Ask the Expert: Is a stuttering disability a liability?

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A. As a legal matter, stuttering has never been found to be a disability protected by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If it were, you would be shielded from employment discrimination as long as you were otherwise able to perform the essential functions of the job with 'reasonable accommodation' by an employer.

But don't let that stop you. There are many people with disabilities as wide-ranging as hearing and vision impairment to multiple sclerosis working productively in financial services.

That said, you will probably find the most opportunities in areas without much client contact and/or with less emphasis on verbal communication overall. There are plenty of 'middle-office' jobs like these such as compliance risk management, quantitative work, and research. Stuttering should not play a role in an employer's decision as to whether or not you are qualified for those kinds of positions.

As you doubtless know, however, not everyone is as open-minded as they ought to be-even those with good intentions. Do remember that surprising a prospective employer with your disability at the first meeting is usually a prescription for disaster. Inform them in advance to allow them time to adjust and prepare.

During the interview, be prepared to explain how your disability has fortified your character and courage and caused you to work harder and achieve more than many. Then persuade your prospective employer that you will take those lessons and apply them winningly to the job at hand. Your interviewer will soon see that investing in you is not only business as usual, it's good business.

A reader advises...

'FYI-of potential interest to an interviewer from an ROI perspective, studies show that employees with disabilities tend to stick around for the long haul.'

Next week's question: In a job offer, is a bank bound by a bonus provision (50% in this case) made over the phone? What about other comp-where's the most bang for the buck?

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