Competence of and Performance Expectations for Workers with Disabilities and Older Workers
Social perception applied to individuals with disabilities and older adults have been dictating their workplace experiences and employment opportunities. In particular, negative perceptions of people with disabilities and the focus on such potential disadvantages as reduced working capacity, poor performance, and the lack of effectiveness as professionals has made these groups of people some of the least desired kinds of employees at most workplaces (HM Government, 2009; Munnell, Sass, & Soto, 2006).
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The major similarity between the perceptions of older people and individuals with disabilities is based on the belief that they are slow and could slow down the other workers and the idea that the managers should have lower expectations when evaluating their performance. However, people with disabilities are seen suited for certain kinds of jobs that require competencies that are not impacted by their disability, thus making a worker with a disability just as effective as their non-disabled peers. At the same time, there are very few jobs that are deemed suitable for older adults because age is perceived to have a negative impact on both physical and mental capacities of a person. This tendency dictates the main difference in the workplace experiences of and attitudes towards people with disabilities and older adults.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Americans with Disabilities Act (that is also known as the ADA) dates back to 1990; it is based on the Civil Rights Act what was singed in the middle of the 1960s. The major purpose of the ADA is to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities and grant them opportunities of fitting in the American life as equals to everyone else in regard to purchasing services and goods, employment, and the participation in different programs and services of local, as well as state level (United States Department of Justice, n.d.).
In turn, the Rehabilitation Act is a much older legislation that was signed into law in the 1970s. Apart from protecting people with disabilities from being discriminated against, this Act also provides the individuals with a broad scope of services, thus facilitating their inclusion in the American society and helping them function normally and independently regardless of the challenges posed by their cognitive or physical impairments (“United States Laws,” n.d.). In fact, this Act has been amended two times since the 1970s, and one of its amended sections (Section 504) served as the basis that helped model the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA is a narrower piece of legislation that aims at the protection of the civil rights of people with disabilities whereas the Rehabilitation Act offers services helping these individuals become proper members of the American society.
In the provided list of questions, there were several inquiries that could be identified as questionably legal or insensitive to make during a job interview with a person who has a disability. In particular, question A (Do you consider yourself handicapped in any way?) includes the word “handicapped” that is known as an inappropriate term to use when referring to people with disabilities; instead, one is advised to use the term “a person with a disability (disabilities)”. In addition to the aforementioned concern, question A also qualifies as an attempt to solicit information about a disability that is also considered inappropriate during a job interview with a person with disabilities (MTU, n.d.). In that way, the entire question should not be asked at all.
Another questionably legal inquiry is question B (Is there a history of chronic illness in your family?) because it is aimed at soliciting private health-related information. Such questions are inappropriate and unrelated to the professional competencies and duties of the applicants. However, it could be possible to rephrase this question in order to direct it towards the job under discussion; differently put, the appropriate version of this question would be “do you think your health status could affect your performance of the job?”
The next questionable inquiry is question G (Given that you are in a wheelchair, how do you think you’ll be able to do this job?) – this question can be recognized as inappropriate due to the insensitive language. “In a wheelchair” is an inappropriate way to refer to a person with a disability. However, overall, the employers have a right to inquire applicants with disabilities about their ability to perform tasks included in the job (MTU, n.d.). In that way, the reworded version of this question should exclude the first part and be the following: “do you think you will be able to perform job-related activities effectively?”
Further, question H (We are looking for someone who can effectively relate with college students; you are 47 years old?) is another questionably legal inquiry because all questions regarding the applicants’ age are deemed inappropriate during a job interview. In order to transform this question into a more suitable version, it is necessary to omit the part about age. The following is the appropriate version of this inquiry: “We are looking for someone who can effectively relate with college students, do you believe you are such a person? Please elaborate on your argument.”
In addition, questions C and I also should not be asked directly at a job interview because they are rather personal, intrusive, and can be perceived by the interviewees as judgments. Instead, such questions should be reworded in order to focus on job-related factors. The version for question I should be “Have you ever had problems due to breaching company policies regarding the use of tobacco or alcohol?” and for question C – “will you be able to work additional hours and go on work-related trips if needed?”.
HM Government. (2009). Public perceptions of disabled people.
MTU. (n.d.). Institutional equity and inclusion.
Munnell, A. H., Sass, S. A., & Soto, M. (2006). Employer attitudes towards
older workers: Survey results. Work Opportunities for Older Americans, 3, 1-14.
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United States Department of Justice. (n.d.). Introduction to the ADA.
United States Laws. (n.d.).