Posts Tagged ‘Disability’

Every so often we will post something related to job hunting with a disability.  While these posts will focus on specific issues associated with disabilities, quite often they also apply to everyone. 

One question that has come up time and time again is that of disclosure.  When should a person disclose their disability to an employer?  There are a few camps of opinion on this matter.  One camp believes that you should never disclose your disability, because it is not the employer’s right to know.  Another camp believes that you disclose your disability right away, so that you are not accused of withholding information.  Personally, I am a member of the third camp, who steals the underwear of the other two camps.  In my experience, this has worked the best.

When faced with this question, I often coach people to disclose their disability when it’s necessary, and not a minute before.  “So when is that?” you may be asking.  Lucky for you, I have come up with a formula, of sorts.

Disclosure on Your Resume or Cover Letter

Most people would say, “NEVER!!!!”  I disagree, but only in very specific circumstances.  If you are applying for a job where your specific disability would be an asset for your position, go for it.  For example, if you are applying for a position working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and you happen to be deaf or hard-of-hearing, then you will be likely to have a better rapport with the students, so use it to your advantage.

Disclosure Before the First Interview

I only recommend disclosure before the interview if you might need some sort of accommodation during the interview, or if you have found (in your personal experience) that your disability tends to make people uncomfortable.  I use this most often for persons with obvious developmental disabilities that require job carving and/or job coaches (If you would like more information on job carving or job coaches, please leave a comment and I’ll cover it in another post). 

Disclosure During the Interview

This one is almost a moot point.  In my experience, if you have a visible disability (i.e., you are in a wheelchair), disclosure isn’t usually necessary at this point even if you haven’t already disclosed it.  The disability is obvious, and no other information is necessary at this time.  If you have a more invisible disability (mental illness tends to fall into this category), I tend to tell people to keep it to themselves for a while longer.

Disclosure After the Job Offer

If you know up from that you need any sort of accommodations to do your job, this is when you ask for them.  You need to be certain that your accommodation is “reasonable” under the American’s With Disabilities Act (here is a good website to determine that) before requesting it, because the job offer could be retracted if your request is not “reasonable”. 

Disclosure on a Need-To-Know Basis

If your disability will not require an accommodation and is not going to affect your job performance in any way, this should be your tactic.  For example, let’s say that you have a mental illness, such as Bipolar Disorder.  You have been on your medication for several months or years, and have not had any episodes.  You know that, in order to maintain employment you need to take your medication and see your therapist twice a month.  However, you also know that an episode could possibly strike at any time.  So, you decide not to disclose your disability.  You take your medications, you see your therapist, and you keep your job.  Then, something changes in your life, and an episode is triggered.  This is when you should probably disclose your disability.  You will likely qualify for a leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act, but you will need to disclose the disability.  My recommendation at this point in the game, though, is to work with your Human Resource Department, rather than your direct supervisor, only because the Human Resource Dept. will have far more knowledge and will be of greater assistance than your direct supervisor.

Have you ever had to disclose a disability?  How did it go?  Leave me a comment!


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