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"Opening Doors to Success"

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Small Group Discussions

Following the presentations, participants broke into small groups for discussion. Each group was assigned a specific question to consider.

Would you disclose your disability before and/or during a job interview? If so, why? If not, why not?

Participants had various views on the topic, saying that applicants should disclose:

  • Only if it is relevant
  • After being hired (so that the decision is not biased but based on skills)
  • Before the hiring decision (so that employers are aware of the accommodations needed)
  • Based on the individual and the job

Disclosure also depends upon several factors:

  • Level of education (i.e. gaps in qualifications, or gaps in resumé because of a focus on education)
  • One's own comfort level
  • The degree of acceptance within the company
  • The type of disability?if it has no bearing on the job (or if the person's coping skills make it irrelevant), then it need not be disclosed
  • The "visibility" of the disability

There are three opportunities to disclose: in the cover letter, during the interview, and when a job offer is made. Disclosing gives the candidate an opportunity to get information on the company's attitude toward people with disabilities. Disclosure of one's disability could open a door.

This issue relates to the honesty of both employer and employee, participants said. One participant said he would not disclose because his specialty is woodworking and he is visually impaired. He said that disclosure could cause a potential employer to doubt his competence, so he would disclose after he was hired.

Those who favoured disclosing right away talked about the importance of honesty and noted that employers need to make appropriate accommodations. Without disclosure, the working relationship could be jeopardized. They noted that employers do not just have to accommodate those with disabilities-they must accommodate many people (e.g. people with families).

Some participants said that they would disclose if applying for a job online, so that there were no surprises. Keyword searches are also a possibility-employers may be seeking to hire a person with a disability.

Participants were split on disclosing on one's resumé. Some said it would be important in conveying an accurate image of the applicant.

Why do you think there is a high unemployment rate among graduates with disabilities?

Some reasons for the high unemployment rate include:

  • The physical demands of the job (e.g. police, fire department)
  • Lack of contacts/networking
  • The frequent need to focus solely on one's studies, and the resulting lack of additional experience or involvement in other organizations
  • Lack of support available to students: there is a need for a strategy on the part of either government or service providers
  • Lack of capacity to complete a full course load as well as having summer employment

What skills do you think are the most sought after by industry today?

Skills that are valued include:

  • Adaptability
  • Ability to follow instructions
  • Technology awareness
  • Multi-tasking
  • Problem solving skills
  • Ability to demonstrate skills
  • Multiple skills
  • Multiple language skills
  • Computer literacy
  • Communications skills
  • Computer skills
  • Ability to work well in a team or independently
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to recognize limitations
  • Versatility
  • Flexibility
  • Motivation
  • Leadership skills
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Willingness to work hard

What characteristics make a successful student leader?

Valuable characteristics include:

  • Ability to influence/convince others
  • Ability to adapt to change
  • Problem-solving skills
  • A positive attitude
  • Flexibility
  • Commitment
  • Team player
  • Public-speaking skills
  • Any communication skills
  • Awareness of issues
  • Open-mindedness
  • Enthusiasm
  • Patience
  • Self-advocacy
  • Good mediation skills (facilitation)
  • A positive attitude and the ability to bring out the best in others

What method(s) do you use to learn about possible employment opportunities?

Strategies for learning about possible employment opportunities include:

  • Using the Internet
  • Networking with others (friends and family)
  • Co-ops, internships, or practicums
  • Newspaper "workplace" sections
  • Career centres
  • Career fairs
  • Volunteering
  • Department postings
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Employment agencies
  • Cold calling

All contents copyright ©, 2002,
National Educational Association of Disabled Students. All rights reserved.