more accessible, or a smaller less well-known product which can vary in Accessibility.
    Nothing worse than getting a great job and realising that half the systems you need to use on a regular basis are not accessible to you.

    1. BritGirl*

      The company *should* be required to make sure it is accessible to you. Of course that’s easier said than done with so much software still being inaccessible. Digital whiteboarding tools have especially taken off during the pandemic for remote collaboration and they leave a lot of us out.

  41. anon for this*

    Also if your company if paying disabled people less because they legally *can* stop that. Stop that right now.

  42. DisabilitiesAndSTEM*

    It’s important to not make assumptions about what people with disabilities can or cannot do. For example, I know a chemistry professor who is blind. A lot of people would be quick to jump to the conclusion that someone who is blind/low vision would not be able to take a chemistry course, or work in a lab, but that’s not the case. There are definitely accommodations that need to be made, but it clearly is possible since the person I know has his PhD in chemistry.

  43. Evvie*

    I have several disabilities and don’t put them on my applications because I’ve never gotten a straight answer about whether or not companies can see the responses–even when I contacted the government directly! From what they said, the companies get the info, but it’s shown without names. That’s great…unless there are few applicants and it’s easy to narrow down or assume.

    I also don’t self-disclose because my laundry list of diagnoses includes one that is (VERY mistakenly) associated with being a danger to others and another that is (VERY VERY mistakenly) associated with being unable to handle stress.

    I honestly would love accommodations for a couple of them. But I’ve legit only asked once and it was because it wasn’t an inconvenience to anyone (and I knew I wasn’t the only person asking). Beyond that…well, I used to work in a field notorious for “budget cuts” that seemed to only affect people with mental disabilities/illnesses. So, we stay quiet.

    Also, I’m a professional writer and editor now. Can you imagine if I disclosed my dyslexia at ANY point? When people find out I am dyslexic and get paid to check spelling, they look beyond confused because I “can’t possibly do that.”

    It’s not that companies aren’t hiring people with disabilities. It’s that people with disabilities aren’t admitting to working there because we’re scared. And sadly, this all goes way beyond the workplace and requires an entire societal change.

    1. Quill*

      Off topic but I would think that with the right process, dyslexia might actually make checking spelling easier? Because it might prevent your brain from autocorrecting a misspelling?

  44. CAB*

    Thank you so much for posting this. Before the pandemic, I really struggled to work full time (or at all) consistently because of my disability. I have a degree, but being somewhere away from home for 40+ hours a week just wasn’t feasible while also trying to do all the treatments I need to do. Once remote work became more of a possibility, I was able to get into a high-paying, high pressure job and have been here since 2020. I genuinely hope accommodations become less stigmatized and more commonplace.

  45. SlothLover*

    **Sorry for the double post. I meant this to be a stand alone comment and accidentally posted it as a reply to another comment where it doesn’t make much sense. Hope this one goes in the right place! Alison, please remove one of these… preferably the one that I posted as a reply to another comment.**

    Oh my goodness. I love this post! I work for my state’s Vocational Rehabilitation department, so this post speaks directly to my line of work. I could say so much much more, but for now, I’ll just give every point of this post a resounding YES!/Amen! and give you a big thank you for shedding light on this topic (again).

    One thing that I always think about is the fact that disability is the only minority group that anyone can suddenly enter.

    Those of use who’s entire line of work is focused on assisting people with disabilities in finding and maintaining employment salute you. (Okay. That last sentence isn’t structure very well. But you get the idea.)

  46. Just Another Librarian*

    There are a lot of attitudes towards accommodations that need to change to make people comfortable asking for them and disclosing their needs.
    A close friend has a job that’s 4 10s as the normal shift. They are normally given a single 30 minute break. It’s a physically demanding job. She asked for a second (15 minute) break, as she has some joint issues and could use sitting down.
    Her boss told her that she just didn’t feel comfortable blocking out a second break for her, as that would be favoritism and other employees would be jealous.
    (maybe everyone should get more than a 30 minute break in 10 hours? nah.)
    I’ve had issues with ‘but other employees will be jealous!’ about accommodations as well in various jobs. I use a mobility scooter and oh the attitude sometimes about me not walking places for example.

  47. Mimmy*

    Bummed that I didn’t have a chance to read this and the replies until now – I strongly believe in disability inclusion and accessibility, especially in professional-level jobs, and I would’ve loved to engage in this conversation today.

    I have multiple disabilities myself and have struggled to find my place in the working world because of the barriers (especially jobs that require a driver’s license), indecision about what careers I’ll be most successful at, and not always knowing what accommodations will be the most effective for me. I’ve talked myself out of opportunities and career paths more than once because of these things. I’m in my last semester of a master’s degree related to disability services in higher education. I know it’s not directly related to employment, but it’s something I’ve long been interested in.

    I think the pandemic has brought up some awareness of the possibilities of more flexible work options, e.g., WFH, and the increased use in virtual meeting platforms. I think there is room for improvement. It’d take a novel to explain some of the challenges I experience at work (thank you sensory sensitivities…).

    I am definitely saving this post. Thank you Alison and Larysa!

  48. Marjorie*

    Fantastic! I’m a region manager for a CA grant program called WorkAbility. Ca dept of education funds job training, wages and coaches for students age 16-22 with disabilities. We help students explore and gain work skills and learn to self advocate. If you are in San Diego and want to be a first step opportunity for a high school student…Email me

  49. Whimsical Gadfly*

    Missed an obvious one: it’s easier to hire people with disabilities if you don’t rule them out in your ad.

    Does the role really require lifting/carrying/standing/etc or are you just requiring that everyone in the office?

  50. P*

    I’d like to add one thing: our job market’s current emphasis on networking is totally ableist, and I’m ready for allies to start calling it out. Like it or not, y’all in hiring positions need to start READING THE RESUMES YOU RECEIVE and knock it off with only elevating people who “networked” with you successfully. If you operate like this, I’m going to assume you either dislike or don’t care about disabled or otherwise marginalized folks. It takes work to make entry more equitable!!

  51. Gregory Koch*

    “How do you hire more people with disabilities?”

    Step 1 – Don’t call them “people with disabilities.” Most prefer to be called “disabled people” – identity first language.

  52. Stacy Scott*

    A very good article with some good starting points. It is worth noting that hiring someone with a disability may not neccessarily need a whole raft of solutions. Indeed, they may need no more than a little longer when taking notes in a meeting, and yet they may be denied the chance to even interview for a job, because they have disclosed they have the dreaded “D” word!

  53. Moonsunbear*

    Alison, if you happen to see this: I would absolutely love to see a week or a few days dedicated to discussing issues for people with disabilities, whether it’s paratransit or working through vision problems (I’ve seen double for about six years, and basically read and write for a living). It would be so great to see a conversation with a consultant or activist of some kind, maybe as a guest advice-giver?

  54. Freya*

    I was reading a job description recently (not in my field, just someone I know was idly complaining about coworker turnover) and the description was all “we do amazing things and we champion diversity!” and then had one sentence at the end that said “this is a full time job but we’re open to considering part time for applicants who tick every single box”.

    Leaving aside the fact that anyone who ticks all their boxes is going to go for something that pays more (hence the turnover, in my opinion), there’s no part time jobs available at all (only full time work that might be made part time if you’re Perfect), so anyone who needs lower hours and succeeds in arguing for and getting it is going to have to fight a corporate culture that assumes everyone is full time. Also, they’re a significant drive away from the nearest childcare centre, which I’m sure is also affecting the diversity of their applicants!

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