Career Guidance for Students with Disabilities
We understand that landing an internship or job is tough! That is why we are committed to supporting students with visible and invisible disabilities navigate their career exploration and preparation path through our partnership with the Career Development Center. Below you will find resources specifically for students with disabilities.
Job Search and Interview Tips
- Do not let your disability define you! Focus on your strengths, your skills for the position, and what you can offer to the employer
- Seek out employers with disability friendly policies and employee support networks. See “Additional Resources” section at the end of this guide for listings of organizations that connect job seekers with disabilities to employers
- Remember, you must be qualified to perform essential functions of the position
- Prepare a professional resume and cover letter, showcasing your ability to do the job See resources on the Career Development website or come meet with a staff member for assistance
- Prepare for the interview by: researching the employer and interviewers, practice answering typical interview questions and articulating your abilities. Review interview prep material here.
- Review a short series of videos prepared by the Department of Labor on: Soft Skills for the Workplace
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA (1990) is a civil rights laws designed to make American society more accessible to people with disabilities. Title 1 of the act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment.
- See more information regarding Job Applicants and the ADA. There are samples of questions that can and cannot be asked during various stages of the interview and offer process.
- The ADA prohibits employers from asking questions that are likely to reveal the existence of a disability before making a job offer (i.e., the pre-offer period). This prohibition covers written questionnaires and inquiries made during interviews, as well as medical examinations. However, such questions and medical examinations are permitted after extending a job offer but before the individual begins work (i.e., the post-offer period)
- If asked a prohibited question during the interview, try to stay positive and focus on the intent (Can you do the job?) (e.g. If you are asked: “Do you have a disability”, or “What is your medical condition?” You can say something like: “I assure you that I am capable of performing this job. I would like to address any concerns that you have about the duties that I would be expected to perform……)
Disclosure is divulging or giving out personal information about a disability. The decision of whether to disclose is entirely up to you – there are no requirements to do so. The staff in Accessibility Resources or the Career Development Center are available to discuss pros and cons depending on your situation.
Your decision may be impacted by whether your disability is visible or nonvisible, whether you need accommodations to perform your best, etc.
- You must disclose to benefit from the protections afforded by the ADA
- If you need workplace or interview accommodations
- Many companies are actively seeking employees with disabilities to add to their talent pool
- It is perfectly fine to not disclose if you wish to keep your disability private, and you do not anticipate the need for job related accommodations
There is no universal right time. Depending on your situation, you may choose to disclose:
- In an application or cover letter
- Before an interview (If a modification to the interview process is needed)
- At the interview
- Before any medical or drug testing
- After you have the job offer
- Anytime during employment
Most employers appreciate accommodation discussions during the interview process. It shows confidence and acceptance of who you are, and most likely the employer will respect your candidness about your needs to perform effectively in the role. It is also important to request accommodations before your work performance is impacted. The staff in Accessibility Resources or the Career Development Center are available to discuss your individual situation with you.
If you have made the decision to disclose, spend some time preparing a script. Be brief, positive and focus on your ability to do the job. Succinctly mention your condition and what types of job accommodations would allow you to meet the job requirements. For example, you may say something like:
I have hearing loss and to be highly effective in this position as a lab assistant, it would be helpful to receive visual notifications of lab test completions. I can provide information on the inexpensive equipment modification that was used at my previous internship. By receiving visual notification, rather than relying on an audible buzzer, I was able to perform highly effectively in a high-volume lab environment.
You only need to disclose on a “need to know” basis. Your supervisor and the Human Resources department would be involved in preparing accommodations for you to perform your job effectively.
Federal law requires that an employer “provide reasonable accommodations to an employee or job applicant, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer”
The Job Accommodation Network(JAN) is a great resource that provides information on the ADA, disclosure, and options for accommodations by disability type. It is a free service provided by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).
Not for profit that connects students with disabilities to scholarships, internships
Information on initiatives to increase the number of employees with disabilities in the federal workforce. Discusses the Schedule A hiring process.
Bender Consulting Services partners with corporations and federal agencies to recruit, screen, and hire individuals with disabilities for career opportunities in a variety of competitive fields.
In addition to a magazine,
Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) – Recruitment and referral program that connects federal sector employers with college students and recent graduates with disabilities
Job search and networking resource for people with disabilities
Search for jobs online including a variety of training and consulting services
Includes a section for job seekers to post
Job search and news for all aspects of diversity
Online job board specifically for job seekers with disabilities in Massachusetts, and for the employers who seek to hire them.
Resource for workplace accommodations, ADA, and productivity enhancements
Resource for policy updates, career fairs/events, and general information.
Resource for understanding your rights and responsibilities under the law as a person with a disability
Information on disability programs and services in communities nationwide including employment, housing, benefits, health, and more
Disability Equality Index (DEI) helps achieve better disability inclusion through business partnerships
Ahead envisions educational and societal environments that value disability and embody equality of opportunity
A Student’s Guide to Disability Etiquette
Resources for citizens with disabilities in Massachusetts, including information on advocacy, intervention, disability determination services, job placement and training, and more. The vision of MRC is to promote equality, empowerment, and productive independence of individuals with disabilities.
Opportunity for students with disabilities to job shadow in a career of their interest
Competitive internship program for students with disabilities in science, engineering, and business
Competitive internship program for college students with disabilities. Applications are due in January for summer positions. Positions available in Congressional and IT positions
First nationwide non-profit community developer and financial institution focused exclusively on expanding entrepreneurial opportunities, including access to capital, for people with disabilities.
Transitioning individuals into a self-employment career that takes into consideration their past, present ability, and future. Provides business coaching to start your own business or help finding a franchise business in which to buy into and run.