Interviewing People with Disabilities
When interviewing a person with a disability, the first and most important thing to do is to relax and make the applicant feel comfortable. In some instances, the person with a disability will be accompanied by a personal assistant or a job coach. It is important that this person also feels comfortable and that you understand his or her roles both during the interview and later during employment. We also suggest the following simple guidelines:
Preparing for the Interview
Make sure your organization's employment offices and your interviewing location(s) are accessible to applicants with mobility, visual, hearing, and learning difficulties, and intellectual disabilities. Be willing to make appropriate and reasonable accommodations to enable job applicants with disabilities to present themselves in the best possible light for their interview. 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 states that he or she will need help filling out forms (perhaps because of blindness, or an intellectual or learning disability), provide the assistance.
General Interviewing Etiquette
Your organization's application and interviewing procedures should comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability-related questions or medical exams before a final 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, and you can shake the left hand if that would be more appropriate.
Always speak directly to the applicant. If he or she arrives with a companion (e.g. a driver or personal assistant), do not 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 People 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 People with Intellectual 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 in 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 people with disabilities, here are some additional resources: