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The Candidate Experience Blog Series Part 1: Understanding Disability

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Part 1: Understanding Disability

Many employers do not know where to begin when it comes to creating disability-inclusive workplaces. In order to implement the most inclusive hiring practices, the best place to start, is fully understanding what a disability is, what the landscape is like, and some facts that might not be known.

Disability 101: Back to Basics

What is a disability? According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual with a disability is defined “as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” The ADA qualifies disability as a legal term, not a medical one, helping secure equal opportunities and civil rights for persons with disabilities.

You may not even realize that certain disabilities, limitations, or illnesses  are actually disabilities that may need employer accommodation.

To help further this understanding, we’ve provided some examples below – (this is NOT a full list, however, a full list can be found on the Job Accommodation Network here.)



Alzheimer’s Disease


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)/Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Anxiety Disorders


Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Auditory Processing Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Bipolar Disorder

Bladder Impairments

Brain Injuries


Cerebral Palsy

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Pain

Cognitive Impairment (Intellectual)

Color Vision Deficiency (Color Blind)

Deafness or Hard of Hearing


Developmental Disabilities


Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome



Gastrointestinal Disorders


Heart Conditions

Hearing Loss


Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

Huntington’s Disease

Kidney Diseases

Learning Disabilities

Lyme Disease

Liver Disease


Mental Health Impairments

Migraine Headaches

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Muscular Dystrophy

Parkinson’s Disease

Personality Disorders

Physical Disabilities

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Psychiatric Impairments


Sickle Cell Anemia

Skin Disorders

Sleep Disorders

Speech-Language Impairments

Spina Bifida

Spinal Cord Injuries



Thyroid Disorders

Wheelchair Use

As you can see from the list we’ve provided, along with most recent statistics, 1 in 4 Americans have a disability. While many disabilities are visible, such as blindness or low vision, paralysis, or other physical disabilities, more than 70 percent of disabilities are non-apparent, such as cancer, autism, diabetes, PTSD, or depression. Additionally, more than 80 percent of disabilities are acquired throughout an individual’s lifetime. Examples include long-term injuries due to an accident, diagnosis of an illness, decreased vision, hearing, or mobility.

Disability & Employment

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is almost twice that of individuals without disabilities, as 7.7 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed, compared to 3.7 percent of people without disabilities. This isn’t only about education levels either  – persons with disabilities who have attained at least a bachelor’s degree are still three times less likely to be employed than those without a disability.

For an in-depth look at these topic areas, download our eBook, “Understanding the Candidate Experience for Job Seekers with Disabilities.”

For more resources and guidance on Understanding Disability, contact the CareerCircle team.

Contributions to this blog were made by Andraéa LaVant of Solutions Marketing Group.