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Interviewing : Disability sub-module 4 of 6

Job interviews are often nerve-wracking, and they can present additional worries for job seekers with disabilities. You may be unsure about how to address your disability if asked about it, and you may not be sure what employers are allowed to ask you. You may also have concerns about how to highlight your skills and avoid portraying your disability as a weakness. This page will help you learn some strategies to make a good impression.


The Ontario Human Rights Commission prohibits discrimination based on age, marital status, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability and more. The Commission also protects job seekers against unlawful questions. An employer’s interview questions must be related to the skills and abilities needed to perform the job.

Here are some examples of questions that employers are and are not permitted to ask.

Questions employers CAN ask:

  • How would you perform this particular task?
  • Are you able to work full-time hours?
  • Are you able to perform the requirements of this position?
  • Is the lighting OK? Does this desk meet your needs?

Questions employers CANNOT ask:

  • Do you have any disabilities or medical conditions? What are they?
  • How did you become disabled? What is your diagnosis?
  • How often do you miss work for doctor’s appointments?

Preparing for Interviews

What do you do if you’re asked an inappropriate question?

Sometimes interviews are conducted by people who don’t have the proper training or who don’t understand that certain questions are actually illegal to ask. If you are asked an inappropriate question, it may not be intended to be offensive, and the interviewer may not even realize it was an illegal question. Although the question may be inappropriate, it is important to give a professional and tactful response.

Watch the video or read the information below for some different strategies you can use if you find yourself in this situation.

Strategies for answering inappropriate questions:

  • Answer the question directly, if you’re comfortable doing so. If asked if you have any disabilities you could answer, “I have (your disability). I have found that I can overcome the limitations associated with it using (describe specific accommodations you need).”
  • Think about why they asked, and answer in the context of the job. If asked whether you miss a lot of work because of your disability, you could say “It sounds like you’re wondering if I am dependable. (Give an example of your dependability).”
  • Ask them to clarify their question or explain how it applies to the job. You can say, “Can you please explain what you mean? I want to understand how this question relates to the job.”
  • Politely decline to answer. You can say, “Respectfully, I’m not comfortable answering that question.”

Reflect on the situation after the interview and decide whether or not you still feel that your values would be well-aligned with this employer and/or organization.

The Interview Skills module has resources that can help you prepare for your interviews.


Interview Tips

Here are some helpful strategies that will help you prepare:

If you’re nervous about discussing your disability, plan what you’re going to say, and take the time to rehearse with a family member, a support staff, or close friend ahead of time. Not only will you feel more prepared about what you are going to say, you will also feel more confident.

Don’t let your disability stand in the way of highlighting your capabilities. You have developed skills, such as creativity, flexibility, positive attitude, problem-solving skills, and determination, as a result of meeting the challenges of your disability.

Give concrete examples of how you performed your job duties in the past. This will help the employer visualize you in the role. If you’re comfortable, talk more about what kind of valuable contributions you have made in other environments.

The more you can tell an employer about the required accommodations after disclosing a disability, the more confident they will feel in knowing how to support you. It will also be helpful to provide examples of academic or employment accommodations you’ve received in the past. If you have resources that you can provide to help the employer gain a better understanding of your needs, leave this information with them.

When possible, offer the software or equipment needed for your accommodation that you already own. Sharing this information with the employer is helpful and creates a sense of reassurance that you are prepared for your new work environment.

Questions are an opportunity for an employer or colleague to learn. Providing an educated and thorough answer will be an opportunity to break down perceived barriers.

There are strong motivations for businesses to hire employees with disabilities, which is why it is helpful to inform employers of the benefits of adding a person with a disability to their team. Potential benefits include the following:

  • making their workforce more diverse
  • showing their commitment to employment equity
  • broadening perspectives
  • building a positive image in the community
  • widening their talent pool
  • encouraging and improving accessibility practices for everyone

Remember that an interview is not only for the employer to interview you, but also for you to interview the employer. Informing yourself about prospective workplace environments and cultures is an important part of your job search. Pick one or two questions that you are comfortable asking and see what you can learn. Here are some examples:

  • How flexible is your work environment for those with diverse needs?
  • Do you have resources and activities in place to promote workplace balance and well-being?
  • Do you offer a range of tools, training and technology to support people with different learning styles?
  • Do you have an accessibility policy?
  • What do inclusive hiring practices mean to your organization?
  • In what ways does your company value diversity?