Resources for Students with Disabilities
This content was created in collaboration with the Dartmouth ADA/504 Coordinator, Office of Diversity and Equity. Revised February 9, 2021.
Across public and private sectors, engineering businesses and professional organizations increasingly recognize the important contributions of a diverse workforce, including those contributions made by engineers and other scientists with disabilities. Drawing from diverse life experiences and including these perspectives leads to the development of creative and innovative engineering and scientific solutions that benefit the widest array of individuals in society.
As aspiring engineers, we want Thayer students with disabilities to understand that having a disability should not prevent you from pursuing your goals as a scientist and as an individual. As you pursue your professional career, you will be evaluated on your capabilities as an engineer and your ability to perform your job. Receiving reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of the job is your right as a person with a disability.
There are legal protections to safeguard against discrimination in hiring and employment. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act states, in part that, “No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." Additionally, Equal Employment Opportunity(EEO) laws prohibit specific types of job discrimination in certain work places including discrimination on the basis of disability. EEO laws are monitored and enforced by the Civil Rights Center and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in the US Department of Labor.
Refining your resume and making strategic choices like any other engineering student is part of the process to land the job you want at the completion of your degree. As you begin your career search the following resources may be helpful. Please contact Thayer Career Services at email@example.com with any questions.
The Interview Process
The decision to disclose a disability in the interview process is a personal and individual choice. There are no right or wrong answers however there are some important factors to consider in making a decision that is best for you. Accommodations you have used in an academic setting may not be needed in an employment context(e.g., extended test time or notetakers) making disclosure unnecessary. Alternatively, accommodations or adjustments may always be needed to ensure equal access to the physical, digital, or social environments we live in.
Keep in mind that you are not required to talk about your disability during an interview. An interviewer is only permitted to ask you questions about your job qualifications and about how you can perform the essential functions of the job. An interviewer is prohibited from asking you questions about your disability that are not relevant to your functioning on the job.
Here are some factors to consider in making a decision that is right for you:
1. Disclosing disability may help explain some aspect of your resume or academic trajectory. For example, including a leadership role you played in a student or professional organization affiliated with a disability community (e.g., National Federation for the Blind, Eye-to-Eye, Active Minds, etc.) highlights your leadership skills. Likewise, participating in a research project that concerns accessibility or universal design allows you to bring forward innovative contributions that stem from your lived experience. Additionally, disclosure can explain an interruption in your program or an uneven grade pattern due to the onset of a disability or flare up of an existing disorder.
2. Do disclose when you need to make a request for an accommodation. This could be before an interview to participate in the interview process. This could also be after you have accepted an offer and are requesting accommodations for the job. Depending on the nature of the job, disclosure might never be necessary if the work environment is inclusive and accessible in meeting your needs.
3. It is not necessary to provide extensive information about your disability. Disclose what information is necessary to explain the basics of your condition, the functional limitations it presents, and what accommodations you may need to perform the essential duties and/or enjoy the benefits of the job.
4. Do not wait to disclose until there are performance problems. You have a right to reasonable accommodations that are intended to permit you to perform the job you were hired to perform.
5. You have the right to privacy about your disability and the accommodations you are receiving. Some people are comfortable sharing their life experiences as a person with a disability. Others are not. This is true whether the disability is apparent or non-apparent. Remember, only those individuals who are involved in the accommodation process (e.g., HR, your supervisor) have a “need-to-know”.
More articles and tips regarding disclosure in the interviewing process are available at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website
The Office of Personnel Management website provides information on anti-discrimination laws and how to obtain a job with the government.
See also Interviewing Strategies (PDF), courtesy of Dartmouth College Career Services.
For general resources for interviewing, see Thayer Career Services' interviewing resources.
Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) is the premiere professional association committed to full participation of persons with disabilities in postsecondary education.
ENTRY POINT! is a program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)offering Outstanding Internship Opportunities for Students with Disabilities in Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science, and some fields of Business.
Job Accommodation Network: The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace. JAN also includes articles and resources on disclosure and the interview process and requesting workplace accommodations.
National Rehabilitation Information Center for Independence: This site offers resources for disability advocacy, a database of organizations, agencies, and publications, and information on how to get work or even start your own business.
Office of Disability Employment Policy: The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is the single non-regulatory federal agency that promotes policies and coordinates with employers and all levels of government to increase workplace success for people with disabilities.
University of Pennsylvania: Using the keyword “disability” in the Penn Career Services search engine produces an extensive list of articles and resources on disability, disclosure, legal protections, and workplace accommodations.
University of Washington DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center is dedicated to empowering people with disabilities through technology and education. It promotes awareness and accessibility—in both the classroom and the workplace—to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities and make our communities more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive. The DO-IT Center website provides information about scholarships, accessible technology, communities of practice, and more.