South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department

Helping people with disabilities to become and stay employed.
Helping businesses find and keep talent.

Employing Ability

Hiring People with Disabilities

Having a hard time finding qualified, dependable, hardworking, loyal employees? Want to save time and money?

Try an untapped resource by employing people with disabilities. See how easy and beneficial it can be for your business.


Myth: Only certain jobs are better suited to persons with disabilities.
Truth: Barriers are usually just attitudinal. Studies show they can do the job: a Harris poll of 920 employers found 88% of workers with disabilities earned performance ratings of good or excellent.

Myth: People with disabilities can’t work as hard as other employees.
Truth: A Harris study showed that 46% of employers say people with disabilities actually work harder than other employees.

Myth: All reasonable accommodations are expensive.
Truth: Many cost $0, such as changing the hours of work, moving a person to a vacant position, allowing a person to work from home. According to the Job Accommodations Network, two-thirds of reasonable accommodations cost less than $500. It helps to include the person with a disability in the decision of what reasonable accommodation is needed/provided.

Myth: If you hire someone with a disability your insurance will increase.
Truth: According to a Cornell University study, human resource managers report their company’s health, life and disability costs rarely rise in response to hiring people with disabilities.

Myth: If employees with disabilities can’t or won’t do the job, you can’t get rid of them.
Truth: Establish clear performance expectations from the beginning and if a performance problem does occur, follow your company’s usual guidelines.

Myth: Employees with disabilities are more likely than other employees to get sick.
Truth: A Harris survey found 39% of workers with disabilities to be more reliable than other workers.

Provide sensitivity training for your staff. This will dispel myths, focus on positive attitudes, provide for reasonable expectations, and help people with disabilities to feel welcome and treated equally, rather than special or different.

Conducting Job Interviews

Make sure your company’s employment offices and your interviewing locations are accessible to applicants with mobility impairments, visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities.

  • Be willing to make appropriate and reasonable accommodations to enable a job applicant with a disability to present himself/herself in the best possible light. For example, offer assistance to applicants who are blind or have limited use of their hands in completing their job application forms; provide an interpreter for an applicant who is deaf; offer detailed or specific instructions to persons with cognitive disabilities.
  • Don’t ask a rehabilitation counselor, social worker or other third party to take an active part in, or sit in, an interview unless the applicant requests it.
  • Make sure you have in-depth knowledge of the essential job functions regarding the position for which the applicant is applying, as well as the details of why, how, where, when and by whom each task or operation is performed. This will enable you to structure the interview better and ensure that all questions are job related.
  • Relax and make the applicant feel relaxed. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. At the same time, remember that candidates (particularly those applying for professional positions) must be expected to assume an equal share of the responsibility for making your interaction with them comfortable.
  • Don’t try to imagine how you would perform a specific job if you had the applicant’s disability. The person with a disability has mastered alternate techniques, skills of living and working with his or her particular disability. Ask an applicant to describe how he or she would perform a certain job function if it is an essential part of the position.
  • Concentrate on the applicant’s technical and professional knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences, and interests, not on the disability. You interview a person, hire a person, supervise a person—not a disability.
  • If the applicant is not technically or professionally qualified for the position in question, end the interview. If the applicant is technically or professionally qualified, feel free to discuss, in an open, honest and straightforward manner, how he or she plans to perform specific job duties and what he or she will need to get the job done. Remember all questions should be job-related and asked in an open ended format.

Information from the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

Applicants must be able to perform Essential Job Functions

The applicant or employee must

  • satisfy your job requirements for educational background, employment experience, skills, licenses, and any other qualification standards that are job related; and
  • be able to perform those tasks that are essential to the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.

The ADA does not interfere with your right to hire the best qualified applicant. Nor does the ADA impose any affirmative action obligations. The ADA simply prohibits you from discriminating against a qualified applicant or employee because of his or her disability.

How do I determine essential job functions?

