Finding a job is tough! It can be extra challenging for people living with physical or mental disabilities; even the application process can present barriers, leaving people feeling excluded and frustrated. However, there have been some strong gains made in today’s workplaces when it comes to hiring people of all abilities and making places of employment more accessible. Let’s look at ways to give your job search a boost so that employers focus on your abilities…and not your disability.
- Focus your job search
First, make sure you know what kind of work you can do and focus on what you’ll be successful at. For example, if you can only work part-time, need a quiet work environment, or can’t lift heavy items, then begin your search with that in mind and research companies who might be a good fit first.
- Get help from outside sources
There are several programs funded by the government and non-profit organizations that can help you find work. Most people living with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities can access a variety of free employment counselling, training (or re-training) opportunities, work placements, job search supports and more. Talk to the staff at FOCUS Employment Services about the supports we offer and/or ones that we can refer you to.
- Leverage your strengths
Like any job seeker, it’s essential to highlight your experience and strengths to show that you’re a great fit for the job. Talk up your past successes at work, school or in the community and how you excelled in other positions. Be sure to collect great references who can vouch for you and your work.
Another thing to consider is that your disability itself is a type of strength! Hiring people with disabilities enhances a company’s brand or public image because it shows them actively embracing diversity, equality, and supporting others. It also means you’re pretty resilient – if you can tough it out at work while dealing with a disability, that shows you’ve got some grit, which is a great quality in an employee!
- Use technology and/or assistive devices
Technology is your friend! If you require specific equipment, software or other assistive devices to do your job (or to do it even better), ask around and do your research! Your employer may even qualify for some funding to help better accommodate you, so be sure to know which programs are available.
- Know your rights
In Canada, a person with a disability does not have to disclose their disability to an employer unless it specifically has to do with their ability to perform the job. For example, if a job posting states that “lengthy periods of standing are required”, then it’s assumed the applicant can do that. If you can’t stand because of your disability however, then you’re obliged to tell the employer.
Each individual case is very different – and personal – when it comes to whether or not you should tell your employer about your disability…and if so, when. Talking about it can lead to positive changes, as employers are legally obligated to provide ‘reasonable accommodations’, but there may be instances where an employer doesn’t understand or doesn’t feel they can meet the individual’s needs. There are clear laws to protect all people with disabilities, so be sure you understand your rights in the workplace or work with an advocacy group who can help you.
- Address any concerns up front
Employers want to know that their employees will be safe at work, attendance will be good (or if not, that there’s a backup plan in place), and production levels will be strong. With this in mind, it’s important to alleviate concerns with a potential employer and assure them that you are capable and competent. However, you may need be forthcoming and explain certain issues such as: “I won’t be able to use the elevator if there’s a fire or drill, so I’ll need help down the stairs”, or perhaps, “There may be some days where I’ll need to attend medical appointments during work hours, but that I’ll make up the time however works best.”
Don’t struggle alone to find your next job; connect with the experienced, supportive team at FOCUS Employment Services. We’re here to help you land that dream job where you (and NOT your disability!) can really stand out! Call us today or stop in to one of our locations in Alliston or Angus.