Resources for Reedies with disabilities
Welcome to our resource page for Reedies with disabilities! Here, you can find some resources and information we’ve compiled to help you navigate the world of internships, jobs, and scholarships as a student with disabilities. No matter the nature of your disability, CLBR understands the unique challenges you may face, and we’re here to help you with everything from ableist employers and dealing with discrimination, to concerns about accessibility, disclosure, and more. We’d love to meet with you to talk about disability issues and your life beyond Reed - there’s more information about planning to meet with us at the bottom of this page. We can meet you wherever you are, both literally and metaphorically. And finally, we have done our best to think about the barriers you face - but also the opportunities that you uniquely bring to a workplace or graduate school as a person with disabilities. We want to empower you to reach for whatever success means to you, bring your talents to the world, and live with purpose. And finally, we know we aren’t perfect: if you notice any ways we could improve this page, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Opportunities for students with disabilitiess (internships, fellowships, scholarships, conferences…)
We don’t mean to brag, but one thing Reed is great at is connecting Reedies with internships, fellowships, and funding. All of the general opportunities you’ve probably heard about are open to people with disabilities, of course. However, in addition, there are a multitude of opportunities that are specifically and only for students with disabilities. Because there are fewer of these, a downside can be that they’re more spread out across the country (although if money to travel is a barrier for you, you can always apply for funding through Reed or nationally). However, there are also perks: because these opportunities are only open to people with disabilities, you may feel less like you're expected to compensate for your disability; you know you’ll be placed with an employer or organization who’s interested in working with people with disabilities; and, of course, there are incredible opportunities you may not otherwise get. Here are some of these programs. If you’d like support in searching for more or in applying, come in and speak with us!
- Lime Connect is a global nonprofit organization that offers a wide range of programs and opportunities for high potential university students with disabilities, including scholarships, fellowships, and networking events.
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)’s Entry Point! program offers internship opportunities for students with disabilitiess in the STEM and business fields.
- In cooperation with Microsoft, the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD) offers a summer internship program that places college students, graduate students, and recent graduates with disabilities in summer internships with Congress members, federal agencies, nonprofits, and for-profit organizations in the Washington, D.C. area.
- The Washington Center’s Leadership Initiative for Students with Disabilities offers several competitive scholarships for students with disabilities to participate in civic engagement and government internships and other programs in Washington, D.C.
- Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) is an annual Boston conference that aims to help college students and recent graduates with disabilities gain tools and knowledge necessary for career success through networking with major employers.
- The National Endowment for the Arts offers several grants for individuals with disabilities seeking funding for creative writing or translating projects.
- The Viscardi Center places college students with disabilities in internships at a wide spectrum of businesses nationwide.
- The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) offers a Disability Rights Storytellers Fellowship, a program that provides an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to learn and apply skills in digital media storytelling.
- The AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award recognizes outstanding emerging leaders with disabilities who exemplify leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community. Recipients receive $2,500 in recognition of their outstanding contributions and $7,500 to further a new or existing initiative that increases the political and economic power of people with disabilities.
- Careers2B is an organization that reserves spaces in partner companies for participants with disabilities to fill for 12 months in order to give them some career experience and increase their marketability.
- RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program offers competitive fellowships, both paid and unpaid, for young leaders who are committed to disability issues and plan to go into careers in public policy, advocacy, communications, fundraising, nonprofit management, or faith-based inclusion.
- Finally, we highly recommend the Office of National Fellowships’s fellowship search page to learn of even more opportunities - you can search for ability-specific opportunities using the search bar on the left side of the page.
Online Job Searching Tools:
We encourage you to take advantage of Reed’s Handshake, Vault, GoinGlobal, LinkedIn, and all the other job searching tools available to Reedies, so that you know about as many opportunities as possible. In addition to those, there are some job searching tools specifically for people with disabilities:
- The National Business and Disability Center is a leading resource that connects people with disabilities with companies and employers looking to hire them. Its business partners are predominantly Fortune 1000 companies and government employers. Job seekers can search through open listings and share their resumes with potential employers.
