If you have a disability, the job search can be difficult for a number of reasons: Some employers may have misconceptions about the requirements you'll need to succeed as an employee. Others might have myths about you (and your disability). Other, still, might be reticent to pay for workplace accomodations—even if recent studies have found that more than two thirds of accomodations cost less than $500.
Of course, that shouldn't deter you from finding the right job fit. And the golden rule in job-hunting is to focus on your skills—whether you have a disability or not. Here, we spoke to Frank Smith, the national coordinator for the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), about how to turn your disability into a position of strenth.
Focus on your strengths first. If you require accommodations, frame them, whether they're equipment or software, as tools that'll boost your productivity. “Say, 'I'm very productive. I write well. I present myself well. I work well in a team,’” says Smith. “’And my accommodations will make me that much more successful.’ Never apologize.”
Focus on the skills you've learned from your disability. Yes, there are the soft skills you've picked up — many have noted that PWDs can be creative problem-solvers. But there are hard skills, too. “You may have software or programming skills related to the accommodations your require,” adds Smith. “And those technical skills should be emphasized.”
Highlight your academic successes. This is especially crucial for students who have less work experience. Academic achievement can tell employers a lot about your intellect, your problem-solving abilities, and your perseverance. “If you're an outstanding student, you may have achieved bursaries, scholarships, awards,” says Smith. “These should definitely be presented.”
Highlight your non-work experience. Volunteer, or even hobby-related, experiences can be very telling of your skill-set. “Are you involved with community organizations or causes? Music or sports? Are you a blogger? Are you an expert in any particular area, even if it doesn't relate directly to your career or field of study?” asks Smith. “Put those experiences on your résumé. It shows you have a great deal to offer.”