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Leveraging an Untapped Resource

Interviewing Rhode Islanders with Disabilities

We realize that many Rhode Island employers do not have a great deal of experience with interviewing people with disabilities. As a result, it is understandable if you and other employers are concerned about what the proper etiquette should be or what types of questions are acceptable (or unacceptable) to ask.

When interviewing a Rhode Islander with a disability, the first, and most important, thing to do is to relax and make the applicant feel comfortable. We also suggest following these simple guidelines:

Preparing for the Interview

First, make sure your company's employment offices and your interviewing location(s) are accessible to applicants with mobility, visual, hearing, or cognitive disabilities. Also, be willing to make appropriate and reasonable accommodations to enable job applicants with a disability to present themselves in the best possible light. When setting up the interview, explain what the hiring process involves and ask the individual if he or she will need reasonable accommodations for any part of the interview process. For example, if a person who is blind states he or she will need help filling out forms, provide the assistance.

General Interviewing Etiquette

Your company's application and interviewing procedures should comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability-related questions or medical exams before a real job offer is made. Make sure that all questions asked during the interview are job-related. Other items to remember:

  • Shake hands when introduced to someone with a disability. People with limited hand use or artificial limbs do shake hands.

  • Always speak directly to people with disabilities. If they arrive with a companion (e.g. a sign-language interpreter), do not assume that you must talk to the person with a disability through their companion.

  • Be clear and candid in your questioning.

  • Ask for clarification of terms or issues when necessary.

  • Don�t ask personal questions that you wouldn�t ask someone without a disability.

  • If you offer to help, wait until the offer is accepted. Do not insist, and do not be offended, if your offer is not accepted.

  • Conduct interviews in a manner that emphasizes abilities, achievements, and individual qualities, just as you would in any other interview.

When Interviewing Rhode Islanders with Mobility Disabilities

  • Don�t lean on or touch a person�s wheelchair. The chair is a part of his/her personal space.

  • Sit at eye level with the person you are interviewing.

  • Be sure to notify the interviewee if there are accessibility problems with the interview location. Discuss what to do and make alternate plans.

When Interviewing Rhode Islanders with Cognitive Disabilities

  • If you are in a public area with many distractions, consider moving to a quiet or private location.

  • Be prepared to repeat what you say, orally or in writing.

  • Offer assistance completing forms or understanding written instructions and provide extra time for decision-making. Wait for the individual to accept the offer of assistance; do not "over-assist" or be patronizing.

  • Be patient, flexible, and supportive. Take time to understand the individual and make sure the individual understands you.

For more information about interviewing Rhode Islanders with disabilities, please visit the Department of Labor.

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