When and how to disclose your disability to an employer

Each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and the value of a workforce that includes all skills and talents. Since 1945, this annual observance has helped spread the word about the value of employing workers with disability. Today most workplaces—in private business, government, and the nonprofit sector—employ people with disabilities.

And yet it remains difficult for many to determine if, when, and how they should disclose a disability to their employer. For those with hidden disabilities, the question can be even trickier.

Are you or someone you know struggling with disclosing a disability?

A conversation with an employer about your disability involves several decisions. Disclosing a disability requires thought and planning. Many individuals with disabilities feel uncertain about disclosure. Ultimately, the job candidate must decide the time, place, and degree of information to share with others.

Are you required to tell an employer about your disability?

No. Disclosure of a disability is not required. Job candidates should be aware that once disclosure of a disability or an accommodation request is made, employers may ask the employee about the limitations relaEmplted to the job and are permitted to make medical inquiries.

When is the best time to disclose a disability?

If you have a visible disability, you may want to anticipate the concerns of the employer. Consider taking charge during the first interview to talk about your disability and how you would handle any impact on the job. You may want to describe any accommodation you use, how it helps your performance, or demonstrate how you would perform difficult functions.

Many experts suggest disclosing before a job offer in order to communicate self-confidence and refocus the employer’s attention on your ability to do the job. Some people with non-visible disabilities may choose not to disclose their disability at all.

What should you say?

Share examples of the strategies you use to do your work. For example a candidate with low vision might say: “In my previous work, I was responsible for maintaining our inventory. I created a labeling system with a good color contrast that I could see easily. It turns out that this was a benefit for others as well.”

Let the interviewer know that you would be glad to answer any questions they might have about how you would do your work and the accommodations you use. Being open and direct about your disability will help put the interviewer at ease, which is a critical factor in whether you receive a call for a second interview.

Want to learn more?

Visit CareerOneStop’s Resources for Workers with Disabilities.

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