It’s illegal for an employer to ask you about a disability, but sometimes you may feel it is necessary to tell them. This is oftentimes dependent on how important the disability and its effects are in your life. Explaining your disability and how it will affect your work is often recommended, as employers appreciate honesty and will be able to better work with you to determine accommodations on the job. Many people with disabilities never disclose this information as they feel that it is unimportant in the context of their work. While you should not feel that you have to hide a disability, you should not feel that you have to share it, either.
Some things to consider about disclosure…
- Will I need accommodations for the interview? In the workplace?
- How much does my disability impact my work? My everyday life?
- What benefits could disclosing to an employer have? Any drawbacks?
- How important is my disability in the context of my life?
If you do choose to disclose your disability, you will want to present the information positively. The key is to not think of your disability as a setback, but as a way of doing things differently.
- Disclosing your disability does not mean you need to go into extensive detail! Just provide information you feel is necessary to your employment.
- Focus on your abilities, not disability. Play up your strengths, and don’t get hung up on your limitations!
- Show that you are aware of attitudinal barriers that you may encounter in the office and that you don’t expect special treatment.
When should you disclose?
Here are some stages of the job search where you might consider disclosing information about your disability to an employer:
The Cover Letter
The cover letter is your chance to give a potential employer a snapshot of who you are and what you can accomplish. If you feel that your disability is an important aspect in your life, feel free to disclose in the cover letter. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can mention your disability as an obstacle you have overcome, proving that you are versatile and adaptable.
While you probably wouldn’t want to include your disability in a professional summary at the top of the resume, you certainly can make mention of any accomplishments, work, clubs, activities, or service projects you have completed that could suggest at your disability.
If you will require accommodations for your interview (i.e. written materials in an alternate format or a sign language interpreter) you should communicate these needs to the employer when scheduling the interview.
If you discuss your disability during an interview, you can better gauge how receptive the employer is to the disability and how disability might fit into the culture of the company. Take the interview as an opportunity gauge whether or not you will want to work for that employer. If they are not receptive to your disability, it may be a good idea to search somewhere else. Do not feel like you have to accept an job offer just because they offer.
After Receiving the Job Offer
If you did not want your employer to know about your disability prior to receiving a job offer but still need to communicate with him/her about accommodations at the workplace, you can discuss your disability after receiving the job offer. It is illegal for any employer to rescind a job offer simply because an employee requires certain accommodations.