College to Career Transition for Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities are sometimes apprehensive about their co-op jobs. Perhaps it is about the job search or interview process and if/how they will disclose their disabilities to an employer. Students also may be concerned about how they advocate for themselves once on co-op, not knowing how to ask for accommodations.
Drexel's Office of Disability Services (ODS) should be involved in this process if you wish to disclose while on your co-op job. ODS ensures that students receive accommodations on the job and can act as an advocate for any student who struggles to communicate effectively with his/her employers.
- It provides protective legislation for employers with 15 or more employees.
- It requires that reasonable accommodations must be provided to eligible employees who submit their request and supporting medical documentation substantiating a disability.
- It prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Employers who function under the ADA cannot ask if an individual has a disability. They cannot penalize an employee based only on the existence of a disability in any of the following aspects of a job : application, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, job duties and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.
Manner and duration of the condition- A person must have an ongoing or chronic condition/impairment for six months or more that is significantly impacting him/her on a daily basis.
Size of the company- If the company employs 15 or more individuals, the company is required to comply with federal legislation. Smaller companies may do what they can to accommodate but may not provide accommodations that would be too costly.
Does the accommodation directly mitigate limitations?- Any approved accommodation must serve to eliminate barriers that exist in the work environment for that specific person.
Undue hardship- An accommodation cannot cause an unreasonable financial or administrative burden on the employer.
Does the accommodation allow the person to fulfill their essential job functions?-Accommodations must not prevent a person from being able to perform the essential functions of his/her position.
Examples of Accommodations
For many students, the work accommodations requested may be the same as (or similar to) the accommodations needed in academic settings:
- Elevator access
- Adaptive equipment (phones, keyboards, desks, chairs) or computer software
- Sign language interpreting during an interview and on the job
- Regularly scheduled breaks for managing medications or health related obligations
- Flexible leave to undergo medical treatments
- Job restructuring
- You will need accommodations on the interview. If so, you will want to disclose before your interview (i.e., arrange for sign language interpreter or ensure wheelchair accessibility).
- You have a visible disability (i.e., blindness or a physical disability). You may wish to address this during the first face-to-face meeting with your employer. This would probably be the interview. This puts you in control of your identity and allows you the opportunity to focus on your strengths and skills, not your disability.
- You know you will need accommodations to perform the essential functions of your job. Typically, it is recommended that you are officially offered a job first before you disclose the need for accommodations
- Should you decide to disclose, you may do so at any time. Most people do not disclose before getting an official job offer. However, you may disclose in your resume, cover letter, interview or anytime you feel it is appropriate.
- Your personal philosophies on disabilities may contribute to when and how you disclose. Some feel that hiding their disability hides too much of who they are. Some people decide to disclose because they want to know that they are working for an open-minded employer.
- Should you decide to disclose to your employer, it is recommended that you spend a small portion of your time speaking about your disability and any related accommodations you are requesting. You may want to rehearse this in advance to determine how to give just enough, and not too much, detail. Be sure to follow this information with the strengths, experience, skills, education and interest you bring to the job!
- For the job search, make sure your resume, cover letter and interview skills are as strong as possible. Get extra help as needed from the staff and resources available at the Steinbright Career Development Center.
- Once on the job, develop good communication with your supervisor.
- Talk to your co-op coordinator about any problems/concerns you have while on the job.