North Dakota’s economy is booming! This means that you have a chance to choose from jobs in a wide variety of fields. Disability or not, you can find a job if you’re willing to do what it takes to get one.
Self-advocacy and self-determination
Self-advocacy and self-determination may be the two most important skills you take to the workplace. These are “real world” skill sets. Understanding what they mean is important.
Self-advocacy. This term means the ability to speak and act on behalf of yourself. Self-advocacy is a key skill in the workplace and in life, whether or not you have a disability.
Self-determination. This term means that you accept responsibility for creating the kind of life you want. It means that you:
- Advocate for yourself.
- Make your own decisions after getting information from other informed people.
- Accept and learn from the consequences of your decisions.
- Control your own actions.
- Set and achieve your own goals.
- Solve your own problems.
- Become as independent as possible.
- Understand your rights and responsibilities and the employer’s rights and responsibilities. This is important whether or not you have a disability.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
If you have a disability, you need to be aware of how it may affect your job performance. Research the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at http://www.adainformation.org/. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government services and transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications.
If you have a disability and are preparing to enter the workforce, you will need to decide whether to tell your potential employer about your disability. Telling is called “self-disclosure.” When it comes to self-disclosure, there are two important terms: reasonable accommodations and essential job functions.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a change to a work site or job that makes it possible for an otherwise qualified employee with a disability to do the job. When you ask for reasonable accommodations from a potential employer, they must consider your request. Reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to:
- Modifying a work station
- Modifying a work schedule
- Installing adaptive or assistive technology
To know whether you need a reasonable accommodation for a job you’re applying for, ask yourself:
- What are the key functions of the job?
- Will my disability interfere with performing these key functions?
Important information about reasonable accommodations
- An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation if it doesn’t create a hardship for the business.
- Reducing performance standards below that of other employees is NOT a reasonable accommodation.
- If you can’t perform a job with reasonable accommodations, you are not qualified for the job.
What is an essential job function?
An essential job function is the minimum required duties necessary to the job. Understanding the essential functions of the job is important to the interview process, whether you learn them before the interview or ask about them during the interview.
Based on your understanding of the essential functions, you will have to decide during the interview whether a reasonable accommodation is needed and whether to raise the issue.
Important information about essential job functions
- Ask yourself whether your disability will keep you from performing the key functions of the job if the employer doesn’t make reasonable accommodations.
- If you can’t do the job without a reasonable accommodation, the employer can consider either providing a reasonable accommodation or not requiring you to perform the key function.
- If your inability to perform the essential function has nothing to do with your disability, you should be considered on the same terms as other applicants.
When to disclose your disability
An employer cannot legally ask disability or medical questions in an interview. Unless a job is offered, the employer may not have you submit to a medical examination—that is, unless they require ALL applicants to have the medical examination.
There is a difference between having a disability and having disability job-related limitations.
- Information about your disability which employers DO NOT need to know and DO NOT have a right to ask for include:
- Its definition
- Why or how it began
- Its effects and prognoses
- Past, present and future medical treatment.
- Disability job-related limitations, on the other hand, are about your need for a reasonable accommodation. The potential employer may need disability information about you:
- If you request a reasonable accommodation
- Or if the employer can’t evaluate performance of the essential functions with your disability
Limit what you disclose. Focus only on how your disability will affect your ability to do the job. You have the right not to discuss or disclose your disability if you don’t need to ask for reasonable accommodations.
Important information about self-disclosure
- Employers are required to accommodate only disabilities that they know about.
- A potential employer has the right to ask you if you can perform the essential functions of the job.
The 3 if’s
You may need to disclose your disability in order to continue the job interview if:
- An employer asks if you can perform an essential function and your answer is “no” because of your disability
- You request a reasonable accommodation
- Your disability is obvious to the employer and causes reasonable concerns about your ability to perform the essential functions
More helpful hints about self-disclosure:
- If your disability requires a reasonable accommodation, request it. Then emphasize how much it will help you contribute to the business. Remember, the employer’s job is to add value to the business, not to your life.
- If your disability doesn’t require a reasonable accommodation but is obvious, assume that the employer has doubts about how well you can do the job. Disclose so that you can explain that you can perform the job without any accommodation.
- Don’t bring up your disability if it isn’t obvious and won’t affect your ability to perform the essential functions.
Job Service ND: www.jobsnd.com/
Provides many online and on-site services to help people find jobs. Also helps businesses find and keep qualified employees.
ND Division of Vocational Rehabilitation: www.nd.gov/dhs/dvr/
Helps North Dakotans with disabilities find and keep jobs. Helps North Dakota businesses find reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
Tribal 121 Vocational Rehabilitation Projects: www.nd.gov/dhs/dvr/tribal121/
Bridges cultural traditions and values to expand job opportunities. These projects offer understanding of the local, cultural, and family needs in the Indian Nations.
Quentin Burdick Job Corps: http://quentinnburdick.jobcorps.gov/home.aspx
A no-tuition education and career technical training program for people age 16-24.
Operation Intern: http://operationintern.com/v1/
Administered from the North Dakota Department of Commerce. Designed to increase internship, work experience, and apprenticeship positions in North Dakota.
Registered Apprenticeships: www.workforce.nd.gov/programs/apprenticeship/
Provides training in many jobs. Helps employers build and maintain a skilled workforce.