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As of today (April 22nd) there are 416 jobs available in disability services in higher education across the United States according to Higher Ed Jobs. The positions range from Disability Specialist to Disability Resource Coordinator, to Accommodations Coordinator, to Assistive Technology Specialist, to Captioner, to Assistant, Associate, Director. You get the idea. Each has its own unique job description and corresponding responsibilities. Some descriptions share the salary; most note it is dependent upon experience. The level of and type of experiences required also varies.


This month’s blog is designed to demystify the disability professional job hunting and hiring process. We will share tips for those seeking opportunities and for those looking for a new team member. Our goal is to help refine the hiring process no matter what role you have in it.


Over the years, the team at Access2Insiders has mentored and hired many new professionals seeking to get into the field. We are frequently asked what credentials you need to have and what experiences will stand out on a resume. From time to time, we’re also asked about a school’s particular program and to “interpret” the job description into reality. Given the commonality of these questions, we pulled together the following “tips”. There is a corresponding chapter and supplemental job aid within our book (Disability Services in Higher Education: an Insider’s Guide) that may be helpful in utilizing the “tip”

Tips for those seeking a role within the field:


  • Your background may vary from the job description, don’t let this discourage you, as we all came into the field with different backgrounds. Find ways to highlight your experiences as advantageous to the position you’re seeking.

  • Be familiar with the differences between the ADA and IDEA. This is particularly important for those professionals seeking to transition from the public-school environment into higher education (Chapter 5).

  • Understand the general premise of campus accessibility – both physical and digital (Chapters 14 and 15).

  • Know of (it’s okay if you’re not an expert) some of the more current assistive technologies that students may be utilizing, or apps that they rely on while in college.

  • Be able to respond to how you might handle highly involved parents. Understand that FERPA applies to college students over the age of 18.

  • Share strategies for navigating uncooperative or overly empathic faculty (chapter 11).

  • If you have not reviewed documentation before, we encourage you to read through chapters 6 and 7 in our book. We discussed how to approach documentation and how to determine what is a reasonable accommodation.

  • Share stories of advocacy both on behalf of disabled people and as a professional in the field.

  • Be able to speak to the intersectionality of disability and diversity (chapter 2).

  • Do your research as to the specific position:

    • Review the institution’s website as you look through the job description, familiarize yourself with the disability office. Look for information on the different roles within the office. Review their marketing materials. Be familiar with their processes as best as you can.

    • Review the student body at the institution – Who are they? What might their goals be for going to that school. Consider examples of how you have interacted with students that you can draw upon.

    • Note whether the institution houses students, consider what that might mean for the role if they do.

  • Come with your own questions around processes, the team you might work with, collaborative opportunities across campus and specific questions to the role you’re applying for.  

If you do not receive the position or are not ready to apply, consider reaching out to a disability services office and asking if you can shadow them for a short time or meet for informational interviews. At Access2Insiders, we commonly connect people thinking about a career switch or wanting to know more about our specific office and school. Remembering this field is small, but working together is powerful.

 

For those of you hiring, congratulations! Many of us truly feel that we have reached the top of the mountain when we see our job description posted. The challenge now is to narrow down the list of candidates, structure interviews effectively and welcome a new team member to campus easily. Details about each tip, including actual interview questions and an on-boarding checklist can be found in our book. We’ve also included links to the job aids below.

Tips for hiring and on-boarding new team members:

  • Create a job description that reflects your needs now and forecasts your needs in the next few years. For guidance on job descriptions, visit Access2Insiders.

  • Once the job is posted, take your time. Don’t let the excitement of hiring override making the right choice for your office.

  • Review your job description – what do you need this person to do? What qualities are needed to fulfill these tasks? It can be enticing to come across a resume of someone who has skills above and beyond your needs. Consider whether the position might hold a long-term interest for them.

  • Look for a candidate that can help to fill the gaps in your current team’s knowledge, and/or bolster that work. This is a wonderful chance to bring someone in with a set of skills that will help the team grow.

  • If you get flooded with applications, consider closing the position after you have gone through the first round. If you can identify 10 to 12 people for a first round, you may be able to temporarily close the position. This will help you to focus on those you have identified as potential quality candidates.

  • Offer a first round of phone/ video interviews. Use the same set of questions for all candidates. Make sure that you allow them ample time to ask you questions. Note what those are. For a set of interview questions visit Access2Insiders.

  • Invite 3 to 5 candidates to campus. Include a wide range of campus stakeholders in the interviews. Create a set of questions for the interviewers to follow, give them a chance to also ask questions specific to their role. Create an evaluation for them to fill out after the interviews.

  • When you have selected your final candidate, turn your thoughts to welcoming them onto your team. On-boarding takes time, but if it’s done correctly, it can make the difference in the effectiveness and longevity of the position. For an on-boarding check list visit Access2Insiders.

Whether you’re looking for a position in disability services in higher education or welcoming in a new team member, being prepared throughout the process is essential in helping it to go smoothly. We hope the resources that our book Disability Services in Higher Education: An Insider’s Guide, offers will guide you to a successful hire.

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