Though many employers proudly declare themselves an “equal opportunity employer,” individuals who identify with a disability may still wonder how their disability impacts the opportunities available to them. I have worked with countless clients living with chronic illness, physical or cognitive impairments, and/or a mental health diagnosis; many of whom believe their career choices are limited because of their condition or that they will be negatively evaluated if they disclose their disability to a potential employer.
If you are experiencing a disability, you might consider the following when looking for work and/or making career decisions:
– First of all, know your rights. The Alberta Human Rights Commission asserts if an individual is able to carry out the bona fide occupational requirements of a given role with reasonable accommodations (i.e., that do not cause undue financial or other hardship to the employer), that individual cannot be overlooked for the position. Talk to your doctor, a mental health professional, or an accessibility specialist to identify what accommodations might be necessary for you, and obtain the appropriate documentation to make the request. See the Alberta Human Rights website for more information.
– If you experience an invisible disability (i.e., a learning disability or mental health issue), it is your choice how, when, and if you choose to disclose the disability (i.e., before the interview, at the interview, after an offer letter, or not at all, etc.). If you require some accommodations to help you succeed, such as the ability to work from home or use special technology, it may be in your best interest to disclose. Research the employer to see what their history is with hiring individuals with disabilities and try to anticipate what reactions you might receive should you choose to disclose.
– If you experience a visible disability, be open and approachable about how it impacts you and the ways you might need support. Others may feel uncomfortable addressing the obvious, so the more comfortable you are, the more comfortable others will be. It might even be helpful to let others know what language you prefer to use to discuss your disability or limitations.
– Be careful about assuming someone is judging you for your disability. The Alberta Human Resources and Employment guide suggests taking a “wait and see” approach before taking someone’s behaviour or comments personally or becoming reactive. There may be misconceptions or stereotypes at play which you can better address once you have a sense of the situation.
Know that you can do it! Most employers are willing to work with their staff to help them succeed. As well, often times our limitations can seem glaring to us, but, in reality, may be unobserved by others. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and communicate your preferences.
For more information, check out the following websites:
Alberta Human Rights Commission
Champions Career Centre
Calgary Alternative Support Services
Linkup Employment Services for People with Disabilities
Registered Provisional Psychologist
Calgary Career Counselling
References: Alberta Human Rights Commission, The Alberta Human Resources and Employment Guide: Tips for Job Seekers with Disabilities
Career counselling with a Registered Psychologist or Career Coach is an excellent way to make career decisions and find a fulfilling career direction. The process of career counselling includes personality, interest and values assessments, and coaching sessions to ensure you find the right career path for you. All career counsellors at Calgary Career Counselling are Master’s- and Ph.D.-level Psychologists and Career Coaches with extensive experience helping people reach their full potential.
We’re a private organization offering fee-based services, but many extended health plans cover Registered Psychologists. Further, we regularly donate our time to helping those in need with career planning presentations and individual career counselling. Our current relationships include The Calgary Women’s Immigrant Association and Discovery House.
Calgary Career Counselling Office: Suite 305 - 1167 Kensington CR NW Calgary, Alberta T2N 1X7 (403) 261-5085