Should I talk about my disability in a job interview?

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Question:

I use a wheelchair and have limited use of my hands. I have mastered voice-activated software, to the point where my word processing and data entry speed are just as good as someone who uses a manual keyboard. However, I'm concerned that prospective employers might not realize that I have these skills. Should I bring it up in an interview, or would that just call attention to my disability? 

Answer:

Some people recommend that applicants not talk about their disabilities during job interviews. After all, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking questions about your disability. And, you aren't under any obligation to bring it up. So why not focus on your abilities rather than your disability?

In some situations, this might be a good strategy. For example, if you have asthma that is largely controlled by medication, your employer may never know -- or need to know -- about your condition. There's no reason to introduce it at a job interview, as it has no bearing on your ability to do the work.

When you have an obvious disability, however, it's often a good idea to talk about it. You don't have to explain your condition, how it developed, your prognosis, or any other details (nor may your employer ask about them). But you may want to explain how you can do the job. For example, you might say, "I have held several data-entry positions at which I used XYZ voice-activated software. As my former employers can tell you, my productivity and efficiency using this software is just as high as employees who keyboard manually."

The ADA allows employers to ask questions about how you would perform the job's essential functions, and even to demonstrate how you would do so (if applicable). However, some employers are hesitant to ask any questions that might seem related to your disability, even though they have a legal right to make sure you can do the job. The result is that prospective employers might assume, incorrectly, that you aren't able to do the work. This is illegal, but you'd probably rather have a job than a legal claim. The best way to make sure you are putting your best foot forward is to explain how -- and how well -- you would do the job. After all, it's a job interview: You'll want to explain not only that you are physically capable of doing the job, but also that you are the best candidate, based on your skills, attitude, and so on. 

 

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