Home : Topic : Job search/career advancement :

Campus Career Development Services: Promoting Inclusive Practices


Originally published: 4/2003

Suggested audiences:

College to Career Networks
College students with disabilities putting their education to work

Topics covered in this issue

  1. Why Are Disability Issues Relevant to the Office of Career Development?
  2. Career Planning and the Americans with Disabilities Act: The Basics
  3. The ADA and the Job Application Process
  4. Are You Accessible?
  5. Building a Connection: Basic Disability Etiquette

1. Why Are Disability Issues Relevant to the Office of Career Development?

The Office of Career Development is for all students, with and without disabilities.

Did you know that...

The Office of Career Development is the campus resource for employment preparation, career exploration, and job placement.

Students with disabilities have the desire and qualifications to work after they graduate, but typically they do not obtain appropriate jobs as frequently as their peers without disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) influences the interviewing process and promotes accommodations after hiring.

To learn more...

2. Career Planning and the Americans with Disabilities Act: The Basics

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that people with disabilities have freedom, equality, and the opportunity to participate in public life.

What does the ADA mean for employment?
Title I of the ADA requires that accommodations be made so that qualified individuals with disabilities have access to the same employment opportunities as individuals without disabilities.

How does the ADA influence the application and interviewing process?
Students should be able to access application materials in alternative formats and ask for accommodations, such as a sign language interpreter, during an interview. Employers cannot ask interviewees about their health or disabilities. They can only ask questions that directly relate to the individual's ability to do the job.

What is a "reasonable" accommodation?
There is no easy definition of a "reasonable" accommodation. Employers should consider each request individually. Employers are only required to make an accommodation if an employee requests one. Employers are not required to suffer "undue hardship," such as extreme cost or diminished production standards, to accommodate an employee. Accommodations may be requested at any time during the period of employment.

Does the ADA require that people with disabilities automatically get hired?
No, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require employers to hire people with disabilities. Individuals should be qualified for the position and be able to perform the essential job functions with or without accommodations.

To learn more...

3. The ADA and the Job Application Process

Job applicants have the right to ask for a reasonable accommodation at any time during the application process. This includes help with filling out a job application and any accommodations needed for the job interview.

Under the ADA, potential employers cannot ask questions that would cause an applicant to disclose information about a disability in a job interview. Here are some examples of questions that are not allowed.

Illegal questions:

Potential employers are allowed to ask questions about an applicant's ability to perform essential job functions. Here are some examples of questions that are permitted:

Allowable questions:

About medical examinations
Employers may not require a medical exam before a job has been offered. They may require physical exams once a job has been offered, but only if they require the exam of all new employees. Tests to assess current illegal drug use are not considered "medical examinations" under the ADA and are permissible as long as all applicants are subject to the same requirement.

Preparing for an interview
Unfortunately, potential employers may not be aware of all ADA regulations. Students might want to role-play their responses to illegal interview questions. This will help students learn how to emphasize their strengths during interviews, without revealing unnecessary information about their disabilities.

To learn more...

4. Are you accessible?

Making the Office of Career Development accessible to students with disabilities may seem like a challenging task. You may wonder whether you have the time or budget to accomplish this. While it may take several years to make your office completely accessible to students with disabilities, there are some simple things you can do quickly and inexpensively. Small changes can make a big difference!

Steps towards inclusion:

To learn more...

5. Building a Connection: Basic Disability Etiquette

Being respectful:

Thoughtful language:

Everyone is different:

To learn more...


  1. Henderson, C. (1999). College freshmen with disabilities: A biennial statistical profile. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.
  2. Swenson, S. and Richards, C. (1999). Report from the subcommittee on expanding opportunities for young people with disabilities). Washington, DC: OSERS.


The authors thank the following Institute for Community Inclusion staff and project partners for their assistance in editing this publication: Danielle Dreilinger; Susan Foley; Cindy Thomas; Linda Kent-Davis, Massachusetts Bay Community College; Kristina Ierardi, Cape Cod Community College; and Grace McSorley, University of Massachusetts Boston.

For more information, contact:
Cynthia Zafft
Institute for Community Inclusion
UMass Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
(617) 287-4347; (617) 287-4350 (TTY)

This publication will be made available in alternate formats upon request.

Visit our website to read this brief online; find other publications on this topic; or sign up for ICI's email announcement list. www.communityinclusion.org

This is a publication of the College to Career Networks project at the Institute for Community Inclusion, UMass Boston, funded by the US Department of Education, Office of Secondary and Elementary Education, School Improvement Programs under the Women's Educational Equity Act Program, grant #S083A00135. The opinions contained in this publication are those of the grantees and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Department of Education.

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities