Five Tips on Going on an Interview in a Wheelchair
I work in an accessible library in a rehabilitation hospital that caters specifically to patrons in wheelchairs. Most of these patients suffer from spinal cord injury, brain injury or amputation. Some of the patients are very eager to get out of the hospital and back into a normal life. However, most patients I serve are struggling on how they will function in the real world in a wheelchair. I am glad I am able to offer these patients library services, because it really makes them feel good when they can read a book or use a computer. I feel these simple things are big steps in living life in a wheelchair.
A lot of these patients will have to go back to work or find a new job after getting out of the hospital. I was inspired by INALJ blogs previously written on this subject: Job Hunting and Interviewing when you have a Disability and Should you List Your Disability on your Cover Letter or Resume? I wanted to write my own tips for job hunting and interviewing with a disability since I work with patients with disabilities in the library, and I feel I could inspire them in some way. There is a lot on this subject beyond all the blog posts that have and will be written. I decided to focus specifically with the community I work with: patrons in wheelchairs.
1. Know your rights. Under the American Disabilities Act, you do not have to answer any questions about your disability until you are offered the job. This means if asked any questions about being in a wheelchair, you do not have to answer these questions. To ask about your disability is illegal. If asked any questions, try to flip the conversation to something about your skills and abilities.
2. Prepare information if you need an accommodation. While an employer is not allowed under the ADA to ask you about your disability, they can ask if you need an accommodation before they offer you a job. You can ask for an accommodation at any time from when you apply to when you work for the company. But the sooner the better so the employer will know how to make the job work for you. For example, if you will need a ramp to get into the building, put that in writing to the employer.
3. Put everything in writing. Make sure anything you need from this job to help with your disability, put it in writing. It’s professional and can cause less mistakes and conflict in the workplace.
4. Ask questions! Asking questions is great. First of all it shows the interviewer you are interested in the job. Asking questions about the company shows you did your homework. Ask questions about your job tasks, to make sure you will be able to perform them. Make sure you ask questions about what accommodations you will need. Find out what computers/equipment you would be using. Ask about your work area, will it be able to accommodate you? Also if you do not drive, find out if there is a public transportation or a shuttle that can get you to work. You need to find out if this job will be a good and safe fit for you.
5. In between the interview and accepting the offer, ask for a tour. This way you can see your workspace and the building and you will be able to find out what accommodations you will need. You will be able to see how you will enter and exit the building and how you will get around the building while working. Find out where the bathrooms are and the emergency exits. Again you are doing this to find out if this job with the accommodations will be a good fit for you. It is all about fit.
I hope my tips are helpful for those in wheelchairs going on interviews as well as those doing the interviewing!
Here are a few more additional resources: