Securing a job with a disability through supportive employment

Securing a job with a disability through supportive employment

Supportive employment maximizes effectiveness by making services culturally competent, integrating treatment for co-occurring disorders and implementing individualized employment goals.

The employment specialist can assist with planning for success, which may consist of looking at the effects on benefits, disclosure of mental illness, arranging for accommodations and other supports, money management, building applications and resumes, and many other factors.

The ultimate goal of supportive employment is to assist with identifying and alleviating barriers to employment and to assist with developing independence.

Job searching

When job hunting with a disability, there are some helpful factors to keep in mind. One of the first steps is to assess current strengths and limitations. By evaluating this first, it will provide for a better understanding of potential employment opportunities that will best fit individual needs.

This first step could be the biggest struggle for a person’s self-awareness: to really look at their barriers and to compare that with their most important accomplishments. Focusing on what you can do also may mean overcoming an obstacle or utilizing some outside resource, so it is OK to think outside the box here.

The employment specialist could be your main advocate in this stage and may assist with other barriers on top of the disability. For example, if you have felony charges, the specialist can help you explore your employment options and assist with making referrals to legal aid to potentially getting those charges sealed.

Applications and interview

Knowing your rights as a person with a disability may be one of the most important things to consider throughout your employment plan, and beginning the process of applying for jobs is where it might really come in handy. You do not have to disclose your disability to employers if it does not affect your job performance.

Many people wonder whether to disclose their disability on their resume or applications. It may be suggested to not mention the disability and dates of past job experiences on resumes and applications, in order to eliminate employment gaps.

If there have been medical-related absences, there are ways to fill that gap such as volunteer work, continuing education or other activities during that particular time away from work. The employment specialist can help you evaluate the pros and cons of disclosing your disability in the application and interview.

For example the cons of disclosing might be the employer could overlook you for team projects, that if something goes wrong, the disability may be blamed or the employer could find a different reason to fire you to not look discriminatory.

On the other hand, the pros of disclosing might include legal protections, accommodations or reduction of stress from keeping it a secret. These ideas also may transition into the interview phase.

If you have a visible disability, you might want to briefly discuss the circumstances to the interviewer and explain that it will not negatively affect your ability to perform the required job duties. Your employment specialist might help you practice responses to questions the employer might ask during the interview.

It might be suggested to provide examples of similar job experiences and tasks you’ve successfully accomplished to prove your ability to perform the job for which you are interviewing. You might frequently address your competency, strengths, skills and education.

In regards to employment laws, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects you from being discriminated in the workplace on the basis of your disability. An employer cannot ask you if you are disabled, but they can ask if you can perform necessary job duties with or without accommodations.

Unlimited support

Your employment specialist can provide on- or off-site job coaching in order to familiarize you with your new work environment and maintain success at your job. Supportive employment may offer additional support needed for you to handle difficulties that might arise in the workplace.

For example you might have conflict with your supervisor that involves the misunderstanding of the symptoms of mental illness. This could be an opportunity for your employment specialist to come on the job site to act as your advocate and to educate your supervisor on the realities of your symptoms and ideas for accommodations.

Lauren Keller, LSW, is an employment services social worker with the Counseling Center of Wayne and Holmes Counties - Employment Services Department.

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