Students and alums with disabilities have unique considerations as they search for a supportive, inclusive, and affirming places to work. The search for employment can be even more challenging if you are a person living with a disability. Questions may come up for you that another job seeker may not have to consider or answer.

As staff and allies at the Career Center, we strive to:  

  • Provide a welcoming, affirming, and flexible career services support model  
  • Encourage students with disabilities to discover and explore their individual talents and skills, and make more informed choices about employer selection  
  • Increase awareness of the variety of resources and services available to support students with disabilities in making informed and reflective career decisions.  
  • Challenge assumptions and stereotypes within our day-to-day interactions with UVM students, faculty, and staff  

The Career Center is here to support you with your job search process and discuss your individual experience. We also partner with UVM’s Student Accessibility Services  and ADA/504 Coordinator, should you have more specific questions around your legal rights and disclosure.   

You may wonder how a future employer could make accommodations for you, or if there are organizations/companies that help people with disabilities find employment. Check out the resources below:

Am I Protected Under the ADA?

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) has a very broad definition of disability. Anything related to your physical and/or mental health that impacts life activities may be protected under the ADA. In summary, the ADA was established to protect those with a disability or those perceived as having a disability from discrimination in the workplace. If you would like to read the full definition of disability, please follow the link to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  

It is important to note that having general knowledge of ADA and your rights is vital, should you need to request an accommodation at your workplace at any point. An individual’s physical and/or mental health may or may not change over time, so this is important information to consider as you are entering the workplace.

What the ADA Means for Your Job Search

This section is adapted from The College of William and Mary Disability Careers Information Portal 

It is illegal for employers covered under the ADA to discriminate against a qualified applicant with a disability.

  • An applicant with a disability must still meet all requirements for the position, including education, skills, and training.   
  • An applicant with a disability must be able to perform all “essential duties” of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.   

An employer must make reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability during the interview process.   

  • It is important for you to consider in advance any accommodation that you might need in order to access the interview process. It might be good to consider inquiring about the format of the interview ahead of time to help determine whether an accommodation may be necessary.
  • It is important to request accommodations for an interview well in advance so that the employer can make necessary arrangements.   

An employer may not ask questions regarding disability prior to making a job offer.   

  • An employer may not inquire about disability at any point prior to extending a job offer, including during an application or interview.   
  • An employer may ask about the ability to complete functions essential to the job as long as the questions are not phrased to elicit the presence of a disability.   
  • Questions that an employer cannot ask include:
    • Do you have a disability that would affect your performance on the job?  
    • Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?
    • Are you currently taking any prescription drugs?

If an employer asks a question regarding a disability, you need to decide how you would like to respond. You may decline to answer, as it is against the law for them to do so.   

An employer must make reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability during employment.   

  • Private, non-profit, and charity organizations with fewer than 15 employees are not always required to be in compliance with the ADA, so it is important to do research on any organization/company that you are applying to in order to better understand what, if any, processes they have in place to support employees with disabilities.
  • If you have questions about any organization’s ADA-related processes, it is best to contact their HR department.
  • Employers are required to have an interactive process with you about your accommodations and decisions cannot be made unilaterally.
  • Employers are able to choose among effective options for accommodation.
  • Employers do not have to make accommodations that cause an “undue hardship.” However there should be an interactive discussion about this as part of your accommodation process.
  • Employers do not have to remove essential functions or alter the job requirements due to a disability. 

Considerations Regarding Disability Disclosure and Disability 

It is very important to carefully consider what information you are disclosing and to whom you are disclosing information to, when you enter the working world. While people have different comfort levels in terms of information-sharing, it’s important to make a well-informed decision as it relates to your personal information. The Career Center is here to support you in partnership with UVM’s Student Accessibility Services  and ADA/504 Coordinator, as you consider what you may/may not want to disclose.

Keep in mind that as part of an accommodation process, you may be required to share documentation of your disability. However, you do not have to disclose information about your disability outside of an organization’s designated accommodation process. To ensure confidentiality and privacy of your personal information, individuals can focus on accommodation requests vs. disability disclosures up-front, and ask to be directed to the appropriate organizational process before getting too in-depth.

Pro Tip: Familiarize yourself early-on with an employer's Benefits and/or ADA Human Resources point of contact, so you can have a confidential resource should you need to request an accommodation. If an individual discloses a disability/diagnosis to anyone who does not manage the formal accommodation request process (i.e. a colleague or even supervisor in the workplace), the individual’s information is no longer private.

Pro Tip: Reach out to an employer of interest and ask if they can get you in touch with Human Resources professional who can serve as your point of contact when requesting an accommodation. Once you request an accommodation, this should lead to an interactive process where you are directed to what you are required to disclose.

Lastly, many people with disabilities never disclose this information to employers as they feel that it is unimportant in the context of their work. While you may not feel like you have to hide a disability, you should not feel that you have to share it outside of the designated accommodation process. However, not disclosing through an organization’s formal process could likely jeopardize your ability to receive accommodations.

Job Search Resources  

Finding Support On-Campus and Beyond

Resources for disability job boards and job assistance