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Inclusion: The active engagement of people with disabilities as service members in all levels of national and community service



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Section V: Inclusive Interviewing and Service Selection

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***Please Note: the information in this handbook is currently being revised and updated. Please check back soon for updates to this page and new resource information. If you have a question about any specific content, or are seeking additional resources while potential revisions are in progress, please email NSIP and we would be happy to respond with any inclusion information you require. Thank you for your patience as we make these updates. -NSIP Staff

Key Words and Terms

The interview and selection process for participants is an area that has many legal do's and dont's and can be intimidating for program staff. In most cases when errors are made they are not because of an intent to discriminate, but because the interviewer wants to help, desires more information, or wants to clarify information. An inclusive interview and selection process focuses on what an individual can contribute to his or her community through service and what the program can bring to the individual. The existence of a disability is a secondary consideration.

The issues discussed in this chapter will guide you in developing an inclusive interview protocol. Additional information can be found in the Legal Requirements section of this Handbook.

Basic Tips for Interviewing

Can I ask disability-related questions or request medical information as part of my selection process?

No. You may not ask disability-related questions and you may not request medical information prior to offering the position to the applicant. There are very specific rules to protect persons with disabilities. These rules protect the rights of all persons and allow applicants to be assessed on merit alone. An inclusive manager focuses on an applicant's abilities to perform the essential functions and not on speculation about possible disabilities.

An interview is often a conversation, and conversations with different applicants will often cover topics in different ways. It is important, however, to ask ALL applicants the SAME questions. This will help ensure that you do not inadvertently obtain information from one applicant that you do not obtain from all applicants.

During the interview, focus on questions regarding the ability of an applicant to perform the essential functions of the position with or without accommodations. Even if an applicant has a visible disability, do not make assumptions about his or her ability or the accommodations that he or she will need.

In rare instances, service programs will require medical examinations of applicants. In no instance may you require a medical exam prior to an offer of a position, but your offer may be contingent on the results of a medical exam. If you require a medical examination after a contingent offer is made, you must require it of every applicant offered similar positions. You may not require one only for persons with disabilities or persons you might think have disabilities. You will need to justify any disqualification based on the results of the medical examinations as job-related and consistent with business necessity.

This is a tricky area and caution is recommended. Additional information can be found in the Legal Requirements section (Section XII) of this Handbook. If you are unsure of any of this information, it is strongly recommended that you seek additional technical assistance.

Questions?
If you are unsure about questions to ask, you should call:

  1. Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center at 800-949-4232 or www.adata.org or
  2. The Job Accommodation Network at 800-526-7234 or www.jan.wvu.edu

What do I do if an applicant raises the issue of his or her disability or requests accommodations during the interview?

If accommodations are requested for the interview, you may make sufficient inquiries to enable you to provide the accommodations for the interview. Such accommodations are provided to enable equal opportunity to interview. Accommodations that may be required to perform the essential functions of the service position should not be discussed at this point.

If an applicant has a visible disability or, during or prior to the interview, he or she discloses a disability or a need for accommodation to perform the essential functions of the position, it is not advisable to pursue the issue at this point and you cannot consider this in your selection decision. A response might be, "We are an inclusive project that encourages participation by all persons with the skills and abilities to do the job, and we provide needed accommodations."

Questions You Can Ask and Questions You Cannot Ask
(Adapted from World Institute on Disability, Disability Demonstration Project Oakland, CA)

General Questions that you can ask:

General Questions that you cannot ask:

Questions about performing essential functions that you can ask:

Questions about performing essential functions that you cannot ask:

Questions about specific duties that you can ask:

Questions about specific duties that you cannot ask:

Questions about accommodations that you can ask If an applicant volunteers that he/she can perform the task with an accommodation, then you may ask:

Questions about accommodations that you cannot ask:

Medical Exams

Some programs require a medical examination or drug testing before participants are allowed to serve. If you require such testing, all applicants must take the test. In other words, you cannot test some applicants and not others. We suggest that you contact your Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) at 800-949-4232 or www.adata.org; or the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at 800-526-7234 or www.jan.wvu.edu for more guidance.

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©The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is a training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion. NSIP partners with the Association on University Centers on Disability, National Council on Independent Living, Association on Higher Education and Disability and National Down Syndrome Congress to build connections between disability organizations and all CNCS grantees, including national directs, to increase the participation of people with disabilities in national service.