1. Put People at Ease
Many people are awkward about interacting with someone with a disability — at least at first. The more comfortable you can make a prospective boss feel around you, the better he will feel about hiring you. How? “Self-confidence, a little humor and a little patience,” says Dan Ryan, author of Job Search Handbook for People with Disabilities. Also, deflect potentially problematic moments: For instance, Ivan Castro, who is blind, initiates handshakes, rather than waiting for someone to stick out a hand and wonder how he will manage to shake it.
2. Be Up Front
“When you have a disability, people see it before they see you,” says Ryan. While you shouldn’t disclose your handicap in your résumé or cover letter, Ryan suggests that you bring up the subject quickly in job interviews — and explain why your challenges won’t prevent you from doing the job as well as or better than a person without a disability. “If a person with a visible disability comes into an interview and the disability never comes up, all the interviewer can think about, probably, is the disability,” Ryan says. “That’s a bad sign.”
3. Don’t Go It Alone
Look for help — there is a lot out there. Start with the Job Accommodation Network, which maintains a database of resources to help people with disabilities function at work. Network with other people with disabilities; blind people, for example, can find mentors through the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect site. “Your best source of ideas is other people in the disability community,” says Dale S. Brown, author of several books on disabilities. “You’ll have a lot of questions; they’ll often have a lot of answers.”