- Current listings of federal jobs for people with disabilities.
- Getting Hired, a job searching tool dedicated to helping inclusive employers hire professional individuals and veterans with disabilities.
- Ability Links is a job search website specifically for people with disabilities and employers aiming to be more inclusive.
- The Sierra Group’s Recruit Disability website is another disability-specific job searching website.
- disABLEDperson presents an accessible job search website whose stated mission is to reduce the high unemployment rate of individuals and veterans with disabilities.
- The Office of Personnel Management (OPM)’s page with a variety of job searching resources for people with disabilities (click the “Job Seekers with Disabilities” link to access it).
- HireDS: a job opportunity posting website for people with disabilities and employers seeking to recruit them.
To Disclose Or Not To Disclose?
Sometimes, you don’t have much of a choice regarding when and how to talk to a potential employer about your disability. You might need to ask about the accessible entrance before your first interview, have a visible disability that’s apparent the first time you meet your new boss, or need to disclose your disability as soon as possible in order to access necessary accommodations. For all other cases, you’ll have an important choice to make. It’s a hard decision, so here are some resources to help you decide.
- AdminSecret is an organization that provides resources and advice to administrative assistants, but their page on disclosing your disability has good advice for everyone.
- George Mason University has compiled a wonderfully simple, readable chart that highlights the advantages and disadvantages of disclosing your non-visible disability at different stages in the career process.
- Virginia Commonwealth University has also created a document to help you decide when and how you disclose; this one is designed to be customizable, with options to circle and a flowchart. It also contains examples of what each approach may look like.
- The United States Department of Labor’s page on your rights and responsibilities when considering disclosing your disability.
Knowing Your Rights...
There’s no use beating around the bush:finding and holding a job can sometimes bring additional challenges when you have a disability. You might encounter ableist discrimination by employers and coworkers, uncomfortable and inappropriate interview questions, issues taking time off if you need to, and unexpected worsening of your condition while on the job. It’s all very daunting, to say the least. But the best way to arm yourself against these challenges is by knowing your rights. Next, we’ll cover what to do with that knowledge, but for now, let’s talk about your protections.
The primary legal protection you’re going to use and hear about is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed in 2008. You can read the part of it that relates to employment here, or a plain-English summary of the whole thing here. Basically, the ADA defines a disability as any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities individuals in all areas of public life, including employment. The most obvious thing this means is that an employer can’t refuse to hire you just because you have a disability (although they can if your disability means you’re unable, even with accommodations, to perform essential job duties). This also means that it’s illegal for a job interviewer to ask you questions about your disability, since your disability is personal information and since the employer knowing it would open the door to illegal discrimination. And it’s not just asking whether you’re people with disabilities that’s illegal: other illegal interview topics include (but aren’t limited to) what medications you’re on, how many sick days you took at a past job, your workers’ compensation history, and whether you have a history of alcoholism or drug addiction. We recommend this Workforce article for more detail on illegal interview questions.
Less intuitive, but equally important, is the right to accommodations at work. In short, the ADA requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” to the hiring process, the place of employment, or the job duties if doing so will ensure equal opportunity and/or workplace equity for job seekers or employees with disabilities. Installing a ramp, providing screen reader technology, and adjusting work schedules would be some examples of reasonable accommodations. There are some exceptions to this requirement, namely, when providing accommodations would pose an “undue hardship” for the employer. However, these exceptions are determined on a case-by-case basis, and even if an employer is granted legal permission to deny the accommodation you requested, they’re legally obligated to come up with and offer a feasible alternative. For more information on reasonable accommodations, we recommend the ADA National Network’s pages on what a reasonable accommodation is, when an employer is required to provide them, and the limitations on that obligation; and the Department of Labor’s accommodations page.
