The federal disability law which has the most direct bearing on employers is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The primary purpose of this law is to ensure equal access and equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
In order to ensure that all candidates can compete on an equal basis in the application and interview process, reasonable accommodations may need to be provided for those candidates with diverse and sometimes non-apparent disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications which range from making the physical environment accessible, to providing assistive equipment or providing certain types of personal assistants (e.g., a reader for a person who is blind, an interpreter for a person who is deaf).
Use appropriate disability language. The Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology has provided a foundational guide for what is and is not appropriate disability language.
- Incorporate statements into your recruitment messages and other correspondence inviting all applicants to identify any special needs that might require an accommodation during the interview. A sample statement is as follows: "The (insert program or department name) is committed to providing access for all people with disabilities and will provide accommodations if notified within… (specify length of time)."
- All candidates should be asked about the need for accommodations prior to any scheduled interviews. Each request for an accommodation must be addressed individually, and on its own merit. The candidate himself/herself can provide the best information regarding a needed accommodation.
- Delineate the essential functions of the internship position and its marginal functions. Essential functions are those that are critical or fundamental to the position.
- Be willing to ask how to be of assistance to a candidate with a disability.
Interviewing Candidates with Mobility Impairments
Mobility impairments can range from stiffness of joints due to arthritis to complete paralysis below the neck. Some candidates with mobility impairments will phone in prior to the interview date, specifically for travel information. You should be very familiar with the travel path in order to provide interviewees with detailed information. Make sure the place where you plan to conduct the interview is accessible by checking the following:
- Are there disability parking spaces available and nearby?
- Is there a ramp or step-free entrance?
- Are there accessible restrooms?
If the interview is not on the first floor, does the building have an elevator?
- If an interview site is inaccessible (e.g., steps without a ramp or a building without an elevator), inform the person about the barrier prior to the interview and offer to make arrangements for an alternative interview site.
- Enable people who use crutches, canes, or wheelchairs/scooters to keep them within reach. Be aware that some wheelchair users may choose to transfer themselves out of their wheelchair and into an office chair for the interview.
- During the interview, sit at that person's eye level to facilitate conversation.
Interviewing Candidates with Cognitive or Intellectual Impairments
- Treat them with the same courtesy and protocol as you would with anyone else
- Use accessible language rather than “high language” when speaking to an individual with cognitive impairments. Accessible language means using basic words in consumable summary format.
- Give them time to process what you have said, as well as to formulate their own responses.
- If there are extraneous body motions, speech patterns, or other behaviors that are different than what you are used to, relax and let the individual be who they are. Many times these behaviors are non-voluntary and are directly related to the disability, but not necessarily related to the abilities.
- Prepare any written documents in accessible language with larger font.
Interviewing Candidates with Visual Impairments
Visual impairments range from difficulty in reading small print to total blindness.
- When greeting a person who is totally blind, identify yourself and introduce anyone else who is present.
- Upon request, allow a person with a visual impairment to take your arm at or about the elbow. This will enable you to guide rather than propel or lead the person.
- Use specifics such as "left a hundred feet" or "right two yards" when directing a person with a visual impairment.
- If you will be providing written materials, find out before the interview if an accommodation will be required. Accommodations will vary according to the candidate's degree of visual impairment, from providing information in large print to providing a reader.
Interviewing Candidates with Speech Impairments
Allow time for the person to speak, and resist the temptation to speak for the person or complete his/her sentences.
Interviewing Candidates with Hearing Impairments
- Hearing-impairments range from partial loss of hearing to complete deafness.
- If the person lip-reads, maintain eye contact. Speak clearly, and at a normal pace.
- Use a normal tone of voice, unless otherwise requested.
- If a Sign Language interpreter is present, the Sign Language interpreter should be seated beside the person conducting the interview, and across from the person being interviewed.
- Speak to the candidate, not to the Sign Language interpreter, and always maintain eye contact with the interviewed candidate.
- The Sign Language interpreter will be a few words behind the speaker, so allow for the extra time it will take for the candidate to respond.
- Sign Language interpreters facilitate communication. They should never be consulted or regarded as a reference for the candidate being interviewed.