Finding a Job that is Right for You: A Practical Approach to Looking for a Job as a Person with a Disability
Congratulations! You received the job. Obviously you have the skills and abilities the employer was seeking. After settling into the new job you may decide you want to advance in the company and need help to do so. This final section provides information about what you can do to advance and grow in the new job.
Starting a new job can be stressful. What can I do to make the transition easier?
About.com suggests several tips to reduce new job stress and how to find out how to fit into your new position.
How can I learn the ropes of the company?
A mentor is someone at work who has experience, knowledge, and is willing to share this with you. There is never a time when a mentor cannot help you. Look for and find someone who can give you knowledge, expertise, and access to information at your new job you would not get otherwise. For more information about how to establish a mentor relationship, go to "How to Develop a Mentor Relationship at Work."
What are other steps I should take to promote myself at work?
It is important to build a good reputation at work. Without a good reputation, others may be hesitant about wanting to work with you and limit your success on the job. For additional information, see:
What can I do to get to know my co-workers?
Some suggestions are:
- Look and see who of your new co-workers helps others. Know that they may be a resource for you.
- Be matter of fact about your disability but do not focus on it.
- Understand that your new co-workers may know little about disability so be understanding about mistakes they may make.
- Make the effort to go around the workplace and introduce yourself.
- Go to work with confidence and a smile.
- Be yourself . . . some people will be comfortable around you after a while and other may never be no matter what you do.
I am having problems doing my job due to my disability. What do I do?
If, due to a disability, your productivity is below what is expected of your job, you may wish to ask for a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are usually done resulting in an equal employment opportunity for you as an individual with a disability.
If you need help asking for an accommodation or suggestions to do the job effectively, contact JAN to discuss potential accommodation options.
Reasonable accommodations can include modifications to the facility, changes in the job process, and assistive technology allowing you to perform at the expected performance standards. Because your employer would not have to excuse poor performance, it is advisable for you to know your limitations and expectations.
Asking for an accommodation before there is a continuing performance problem can help you from being disciplined on the job. An accommodation request is usually initiated by you and may be requested verbally or in writing. For information on how to put your request in writing, visit http://askjan.org/media/accommrequestltr.html.
The EEOC, the federal agency charged with enforcing the ADA, discusses requesting reasonable accommodation in its enforcement guidance regarding psychiatric disabilities. This guidance states "when an individual decides to request accommodation, the individual or his/her representative must let the employer know that s/he needs an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. To request accommodation, an individual may use "plain English" and need not mention the ADA or use the phrase "reasonable accommodation." However, the EEOC suggests individuals with disabilities might find it useful to document accommodation requests in the event there is a dispute about whether or when they requested accommodation. Further, the guidance states requests for accommodation "may be requested on behalf of an individual with a disability . . . by a "family member, friend, health professional, or other representative."
If I did not disclose a disability when I was hired, can I still ask for a reasonable accommodation?
You always have the right to request an accommodation. Often people with disabilities do not need an accommodation when first hired for a job. If the job or the employee's condition changes, then there may be a need for an accommodation. An employer could not deny you this request solely because you have not previously disclosed your disability. However, employers could refuse to accommodate if there is an undue hardship or if they feel you are not a person with a disability.
What kind of medical questions can my employer ask after I have requested an accommodation?
When an employee requests an accommodation and the disability or need for accommodation is not obvious, an employer may require that the employee provide medical documentation to establish that the employee has an ADA disability and needs the requested accommodation. According to guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, requests for medical information unrelated to the accommodation request are not permitted.
For additional information, visit: Enforcement Guidance: Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/guidance-inquiries.html.
If I am not sure I want to tell my employer about my disability, do I have to?
If you need a reasonable accommodation in order to perform essential job functions, you should inform the employer an accommodation will be needed. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation only for the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability. Generally, under the ADA it is an individual's responsibility to inform an employer that an accommodation is needed.
Voluntary disability disclosure is a personal choice and refers to telling your employer and/or fellow co-workers about your physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental health disability. Once employed, many people with disabilities disclose when their disability is affecting work performance. Other people disclose when their disability begins affecting their relationships with co-workers or supervisors, while others make the choice to disclose in order to reduce the stress caused by hiding their disability.
Disclosure can be an opportunity to provide an employer, manager, or co-worker with accurate, first-hand information about the disability as well as strategies successfully used to accommodate a particular disability. This discussion with the employer, supervisor, or other employees may also serve to dispel myths and misconceptions concerning a particular disability.
Many employees choose not to disclose. Some are not yet comfortable talking about their disabilities or have had a bad experience - discrimination, prejudice, or rejection, - when disclosing. Others fear future progress in the organization will be limited. Some do not disclose because their disabilities are not affecting either their work performance or their relationships in the workplace.
How do I know what kind of reasonable accommodation I need?
Reasonable accommodation ideas may come from personal, educational, or professional experiences. For example, you may use a reaching device at home better enabling you to reach high and low objects; or possibly you had used a software program in college helping you organize your work; or maybe you had a different mouse at another job increasing the information you were able to enter into the computer. If you have developed strategies or have used equipment to successfully accommodate your disability, then you may want to share this with your employer. However, if you have not needed an accommodation before and do not know where to start, call JAN. JAN is a free service where teams of accommodation experts help guide you through the accommodation process. JAN also has a Website with publications containing accommodation suggestions for disabilities frequently discussed by JAN consultants and an interactive Website called the Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR). SOAR asks you about your situation and then leads you to accommodation suggestions, including information on where to buy a product if one is suggested.
To learn more about JAN go to: Customized Solutions for Today's Workforce: The Job Accommodation Network" url is http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/jan.htm
Is there a typical process followed for accommodating employees with disabilities at work?
Every workplace is different. Large corporations have human resource departments and policy and procedures designed to inform employees of how certain things are done. Other businesses are smaller and may not be as detailed in terms of rules and processes to follow. Look through any materials you were given upon hire to see if a reasonable accommodation process is mentioned. If there is not a process in place, then you may want to read through JAN's publication Job Accommodation Process. This publication provides a step-by-step process employers can follow when making accommodation decisions.
For a list of disability-specific workplace accommodations, please go to JAN's A to Z. .