Overcoming Barriers to Employment

By Mary Blake
Senior Manager, Career Services
Jewish Community Services

Searching for a job in this current economic climate is still not easy, but if you have special needs, the job search could feel like climbing Mt. Everest. The unemployment rate in Maryland remains close to seven percent, but the rate is often double if you have any additional challenges.

Finding accurate statistics on the current unemployment rate for persons with special needs is hard since it can be difficult to determine who fits in this category. A person who wears glasses or a hearing aid could be considered disabled, as could someone who uses a wheelchair or has Down Syndrome.

But what about those individuals with invisible disabilities? Mental health issues like depression and anxiety or learning disabilities like dyslexia and attention deficit disorder may not be readily apparent. But it can make finding and keeping a job more challenging.

If you do not have any barriers to employment, you might not realize the additional work it takes for a person with special needs to compete. Many struggle silently and alone which can make matters worse. Depression can affect anyone who remains unemployed and underutilized for too long. For those with obvious challenges such as impaired speech, you can imagine the added anxiety an interview creates.

Others struggle with whether to disclose a disability that is not initially obvious to potential employers. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted over 22 years ago, many individuals still worry that employers will discriminate against them — and with good reason. There are many unanswered questions about what is an “equal playing field” when it comes to finding the best person to fill a position and what constitutes a “reasonable accommodation.”

If you are a job seeker with special needs, you must focus on your skills and strengths and identify the essential qualifications for the job. Unfortunately, many people who do the pre-screening or initial interviewing at companies do not have a clear understanding of what is most needed to be successful in a particular position. That is why it is important to reach the person who actually supervises the position or makes the final hiring decisions. That supervisor is most concerned about finding someone who can do the job well and independently.

To identify the person in charge, you can search LinkedIn by employer and department and look for managers’ names and job titles. You can also consult a Career Coach, who can help you with that process.

Luckily there are many public and private resources that can be of assistance. In Baltimore these might include local governmental agencies such as:

  • Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS)
  • Unemployment Office (DLLR)

There are also not-for-profit organizations that can assist you:

Once you contact the organizations you should be prepared with a few key questions. Make sure to take clear notes that you can refer back to later. There is a lot of good information, but it can become overwhelming if you do not stay organized.

This is also true for your job search. A clear plan and organized search can make a big difference in targeting the best employers and jobs for you. There are jobs available and many employers are hiring for multiple positions, so it is important not to give up. If you stay motivated in your job search, your hard work will pay off!

Learn how a JCS Career Coach can help individuals with developmental disabilities define and achieve their career goals>>

For more information, call 410-466-9200.


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Filed under Social Services, Special Needs, Uncategorized

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