To Disclose or Not to Disclose Your Disability? That is the Question.

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Author)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the year-long collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

One very important thing that comes up for many job hunters with disabilities is disclosure. Should you tell a prospective employer about your disability? If so, why? when? and how? While every situation is usually quite different, there are a few key things to most likely consider when making this important decision.

Some people with disabilities may need reasonable accommodations to do a particular job or duty. According to the US Department of Justice, a reasonable accommodation is a “modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.” Some examples of reasonable accommodations can include things like making the facility accessible, modifying work schedules, assistive technology available, and being able to work from home, just to name a few.

disclose-disability

Something to keep in mind is that if your employer is unaware of your disability, they have no legal obligation to provide you with a reasonable accommodation. If you need an accommodation to perform a job, you will need to disclose your disability at some point. One of the main reasons behind WHY disclosure in the workplace is important, is so that the employer is able to provide you with accommodations so you are able to perform the essential functions of the job.

Disclosing any sort of more personal information can be scary. We totally get that. Some things that could be helpful and possibly make you feel more comfortable disclosing your disability, especially if you are new to this subject, would be to research the company’s history with disability. Some questions to ask yourself are :

  • Have they hired people with disabilities before?
  • Does their website or hiring materials include a diversity statement?
  • Has the company been involved with any disability-related organizations, such as sponsoring an event, donating to a fund raiser, or posting openings to disability-focused job sites?
  • How is the company environment; more flexible, open, etc.?

Another important question that pops up is WHEN to disclose your disability. Do you disclose before the interview, during the process, or after you are hired?! Guess what…..that is TOTALLY up to you! You will want to make sure you select a confidential place in which you feel comfortable and allow the potential employer time to ask questions if needed. Always, always focus on your strengths and things you do amazingly; do not dwell on any limitations your disability might pose. The timing of disclosure might depend on the requirements of the interview process, the barriers presented by your disability, or the essential duties of the job.

Last but not least, HOW to disclose your disability to potential or current employers. Being prepared is KEY for disclosing your disability. It may even be helpful to practice your disclosure discussion with someone you feel comfortable with. You could even put together a little script to help you out and practice that. Remember to keep it positive and strength focused and you will shiiiiine. You got this!!!

If you want more information on this topic or even some practice disclosing, do not hesitate to reach out to me by email at alstainb@d.umn.edu – we can even meet in person if you like! I would be more than happy to help!

However you disclose, it is helpful to be familiar with your rights under state and federal disability laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act. See the links below for more information.

Sources and more information:

Read other posts/resources about Disabilities in the Workplace

Photo Source: Unsplash | Ashley Knedler

4 thoughts on “To Disclose or Not to Disclose Your Disability? That is the Question.

  1. […] Have you or do you plan to disclose your disability to your employers? What advice do you have for people in a similar situation? I have not disclosed my disability to my employers, and I am not sure if I will do so. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health conditions, and I feel like most employers are not willing to recognize them as a disability. I am extremely open about my conditions with my peers. I am passionate about educating others about mental health and doing everything I can to eliminate the stigma. That being said, I think it comes down to how comfortable one is when disclosing their disability. There is no method that works universally. If you are comfortable disclosing it, by all means do so! If you are not comfortable with it, there is no shame in keeping that information to yourself. There is no requirement to disclose your disability. […]

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