Do you have special needs?

This question relates directly to any particular personal needs you may have.

You need to be absolutely clear on the employer's obligations regarding any special needs issues.

It might be a disabled parking space and access to the building, or some other very basic facility or amenity.

By law,

  • Handicaps
  • Medical conditions
  • Disabilities of any kind
  • Any reasonable requirements for facilities related to these situations

have legitimate entitlements in terms of employment. There are also related laws in most countries detailing the obligations of employers and government services.

There's been a sort of myth created about these things. Special needs are considered to be an obstacle to employment.

They aren't. Never have been. An employer should be aware of the legal issues. There aren't any excuses.

Equal employment applies in all cases.

Considerations for job applicants and interviewees

However, the level of ignorance is sometimes surprising. Interviewees are sometimes confronted with almost total incomprehension of these very basic rights and issues.

Until recently, disabled people in particular were on the receiving end of what now look like very primitive facilities at best, and some prejudice against their employment.

It'd be nice to say those days are over, but the problems still exist.

That puts people with special needs in a particularly difficult and infuriating position, in most cases.

If you have any special needs, you're advised to check out the employer's awareness of those issues before application and at the interview.

Sadly, most people with special needs are all too well aware of the problems. They can usually tell if an employer or a workplace knows what it's doing in their case, on sight.

For once all those lousy experiences can serve some useful purpose. Make inquiries on a very basic yes/no approach:

  • Do you have facilities for handicapped people?
  • What are the arrangements for child care?
  • What's the employer's policy on special needs employees?
  • Any particular relevant issue, in the yes/no form

You'll probably be able to tell from experience who sounds like they know what they're talking about and who doesn't.

The workplace culture is another indicator. Generally speaking the more advanced workplaces are well equipped and never at a loss with special needs. The less advanced workplaces always sound like they're guessing.

See if you can get a look at the actual workplace. The fact that you're showing such a level of interest will be a positive for most employers.

If the workplace contains things like access ramps, disabled parking spaces, and other things which it's required to provide by law, it's a good sign. If it doesn't, the employer lacks experience, at least.

(The employer without these facilities is also in violation of a lot of OHS, fire safety and other laws. Absence of such basic facilities for handicapped people is a very bad sign. These are in some cases life saving amenities.)

If you're satisfied with the facilities and answers to your inquiries, proceed.

At the interview

When the topic of your special needs comes up, be specific about what you need, making it as clear as possible without a major production.

If the topic doesn't come up, you may need to ask for clarification about provisions for your special needs.

You need to assess the quality of the answers to your questions.

You don't need to be told what the potential problems and dangers of inadequate facilities are. You need to know that the employer is competent in handling those situations, and understands what's required.
You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by making these assessments.
The job could be actually dangerous, if the facilities are insufficient.

The employer can't be expected to be a medical expert, but the basic principles are so fundamental. It's a reasonable expectation on your part that your special needs will be handled according to law.

One of the reasons that people with special needs have progressed in the workplace is because of the dedication and determination of these people and their supporters to make sure their legal entitlements are enforced.

As a person with special needs, you have legal rights.

Act in your own best interests, check everything, and be wary of obvious evasions of questions.

You don't have to put up with the ignorance and laziness of people who don't know the fundamentals.