National Disability Employment Awareness Month: How to Navigate the Workforce with a Disability

For National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I reflected on the ways my career has grown over the past few years. I started my career in disability advocacy and I hope to apply what I have learned to my passion for engineering. I have applied to many job openings and have had many interviews in fields such as marketing, advertisement, retail, STEM, and government. While I am no expert, I would love to share with you what employment means to me as a person with a disability and what I have learned in the workforce.

Employment Brings Independence

Having the ability to be employed is an act of independence. It allows individuals access to a paycheck, employer benefits and income stability. For many, employment is a major goal and the disability community has historically been excluded from this opportunity.

Employment Provides Education

Employment can bring educational opportunities. Internships and work studies are one way to learn on the job. Your employer might also offer a scholarship program or give you access to educational opportunities.

Some Tips When Looking for Employment

Here are a few things I have learned about networking and some resources to consider.

Networking and Using LinkedIn

National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

Even the smallest of jobs can offer networking opportunities. Stay in touch with your co-workers and supervisors via email or LinkedIn. This is also a great way to learn about employment opportunities. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for researching employers. If you are looking for a way to connect with an employer that has good hiring practices, search online for individuals who are open about their disability and work in the same field as you. Chances are, they can answer your question or know someone who can.

Do Not Disclose Your Disability Status

This was a mistake I made because of good intentions. I am a nerd for statistics. I assumed companies used the disclosure data to improve their hiring practices. While no one can be sure if they are being discriminated against for disclosing a disability, it’s better to be safe and not disclose any information. Have two separate resumes: one resume contains disability related experience and the other resume focuses on non-disability experience. This piece of advice sounds a little weird, but employers may exclude you for simply being associated with a disability.

About Riley Hurt: Riley lives in Salem, Oregon, and uses a Stretto Power Wheelchair for mobility. Riley is enrolled in college, pursuing electrical and computer engineering. She hopes to make her future field more inclusive for people with disabilities. Click here to learn more about Riley.

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