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I am applying for summer internships as a software engineer intern (the typical duration is around three months) in the USA. I need to use speech recognition for medical reason: I have some temporary issues with my right wrist, which makes the use of the keyboard painful. I have at least one year of recovery in front of me, perhaps several. It does not affect my productivity by all means, I'm actually more efficient with it, but many companies use open-offices (vs. private offices).

When using speech recognition, I don't have to talk very loud (~ 60 dB): when working in the same room with friends, some of my friends don't care, some do. I can therefore work in an open-office but the people close to me should be OK with me speaking to the microphone frequently (or otherwise be assigned to some smaller room with no or few colleagues that are OK with me).

When should I bring up that I need to use speech recognition in the recruitment process? On my application, during the interviews, after I have the acceptance notification, or after accepting the offer? And how can I approach this tactfully?

I fear that asking to use of speech recognition at work before I get the acceptance notification might lower my chances to be accepted. But at the same time informing them that I need to use speech recognition after accepting the offer might annoy them.

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    I'd say during the interview when they ask "Do you have any questions for us?" That's something they're going to have to invest in for you unless they already have it. Maybe search around for a company that specifically uses speech recognition software? – Brian Jan 21 '15 at 14:53
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    A mitigating factor might be in how the microphone is set up. Do you use a wearable (eg: headset) or is it something that sits on the desk? – NotMe Jan 21 '15 at 14:54
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    If your wrist issues can legitimately be declared a disability (you may need paperwork from a physician), my understanding is that the company is required to make reasonable accommodations for you. – alroc Jan 21 '15 at 15:21
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    @alroc Not if s/he hasn't been hired yet – ExactaBox Jan 21 '15 at 15:58
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    Are you in the US? Then, "ADA". They have to deal with it. – user13659 Jan 21 '15 at 22:07
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Firstly, I recommend obtaining paperwork from a doctor that specifies your problem. This will be a useful item to have, and be able to offer prospective employment, as it confirms your disability from a neutral source.

Many online application forms now have a box that says something along the lines of "Do you have any disabilities we should know about? This will not affect your application but will be used to put in place any facilities required for the interview". If your application has such a question, this is a good place to bring it up.

If not, I would bring it up before a job offer is extended. In many countries, an employer cannot refuse to employ you because of a disability. However, this does not mean it doesn't happen unofficially, so your fear of annoying them is perfectly understandable.

With this in mind, there are several reasons to bring it up before hand in my opinion:

  • It's a legitimate difficulty you experience day-to-day, and naturally being able to function in a way that is comfortable for you daily is important in any role. You want to know before you start work that your work environment is accommodating - you don't want to turn up to blank stares on the first day.
  • It gives the employers a heads up about your working style. For instance, if they know you're going to be sat in an office of co-workers who require absolute silence, they may decide it's not a good fit, but they'll appreciate your honesty in allowing them to make that call. It allows them to prepare and consider how they might accommodate you.
  • Worst case scenario: they decide they don't want to accommodate you, and remove you from the shortlist for the position. Are these people you actually want to work for long term? Short term, the satisfaction of getting a job is good, but it's important to find somewhere you're going to be comfortable and fit in, and you don't want to end up doing a job-hunt all over again a few months down the line because your office isn't receptive to your concerns.
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Never give an employer a reason to prematurely decide to not hire you when said reason is completely irrelevant to your abilities to perform and/or said reason is a protected bit of info that they aren't allowed to discriminate on. The latter is particularly important as if you tell them PRIOR to an offer, there is little to no recourse as it's easier for them to simply come up with other reasons to not hire you.

As such, this is something I'd bring up after you accept the job offer.

But that's just my general rule of thumb. You do have to play things a bit by ear and based on the people you are interacting with, get an idea of when it'd be the best time to bring it up. But definitely wait until there is a very clear interest in them extending an offer to you.

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    I disagree for one reason: If the employer is one that would decline to hire a person that is capable of performing the work but needs a bit of special consideration, then it seems likely that employer would make things difficult once the condition was found out. Being upfront may cause certain companies to decline but you can be absolutely certain that the ones who go forward are hospitable. – NotMe Jan 21 '15 at 18:10
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    @ChrisLively I don't disagree with that. It's just a different way of approaching it. There's also the issue that in larger orgs, the people that may reject you for a reason may not be the people you'd actually end up working with anyways, so that could be a red herring. – DA. Jan 21 '15 at 18:25
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    Before you are hired, they may easily reject because of fear of the unknown. Someone might not hire you if you are .... because they have no idea how it affects your work and they don't want to take the risk. Once you're hired they have to cope with it, and it may be very little of a problem. Like in this case, move people a little bit so he or she is surrounded by people who don't mind him or her talking constantly. – gnasher729 Jan 22 '15 at 10:55
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    I disagree with this as well, especially for an internship. If the company feels you have withheld important information in the interview process, they will never offer you a permanent job – Hilmar Jan 22 '15 at 17:43
  • @Hilmar this is not information one is required to share--at least in the US. – DA. Jan 22 '15 at 18:06
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I am not offering legal advice, but I believe you are (if in the U.S.) covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That being said, coming in with a practical solution in-hand will go a long way towards smoothing the waters.

My background is in closed captioning, and there are some who use "re-voicing" and voice recognition for this. A lot of realtime closed caption writers are also court reporters (same technologies in use). Those who use voice recognition for this use a device called a Steno Mask.

http://talktech.com/stenomask-sylencer/

It is specifically designed for enabling speech recognition in noisy environments. I've not worked with them directly, though.

If you don't mind looking like Bane from Batman, they supposedly work very well.

  • looking like Bane in the office would be AWESOME. – DA. Jan 23 '15 at 20:54
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Your hunch is correct. As I understand it, it's typical to bring up required accommodations for a disability when you've been extended an offer and you're in the negotiation phase. At that point the organisation has expressed clear interest in hiring you and it's the ideal moment to discuss practical issues concerning the offer.

It's possible for more visible impairments to be discussed earlier in the process, though most employers will be hesitant to bring the issue up themselves out of a mistaken interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The misunderstanding is that employers generally are allowed to ask about issues that enjoy anti-discrimination protection, the issues just can't be taken into account when making a decision on your hire.

Organisations of more than 15 people are required by ADA to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities that do not prevent them from performing their core job functions. You may require paperwork documenting your need for a particular accommodation.

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If the concern is you distracting other people -- which is a legitimate issue -- you might want to investigate mask microphones, which address exactly that problem. (The opposite of headphones, sort of.)

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