Another legal right that’s often useful for employees with disabilities is the right to medical leave
There are two laws that protect your right to take medical leave from work: the ADA and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). They offer a few different protections relating to medical leave. The first is that your employer can’t set stricter rules about sick leave for you than for non-people with disabilities employees. For example, if your boss asks you for a doctor’s note when the official sick leave policy doesn’t require one, that’s a red flag. The second is that you may be eligible to use sick leave as a disability accommodation, even if you wouldn't otherwise qualify for it under the employer's sick leave policy. Finally, the FMLA requires in most cases that your employer keep your job open and let you return to it as usual after your medical leave is over. At most jobs, employees with disabilities have rights under both the FMLA and the ADA, and those rights can “stack” to get you more time off and more flexibility. For more information on your right to medical leave, we recommend these pages: the U.S. Equal Employment Commission on leave and the ADA; the ADA National Network on work-leave; and the ADA on your employer’s obligations when you return from leave.
Finally, we want to make sure you know that you have more legal protections than are discussed here. We’ve tried to select the ones that are most commonly useful or frequently asked about, but everyone has different needs, and just because something you’d find helpful isn’t on this page doesn’t mean it’s not available to you. If you have any more questions, we highly recommend the Job Accommodation Network (JAN)! JAN employs consultants who can be contacted by phone, email, or social media for one-on-one personalized help with all things employment. And, of course, CLBR would love to help.
...And Using Them
We at CLBR believe that in a perfect world, you wouldn’t ever need to stand up to a bigoted employer, educate your boss about your disability, or field inappropriate interview questions. If you do encounter any of these situations, though, it can be helpful to consider a few questions in advance: when should I tell my boss about my disability, if ever? How do I ask for accommodations or time off? What if an interviewer asks about it? We want to make sure you’re prepared for these sticky situations before you’re ever forced to navigate them.
Requesting workplace accommodations
In the above section on knowing your rights, we discussed your right to reasonable accommodations on the job. Now, it’s your job to talk to your employer about accessing those accommodations if you think they’ll benefit you. You can request accommodations at any time, and your request doesn’t have to be in writing, mention the ADA, or use any legal jargon. However, in order to access accommodations, you do need to tell your employer that you have a disability, and your employer has the right to request medical documentation from you. (Remember, the ADA protects you for psychological disabilities as well as physical, so a psychologist or psychiatrist is perfectly qualified to handle this part if a physician isn’t quite what you need.) For details and guidance about this process, check out JAN's guide to requesting accommodations and the ADA National Network's explanation of the process.
Handling illegal interview questions
We also discussed illegal interview questions in the section on knowing your rights. Unfortunately, the fact that it’s illegal doesn’t mean you’ll never be asked such a question during an interview. Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to get up and leave if you’re not interested in working for that employer anymore. You could even consider making a complaint to the HR department of the hiring company or reporting them to a labor board. However, if you’re still interested in the position (perhaps you don’t think the individual interviewer reflects on the company as a whole?), you’ll need to respond in one of three main ways. You can politely decline to answer, which could include letting the interviewer know that such questions aren’t legally permissible. For example, you could reply to an interviewer who asks if you’re on any medications by saying, “Honestly, that seems a little personal, and I don’t see how it’s relevant.” You can also look for the intent of the question and respond to that: for example, you could answer “Do you have any physical disabilities?” with “I’ll have no problem lifting the 25 pounds mentioned in the job description.” Finally, you could simply answer anyways, especially if your answer is not one that you think would hurt your chances at the position. For example, even if you’re interviewing for an internship with an autism self-advocacy organization, the interviewer technically isn’t allowed to ask if you’re autistic, even though the relevance is understandable - but if they do ask and you are, you opt to just answer anyways. (It’s also totally okay for you to volunteer that information, the interviewer just can’t ask for it!) All of these options have pros and cons, so you may want to decide on your approach before entering a situation where you might need it.
Finally, in preparation for any tough conversations you foresee in your career, we at CLBR are here to help. We’d be happy to meet with you and do some test runs.
