Etiquette for Interviewing a Person With a Disability

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We are often contacted by employers who would like more information about best practices for hiring people with disabilities. Many times, employers would like to know what is acceptable or unacceptable when interviewing someone with a disability. Knowing what is appropriate during the interview process will make the meeting much more comfortable and will also allow the applicant's ability and positive attributes to shine through.

Here are some do's and don'ts for interviewing people with disabilities:


Offer your hand for a handshake, even if the person has quadriplegia. If the person does not have a right hand or the right hand hangs limp, offer your left hand.

Smile and look directly at the interviewee when addressing him or her.

Introduce yourself by name and position to someone who is blind. 

If the person has a speech or learning disability ask him or her about the best way to communicate. This will help increase the person's comfort level and likelihood they will let you know what accommodations are needed.

Even if the person is accompanied by a helper or interpreter, speak directly to the interviewee.

It is okay to speak loudly to someone who is hard of hearing. If necessary, it is okay to use another form of communication. It is also okay to tap the shoulder of someone who is deaf to get their attention.

If you're in a long conversation with a person in a wheelchair it is okay to lower yourself to eye level.

Ask all applicants if they can do the key elements of the job. Don't single out a person with a disability for a task that isn't essential to the job. For example, asking them if they can lift 25 pound boxes when they are applying for an admin position. 


Don't assume that the person with a disability needs assistance.  However, if you think he or she might, ask whether you can be of assistance.  If the answer is yes, ask how.

Don't avoid certain questions because you assume that the applicant is sensitive or fragile.

Don't ask the individual how he or she came to have the disability.

Don't ask the attendant of the person with the disability, “What did she say?”

Don't pet a service dog, they are working and you may distract them. 

Don't introduce a person by their disability, such as "our deaf applicant".  Recognize the individual first rather than defining them by their disability. Emphasize the person over the disability. For example, referring to someone as a "man who is blind" rather than a "blind man". 

Don't ask how a disability came about.

Don't lean on a person's wheelchair while having a conversation with them.

Don't pretend to understand what someone has said if you can't make it out. Politely, ask them to repeat themselves or use notes if oral communication is difficult.


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