Techniques For Interviewing a Person with a DisABILITY
Employers should provide an environment that is accessible to both existing and prospective employees. Attention to accessibility starts with an employer’s first contact with job applicants, continues throughout the interviewing and hiring process, and includes all forms of communication – telephone calls, faxes, e-mails, and of course personal visits to an employer’s facilities.
Following are recommended guidelines for staff who will be involved in greeting, directing, and assisting applicants with disabilities during their visits to an employer’s facility:
Know where accessible restrooms, drinking fountains, and telephones are located. If such facilities are not available, be ready to offer alternatives, such as the use of a private office or employee restroom, a glass of water or your desk phone.
Provide an accessible writing surface for applicants to read materials and complete forms. If your reception desk requires a person to stand while signing a visitor’s log, provide a clipboard or a lower table/desk where a person in a wheelchair can sign in.
Use a normal tone of voice when extending a verbal welcome. Do not raise your voice unless requested.
When introduced to a person with a disability, it is not always appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb may not want to shake hands. Acknowledge them by smiling or nodding. It may be acceptable to touch the person lightly on the shoulder or arm to welcome and acknowledge their presence. If they do initiate a handshake remember that:
● Shaking hands with the left hand is acceptable treat all visitors as adults, and with respect:
● Call a person by his or her first name only when extending that same familiarity to all others present.
● Never patronize people using wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.
When addressing a person who uses a wheelchair, never lean on the person’s wheelchair. The chair is part of the space that belongs to the person who uses it.
When talking with a person with a disability, look at and speak directly to that person rather than a companion who may be along. If an interpreter is present, speak to the person who has scheduled the appointment, not to the interpreter. Always maintain eye contact with the applicant, not the interpreter.
Offer assistance in a dignified manner with sensitivity and respect. Be prepared to have the offer declined. Do not proceed to assist if your offer is declined. If the offer is accepted, listen to or accept instructions.
● 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.
● Offer to hold or carry packages in a welcoming manner. Example: “May I help you with your packages?”
● When handing someone their coat or umbrella, do not offer to hand a cane or crutches unless the individual requests otherwise.
If you offer to help, wait until the offer of help is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions. Respect the person’s right to reject help or to indicate the kind of help needed. If you cannot assist in the way that is asked, be open and honest in discussing this with the person with the disability. Ask that person for alternatives.
Appreciate what the person can do. Remember that difficulties the person may be facing may stem more from society’s attitudes and barriers than from the disability itself.
Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with a disability to get things said or done. Let the person set the pace in walking or talking.
Unless it is necessary, don’t move a wheelchair, crutches, or other mobility aids out of reach of a person who uses them. If it is absolutely necessary to move mobility aids for safety or accessibility reasons, you should politely address the issue by asking permission. Example: “Because space is so limited here, would you mind if we moved you crutches over here for now?”
Never push a wheelchair without first asking the occupant if you may do so. Before deciding whether or not to push a wheelchair up or down a step, curb, or other obstruction, ask the person if and how he or she wants you to proceed; and be respectful of your own limitations.
When speaking with someone who uses a wheelchair, sit down or kneel to place yourself at his or her eye level. Don’t lean on the wheelchair.
If the person is lip-reading, look directly at him or her. Speak normally, and assure them that they can let you know if they aren’t able to understand you. Make sure you can be seen and keep hands and food away from your mouth.
When greeting someone with a vision disability, identify yourself and anyone else who might be with you. Ask, “may we shake hands?” Be aware that some individuals with vision impairments are protective of their hands and prefer not to shake hands. Let the person know if you move or need to end the conversation. When guiding a person, offer your arm for them to hold, never take hold of their arm to “steer” them. Warn the person of obstacles in their path by describing the obstacle and location, using the positions of the clock. Example: “there’s a row of chairs at one o’clock”.
Don’t worry about using common expressions such as “See ya’ later”, or “Gotta run”.
When speaking with someone with mental retardation, use simple, but not childish language.
Give your undivided attention to someone who has difficulty speaking. Ask short questions that require short answers. Don’t pretend to understand if you don’t. If you cannot understand the person, ask if they would like to try an alternative way of communicating with you, such as writing on a pad of paper.
Service Animal Etiquette
● Do not touch or pet the Service Animal without permission.
● Remember that the Service Animal is not a pet-it is working!
● Do not make noises at the Service Animal; it may distract it from doing its job.
● Do not feed the Service Animal, it may disrupt its schedule.
● Do not be offended if the person does not feel like discussing his/her disability or the assistance the Service Animal provides. Not everyone wants to be a walking-talking “show and tell” exhibit.
Enable people who use crutches, canes or wheelchairs to keep them within reach. Be aware that some people who use wheelchairs may choose to transfer themselves out of their wheelchairs (into an office chair, for example) for the duration of the interview. Here again, when speaking to a person in a wheelchair or on crutches for more than a few minutes, sit in a chair to place yourself at that person’s eye level to facilitate conversation. Ensure that the person can easily access the interview area, and be prepared to move to a more accessible area if necessary.
When greeting a person with a vision impairment always identify yourself and introduce anyone else who might be present. If the person does not extend their hand to shake hands, verbally extend a welcome. Be aware that some individuals with vision impairments are protective of their hands and prefer not to shake hands.
When offering seating, place the person’s hand on the back or arm of the seat. A verbal cue is helpful as well.
Give your whole attention when talking to a person who has a speech disorder. Ask short questions that require short answers or a nod of the head. Do not pretend to understand if you do not. Try rephrasing what you wish to communicate, or ask the person to repeat what you do not understand. Do not raise your voice. Most people with a speech disorder can hear and understand.
Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting. Avoid the temptation to complete sentences for the person.
Repeat back the interviewee’s statements to confirm that you understood them. Another technique is to rephrase the interviewee’s comments in the form of a question. The person’s response will help guide you to understanding precisely what they intended to say. Remember that open-ended questions are usually more appropriate and productive than closed-ended questions.
“You were a tax accountant in ABC Company for seven years. Is that correct?”
(Answered by a “yes” or “no”).
Open-ended question: “Tell me more about your seven years of experience as a tax accountant for ABC – what were your most interesting challenges?”
(Confirms the information, and invites the person to provide more details.)
Deaf or Hard of Hearing
If the interviewee can read lips, look directly at him or her. Speak clearly at a normal pace. Do not exaggerate your lip movements or shout. Shouting distorts sounds accepted through hearing aids and also inhibits lip reading. Speak expressively because the person will rely on your facial expressions, gestures and eye contact. (Note: it is estimated that only four out of ten spoken words are visible on the lips. Thus the rate of accuracy for persons who lip-read is only about 40%).