Essential functions are the basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation. You should carefully examine each job to determine which functions or tasks are essential to performance. This is particularly important before taking an employment action such as recruiting, advertising, hiring, promoting or firing.

Factors to consider in determining if a function is essential include:

  • whether the reason the position exists is to perform that function
  • the number of other employees available to perform the function or among whom the function can be distributed, and
  • the degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function.

The employer’s judgment as to which functions are essential, and a written job description prepared before advertising or interviewing for a job, will be considered by EEOC as evidence of essential functions. However, a written job description is not required. Other kinds of evidence that EEOC considers include:

  • actual work experience of present or past employees in the job,
  • time spent performing a function,
  • consequences of not requiring that an employee perform a function, and
  • terms of a collective bargaining agreement.


  • Written job descriptions should include the essential functions of a job.
  • Develop and implement procedures for maintaining and protecting confidential medical records.
  • When scheduling a job interview, be aware that the person may be required to arrange transportation to and from the appointment. A reservation may be required 24 hours in advance.
  • If a job interview is not on the first floor, is there an elevator?
  • Treat people with respect.
  • Provide sensitivity training for your staff. This will dispel myths, focus on positive attitudes, provide for reasonable expectations, and help people with disabilities to feel welcome and treated equally, rather than special or different.
  • When giving directions to a person in a wheelchair, keep in mind the weather conditions, stairs, curbs, hills, etc.
  • Conduct a job interview that emphasizes abilities, achievements and individual qualities.
  • Applicants will usually tell you what technique he/she needs to communicate.
  • For people who are blind/low vision, they may need large print, a magnifying glass, Braille, computer disk, or audio format. Not everyone uses the same assistive technology.
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing should be provided with a sign language interpreter, a printed transcript of spoken words, or real time captioning as needed.
  • Tax credits and deductions will help you in paying for costs of providing reasonable accommodations and access to your business.
  • Hiring people with disabilities may improve your turnover rate.

Tests, Medical Exams & Questions About Disability

It is unlawful to ask an applicant whether s/he is disabled or about the nature or severity of a disability or to require the applicant to take a medical examination before making a job offer. You can ask an applicant questions about their ability to perform job related functions as long as the questions are not phrased in terms of a disability. You can also ask an applicant to describe, or to demonstrate how, with or without reasonable accommodation, the applicant will perform job-related functions.

After a job offer is made, and prior to the commencement of employment duties, you may require that an applicant take a medical examination if everyone who will be working in the same job category must also take the examination. You may condition the job offer on the results of the medical examination. However, if an individual is not hired because a medical examination reveals the existence of a disability, you must be able to show that the reasons for exclusion are job related and necessary for conduct of your business. You must be able to show that there was no reasonable accommodation that would have made it possible for the individual to perform the essential job functions.

Once you have hired an applicant, you cannot require a medical examination or ask an employee questions about their disability unless you can show that these are job related and necessary for the conduct of your business. You may conduct voluntary medical examinations that are part of an employee health program.

The results of all medical examinations or information from inquiries about a disability must be kept confidential and maintained in separate medical files. You may provide medical information required by state workers’ compensation laws to the agencies that administer such laws.

Tests That Are Allowed Pre-Job Offer

Fitness tests and personality tests are not considered medical exams. They may be required prior to job offer, but should be required of all applicants for a specific class of jobs.

Do individuals who use drugs illegally have rights under the ADA?

Anyone who is currently using drugs illegally is not protected by the ADA and may be denied employment or fired on the basis of such use. The ADA does not prevent employers from testing applicants or employees for current illegal drug use, or from making employment decisions based on verifiable results.

A test for the illegal use of drugs is not considered a medical examination under the ADA; therefore, it is not a prohibited pre-employment medical examination and you will not have to show that the administration of the test to employees is job related and consistent with business necessity.

The ADA does not encourage, authorize or prohibit drug tests. The employer may require that applicants pay for pre-hire drug testing provided that all applicants are treated the same.