Hello and welcome back to A Nu You: Maximizing Life with a Disability! Today’s topic is employment and finding a career. Yes, you can have a disability and have a job. Yes, you can have a disability and a rewarding career. Yes, you can have a disability and earn a great salary, obtain medical benefits, have a 401k retirement plan and everything else that a person without a disability can acquire when finding a job.
You may be wondering how in the world you can do this. By asking this real question, more than likely, you are focusing more on what you can’t do rather than what you can do. I have worked for several for-profit and not-for-profit corporations and have also run my own business for 17+ years. In addition, for the last four years I have run Raise Hope Foundation that helps people with mobility disabilities find rewarding careers. The key to success of some of our trainees has been the empowerment factor. We, as people with disabilities, must feel empowered, both personally and professionally, and believe that we can do the job and do it effectively. This is essential in a professional setting because we are competing with able-bodied individuals for jobs.
When determining whether or not you want to work full-time, part-time and even telecommunicating (working from home), you must be real and honest with yourself. The answers to these questions will be generated by examining your disability. You know what you have to do on a daily basis to manage your disability. Will you still be able to do what is needed effectively if you work full-time or even part-time? It is extremely important to be honest with yourself and eventually be honest with your employer when it comes to managing your disability and what that entails.
While there are rules and regulations that require a corporation of a certain size to make their office space as well as their equipment accessible for people with disabilities, it is always wise to do your research on a potential employer. As a potential employee of a company, I recommend your research includes finding out if there are other people who work at the company you are considering or have worked there in the past. If you are able to locate someone who works or has worked there, contact this individual and ask him/her all the questions that you may have to get some peace of mind. If you are unable to locate someone who has worked at the company it does not mean you should not pursue any opportunities there. This simply means you may have to ask more questions and intensify your research to ensure it is the best environment for you.
When lining up an interview with a company, you do not have to disclose that you have a disability, but I would strongly encourage you do so. It says a lot about you and your character. When you actually go on an interview, do not begin your conversation with the disclosure of your disability. However, prepare to answer a question or questions in which you can utilize an example of something that you have learned through living your life with a disability. I have had employers tell me that some of the answers they have heard related to one’s disability have been “game-changers” and have separated them from other applicants for the job.
Lessons learned through living your life with a disability can make you stand out, be unique and be the breath of fresh air that your potential employer may be seeking. Pick your moment and share. Furthermore, when you do ask questions regarding accessibility and talk about your disability, be honest, but do not have the tone of your conversation be translated as a weakness. Instead, leverage your disability and turn it into a strength of yours.
Here are your Nu Challenges for the week:
- Determine, based on the time it takes for you to manage your disability, whether it is best for you to work full-time, part-time or from home.
- Do your research on a company and see if they have any current employees with disabilities, and if so, ask to speak with them. If no one has a disability there, continue your research.
- Leverage your disability during the interviewing process and always put your disability in a positive light, focusing on what it has taught you.
If you have any questions or comments regarding today’s topic, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Until next time, when we will be talking about sports and recreation, thanks for listening and playing full out in creating A Nu You!