It is quite possible that the organization with which you will be interviewing has been in the news, either locally or in a national publication, in the recent past. If you visit your local public library, you should find back issues of the local newspaper, as well as an index of stories that have appeared in the past year. Most big city newspapers will have a Web page where you can search back issues of the paper online. The same is true for most major magazines. This service is sometimes limited to subscribers, in which case the library would be your best bet.
Third Party Publishers
There are many organizations that publish directories of information on hundreds of corporations. These publications usually offer an abbreviated collection of information about many companies. At the very least, this information will give you a broad overview of the type of business the company is in, the performance of the company's stock, recent developments, and who some of the key players are. While these books can be helpful for giving you a thumbnail sketch of a big corporation, you usually cannot find information about smaller companies in these kinds of publications. One excellent resource that many libraries subscribe to is an online database. This online database provides information on the company (sales, revenues, number of employees, etc.), lists key contacts within the company, and also lists major competitors. Check your local library or nearby college career center to see whether they subscribe.
Obviously, a great source of information about a company is a person who currently works for the company. If you have a networking contact who works for the company you will be interviewing with, contact that person and let them know that you have been granted an interview. The contact may be willing to spend a little time with you and give you some inside information that will make you better prepared for the interview.
If you don't have a networking contact within the organization, now is a good time to establish one. Make contact with some of your first ring of supporters and let them know that you have an interview. Ask if they know anyone in that company whom you might be able to call. The person does not have to work in the same department in which you are applying for a job to be able to give you valuable information. Any employee who works with the organization will be able to give you a feel for its culture and what you will need to know to survive in it.
Researching the Recruiter/Interviewer
One of the things that your networking contacts can help you with is information about the person or people who will be conducting your interview. Just knowing whether it is likely to be an interview with an individual or with a group is helpful as you prepare for the interview. After you have been invited to interview, it's a good idea to make a point to gather some specific information. You should find out exactly what time you need to be there. You should also see if you can get an estimate of how much time you should plan to be at the site. (Some interviews last a half hour, while others can last several hours over a couple of days.)
You should find out where they suggest that you park. If they suggest a lot that is part of the organization, ask if you will need a guest permit, or if there are particular spots dedicated to visitors. The trend of having visitor spaces close to the door may answer your need for close parking without indicating that fact prior to the interview. Having asked these simple questions, you might then ask if the person can give you the name of the person who will be conducting the interview. You may also ask if it will be with just that individual, or if it will be with a group. (If the interview will last longer than an hour, it is likely that there will be other people involved in the interviewing process.)
If you use a wheelchair, the last thing you will want is to arrive at the site and find that you can't get to the interview location because it is inaccessible. Remember, human resources offices are often involved in the scheduling of interviews, and their location is not always central in an organization. If you raise this issue directly, the employer will be able to make the appropriate arrangements ahead of time. This ensures that you won't end up wasting precious interview time trying to figure out a way to get up a loading dock.
You may want to bring up other issues as well. I believe that you will be better off by informing the employer up front that you use a guide dog or some other form of assistance. You have already secured the interview, and they are going to learn this information soon, so it's better to have them receive the information in a way over which you have more control. You could say "Just so you know, I have a guide dog named Jessie. She is a beautiful yellow Lab, but some people are a little thrown off when they see her. If you could let Ms. Interviewer know ahead of time, I would appreciate it. I don't want her to feel caught off guard." This approaches the topic gently, and doesn't make a huge deal out of it. Having addressed it already will take away some measure of the awkwardness of the first few minutes of the meeting. And it's during those first few minutes that so many lasting judgments are made.
You have to feel comfortable with what you are going to say to the employer, but in most cases I counsel people with visible disabilities to share that information in some way at the point when they have been invited to interview and are making arrangements for that visit. I have worked with many clients who have been happier handling it this way. I had a client with significant scarring from facial burns who informed the employer ahead of time: "I just want to let you know that I was in a major car accident last year, and I got banged up pretty badly. I had some pretty severe burns. I don't get mistaken for Christie Brinkley, but everything has healed, and I am anxious for the chance to get to work for a company like yours."
Another client asked the secretary who was setting up his interview if the person conducting the interview had a mustache. The secretary hesitated and replied "No...." He then explained that he had a hearing impairment, and that sometimes it was hard for him to understand what a person was saying if they had a mustache. He had a great self deprecating sense of humor, and he seemed to win this secretary over right away. When the interview came, the interviewer reacted the way many people do when they encounter a person with a disability: He spoke more slowly and more loudly. As time went on, he spoke more and more normally, and it was then that the client knew that he had won the interviewer over. The interview was for an internship, which he got. It turned into full time employment when he finished his schooling.
Most people I have worked with have had to spend some time building up their assertiveness in order to do this. Some people have tried it and failed, mostly because of the difficulty in addressing this issue directly. In most cases, however, clients have told me that discussing it up front, although tough at first, was far better than getting "that look" when they first met their interviewer. No one has told me yet of an instance where an interview offer was rescinded after they disclosed their disability in a conversation about the specifics of their interview date, etc.
This advice is strongly suggested really only for those people whose disability is likely to at least have the potential to impact the interview itself. It is somewhat less emphatically suggested for those people whose disability is visible but is not likely to impact the interview directly. As I mentioned before, however, even if the disability is only visible (loss of a limb, and so on), there still is some advantage to allowing the interviewer to assimilate that information before the interview, so that you can reduce the awkwardness of those first few seconds.