What Challenges Do Professionals with Disabilities Face in the Job Market?



Just what exactly are the challenges that millions of professionals with disabilities face in the job market? 

Consider this statistic from Madgex’s recent survey of 200+ professionals with disabilities: more than half of those surveyed reported experiencing bias or discrimination in the job application process alone.  

From the initial job search and career planning stage, through sending out job applications and interviewing, professionals with disabilities face many challenges when it comes to navigating the job market.  

Fortunately, associations like yours are in a position to take action and help professionals with disabilities advance their careers.  

So, will you sit on the sidelines or fight for a more inclusive and just workplace so professionals with disabilities can further their careers? 

Below, we explore some more of the data from our extensive survey in detail and examine some ways your association can help professionals with disabilities compete in the labor market and improve their employment prospects.  



I worry that I am often passed up because of my physical disability, even if the bias is unconscious.

- A survey respondent when asked: Are you concerned your disability might have a negative effect on your ability to successfully compete for jobs? 



What Do the Stats Say? 

The fact that more than half of professionals with disabilities have experienced bias or discrimination in the application process is just one of the many alarming statistics revealed by our survey.  

Broken down more specifically, our survey found that:  

  • 45% reported experiencing unconscious bias 
  • 33% said they had experienced microaggressions  
  • 18% faced outright bias and discrimination 
  • 17% reported experiencing positive discrimination

What’s more, the point in the application process as to when to share information regarding a disability caused confusion for many professionals with disabilities. Our survey revealed that: 

  • 33% shared information regarding their disability in their first interview 
  • 26% either don’t share information or do so only when asked 
  • 13% shared their disability after they were hired 
  • 10% shared this information on their resume 
  • 5% shared this information in the job application itself 

I don't disclose because of the stigma involved with mental health.”

- A survey respondent when asked: At what point in your application do you disclose your disability?  



In addition, 7% said that they never mention their disability on their resume while 4% said that they’ve hidden resume gaps to hide the fact that they’ve taken time off because of their disability.  

Technology also proved to be a pain point in the application process for professionals with disabilities, as 20% reported struggling to complete a job application despite recent advances like screen reader technology.  

The interview stage of the hiring process also proved to offer many challenges for professionals with disabilities.  

A significant majority of survey respondents – 67% – reported being concerned that their disability would negatively impact their odds of securing a job interview. Just as alarming was that 43% of respondents said they had experienced bias or discrimination in a job interview itself.  

More specifically broken down, this includes: 

  • 32% reported experiencing unconscious bias 
  • 21% experienced microaggressions 
  • 13% experienced positive discrimination 
  • 6% reported experiencing outright discrimination or bias 

I have to consciously monitor my actions and words so I appear ’normal.’”

- A survey respondent when asked: Do you change or alter anything about your appearance, dress, or mannerisms to downplay your disability in order to increase chances of being perceived well in interviews?



Technology again proved to be a major pain point for professionals with disabilities during the interview process, as 38% of those with equipment needs were apprehensive about mentioning them to their interviewer while 10% reported struggling to complete a job interview due to lack of the right equipment.  

Taken all together, this data indicates that the hiring process presents significant challenges for professionals with disabilities. From technology issues to confusion over when to share their disability with a prospective employer to outright discrimination and bias, the hiring process is fraught with challenges on every front.  

Fortunately, associations just like yours are in a unique position to step up and help professionals with disabilities advance their careers.  

Interested in Learning More?

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How Can Your Association Help Professionals with Disabilities Succeed? 

Associations can take a number of steps to become allies of professionals with disabilities and help them advance their careers. Here’s just a few of them! 

Establish Your Association as an Inclusion Leader in Your Industry 

First and foremost, it’s important to take action to become an inclusion leader in your industry to promote accessibility and fight for a more equitable workplace for professionals with disabilities.  

Aside from taking further steps to make your own association more accessible, position your association as a tireless advocate for inclusion and accessibility in your industry itself. Hold workshops, sponsor events and issue best practices guidelines for accessibility and inclusion relevant to your industry. Doing so is a key step in making the workplace fairer for professionals with disabilities.  

Hold Workshops and Training Sessions 

Holding workshops and training sessions can be a great way to help your members welcome and dignify professionals with various disabilities. By raising awareness and ensuring that everyone in your association is treated with respect, you can take a major step towards creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment for professionals with disabilities.   

For best results, consider a mix of workshops focused both on how members can welcome professionals with disabilities as well as those focused on how professionals with disabilities can improve their employment prospects.  

Create a Safe and Inclusive Environment 

Implement and strictly enforce policies and procedures designed to promote inclusivity, respect and dignity for all your members. In addition, spotlight individual members who take the initiative to become “inclusion champions” for professionals with disabilities.  

Ensure All Your Locations are Accessible  

Your offices as well as offsite meeting and event locations should all be chosen with inclusion as a top priority. That means ensuring that all spaces are accessible with automatic doors, access ramps with handrails, elevators, accessible bathrooms, Braille signage and assistive technology onsite.  


I'm worried I won't be hired over someone who doesn't have a disability.”

- A survey respondent when asked: Are you concerned your disability might have a negative effect on your ability to successfully compete for jobs?



Take Action Now for a More Inclusive Workplace  

As explored above, professionals with disabilities face many challenges navigating the labor market.  

But your association can make a difference.  

How so? Download our free eBook now to learn how associations like yours can create a more inclusive and accessible workplace for professionals with disabilities and for more insights and useful action points directly from the experts.