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Finding Employment When You Have a Disability

by Stephanie Barry, M.S., CCC-SLP of Independent Speech, LLC.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October 2009):

This month has been designated as National Disability Employment Awareness George W. Bush said, "During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that our Nation's promise extends to all our citizens. Millions of Americans live with disabilities, and many other Americans will become disabled at some point in their lives. To integrate people with disabilities more fully into every aspect of recognize the contributions of Americans with disabilities and to encourage all citizens to ensure equal opportunities in the workforce..."

"Expectation + Opportunity = Full Participation" is the official theme for this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It is intended to urge employers, as they seek to fill positions, to embrace the richness of Americaís diversity by considering the talents of all workers, including workers with disabilities.

This year's theme emphasizes the vision of the Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP): a world in which people with disabilities have unlimited employment opportunities. ODEP is the nationís first assistant secretary-led office that addresses policies that impact upon the employment of people with disabilities. The office provides national leadership on disability employment policy by developing and influencing the use of evidence-based disability employment policies and practices, building collaborative partnerships, and delivering authoritative and credible data on the employment of people with disabilities. (The U.S. Dept. of Labor press release)

Begin your search with an open mind, read through job listings thoroughly before deciding if it might be a something you want to apply for. When looking for a job, consider these things:

1) Assess your abilities. What can you do without interference from your disability? Make a list of possible jobs based on your unique abilities. Ask friends and family their opinions, they can provide useful information.

2) When looking for jobs take any opportunity to attend an interview even if you are not that interested in the job. This will help you practice at interviewing as well as allow you to learn more about the might like the job more after the interview.

3) Look for the 'Positive about disabled people' icon on job advertisements. Then you can be sure that they will be willing to make adjustments for you.

4) Conduct your job search in a variety of locations; check the internet, ask friends and family, look in the newspaper, etc.

During the interview discuss your disability honestly while playing up what you can bring to this position. While you must be honest about limitations be ready to prove that you can handle the requirements of the job such as describing similar things you have done in school or pervious job. Show you have a positive attitude and are willing to do whatever you can to get your job done.

Be honest about what accommodations you may need to do the job to the best of your abilities. Your employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations including any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant (or employee) with a disability to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodations can include anything from reduced work hours, special chairs, pencils, lights, built in break times, special computer equipment (larger monitor, etc), TTY line, etc. They should be willing to make reasonable adjustments. Also, do not be afraid to ask for changes later if through the course of work you discover things you didn't know about initially. As you begin working you will learn more about the job and what you need to be successful.

Enjoy the job search, remember it can take awhile to find a job. If you have patients and a positive attitude you just may find a job you love!

Stephanie Barry, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist and Educational Consultant
Tel: 602-793-2958

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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