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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 12, 2009

Web site helps employers interview job applicants with disabilities

The University of Iowa College of Law will help employers avoid discriminating during a job interview against applicants who may have disabilities with a new, Web-based training program.

The site, developed by the Law, Health Policy & Disability Center, is an easy-to-understand how-to on conducting a nondiscriminatory job interview that features FAQs, best practices and mock interview videos. It can also be used by job applicants to help them prepare for an interview.

The site can be found at Access is free and available to anyone who wants to learn more about nondiscriminatory interviews and best practices in hiring.

Helen Schartz, the LHPDC's director of research, said the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants based on a physical or mental disability. The law also prohibits employers from asking questions during an interview that would compel the job applicant to disclose a disability.

But Schartz said people on both sides of the desk are confused as to how the law plays out in a real life interview.

"Individuals with disabilities, especially those with hidden disabilities, often fear that they may be discriminated against if they disclose their disability during an interview," said Schartz. "Applicants who need an accommodation to apply, interview, or do the job are often unsure how and when to ask for one. At the same time, research suggests that well-intentioned employers are concerned with what questions they can ask when interviewing people with disabilities. They don't want to say the wrong thing."

As learners navigate the site, they are occasionally asked questions and provided with feedback to ensure they understand the information, said David Klein, the LHPDC's director of technology.

One of the most useful parts of the site is a series of videos -- using actors from the UI Speech, Theater and Communications Department -- showing mock job interviews. Some interactions go well and some go disastrously wrong.

"By responding to specific questions about what they see, learners can identify strengths and weaknesses of the mock interviews and receive feedback on their answers," said Klein. "Information is provided that allows learners to understand better how and why the interview could have discriminatory effects and suggest ways to improve the interview."

Schartz and Klein said a nondiscriminatory interview is based on three general points:

--Have a detailed job description drawn up beforehand that explains job duties and the essential skills that are needed to perform the job, and clearly convey those to the job applicant.

--Ask questions that relate only to those essential functions and skills. A list of questions and topics to avoid is available on the Web site.

--Ask reasonable follow-up questions based on feedback from the applicant.

The site is funded in part by a grant from the Nellie Ball Trust Research Fund in Iowa City.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

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