The Center for Life Beyond Reed is here to support you in the pursuit of a range of opportunities. However, Reed also offers disability services that can help make your time at Reed a success, thereby helping your eventual career… okay, so they aren’t strictly Life Beyond Reed related, but your life while at Reed is pretty important to us too, and we want you to know that you have support. You’ve probably heard of Reed’s Disability & Accessibility Resources (DAR), which offers all kinds of support to Reedies with mental and physical disabilities. We highly recommend connecting with them if you’re having a rough time! In addition to offering academic and housing accommodations to minimize any barriers you may encounter, Reed aims to support students through counseling. This can come into play if you have a mental disability or illness that you think mental health counseling could directly help with, or if the stress of life at Reed is just getting to you. The Health and Counseling Center, located on the far northwest corner of campus (past the Grove, near 28 West), offers free counseling and appointments with psychiatric prescribers. You might also be interested in meeting with Gabe Baker, our campus medical social worker, to find an off-campus mental health provider.
If you are working in an on-campus student job at Reed and would like to learn more about the process of requesting accommodations for your job, contact Kate Walford, Student Work Coordinator.
Off-Campus Programs and Resources
- The Oregon government’s Vocational Rehabilitation program offers services to people whose disabilities make it hard for them to get or keep a job. They can help you look for and find work, learn how to work with your disability, help decide on work goals, and more.
- We Connect Now is an organization dedicated to connecting people interested in disability rights activism, especially around college students and issues in higher education.
- The U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Recruitment Program connects employers with college students and recent graduates with disabilities, for summer and permanent jobs.
- The United States Office of Personnel Management page on disability employment. It goes into detail on how to use Schedule A to non-competitively access federal jobs and provides information about accommodations, recruiting, and retention.
- Independent Living Resources is a Portland advocacy nonprofit for people with disabilities. In addition to advocacy, they offer information services, referrals, support groups, and peer support counseling.
- Disability Rights Oregon is a nonprofit legal aid service in Oregon whose mission is “to protect and defend the rights of individuals with disabilities.”
- The Oregon Commission for the Blind offers a variety of services relevant to vision-impaired Oregonians seeking employment.
- Incight is a Portland-based organization that offers job fairs, networking events, resume services, and more to people with disabilities.
Prexy and Accessibility:
It’s important to us that all Reedies be able to access our services. Here’s some information on the building itself and other measures we’ve taken to increase our accessibility.
Unfortunately, Prexy is an old building and not as accessible as we’d like it to be. There are three entrances: the front (east-facing) main entrance, and two next to each other in the back (facing west). The most accessible entrance at Prexy is the rear entrance on the left (the one painted dark gray). It has a press-to-open button and is wide enough to fit a wheelchair or other mobility device. You will just need to swipe your Reed ID first to use this entrance. There are two other entrances: the east-facing entrance is wide enough for a wheelchair and is on flat ground, but does not have a press-to-open button, so you may have to knock and wait for whoever’s staffing the front desk to come open it for you. The rear entrance on the right (the glass door) is the same situation: a wheelchair can get to and through it, but a wheelchair user may not be able to open it unassisted. There is an elevator to access offices on the second floor. If you came in through the dark gray back door, the elevator is straight down the hall to your left. And if you came in through the front door, go past the staircase then make a right, and you’ll see it.
If getting to Prexy in the first place poses too much of a burden for you, you might be interested in making use of our drop-in hours that are held at other locations, such as Commons or the MRC. Details are to the right, on the sidebar.
Finally, if a longer or one-on-one meeting better suits your needs, we’d be happy to arrange an appointment with you at another on-campus location, or to do a telephone or Skype call with you. To set up such an appointment, schedule one of us as you normally would - through Handshake, by clicking here - and then email whoever your appointment is with to arrange the specifics. Also available for students with invisible or psychological disabilities that make getting to Prexy a challenge. No documentation necessary.
Finally, if there’s anything else we can do to make using our services easier for you, please reach out to us to arrange it. We want to help and are happy to work with you to consider other options.
If you have any further questions or could benefit from some one-on-one career guidance from us, CLBR would love to help you out. We all have experience advising student with disabilities and aim to be sensitive to your needs, but we also understand if you’d be more comfortable meeting with a career advisor who can personally relate. If that’s the case, schedule with Brooke Hunter, who lives with a physical disability, or Hayden Todd, who has a mental disability. For more information on Prexy’s accessibility, please read the above section. We look forward to meeting you!