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FAQ: How should I disclose my disability?

Published onMay 06, 2024
FAQ: How should I disclose my disability?
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How should I disclose my disability?

Once you have decided that you are ready to disclose a disability, or you know that you would like to disclose a visible disability at a time of your choosing, you will need to consider how you would like to disclose. Fortunately, you have many options. You will want to think about what communication methods you are most comfortable with, why you are disclosing, and what your needs are.

Summary of possible next steps/options

If you are disclosing a disability in order to formally request reasonable accommodations, your first step should be to determine if your organization has a specific form. While the ADA does not require that a request any particular information, some larger organizations may have formalized the process. Next, you will want to decide whether you prefer to disclose via email or a synchronous method, such as in person. If you plan to send an email, the following are items that the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) recommends that you include:

  • Identify yourself as a person with a disability

  • State that you are requesting accommodations under the ADA (or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if you are a federal employee)

  • Identify your specific problematic job tasks

  • Identify your accommodation ideas

  • Request your employer's accommodation ideas

  • Refer to attached medical documentation if appropriate

  • Ask that your employer respond to your request in a reasonable amount of time

The advantage of sending a formal email is that you will have a record of your request. This also allows you to put forward your own suggestions first for what reasonable accommodations would be most effective for you.

If you are not requesting formal accommodations, you may still wish to disclose. In this case, you may choose to do so more informally. Depending on the visibility of your disability, you may also choose to disclose to some coworkers, but not others. If this is the case for you, consider the possible reception you will receive and what you are able to and interested in handling from those to whom you disclose.

Use case

Kwame has worked under a supervisor to whom he disclosed his invisible disability, but did not make a formal accommodations request. He successfully worked with his supervisor to reach an agreement about accommodations. However, now he has learned that he will have a new supervisor soon and realizes that his accommodations are not documented. Kwame discusses this issue with his current supervisor and they agree that he should draft and document a formal accommodations request now so that the process is finalized before a new supervisor comes in.

Links to further resources

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/10/smarter-living/disclose-disability-work-employer-rights.html

  2. https://www.themuse.com/advice/if-when-how-disclose-invisible-disability-at-work

  3. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/when-and-how-to-disclose-a-disability

  4. https://www.careeronestop.org/ResourcesFor/WorkersWithDisabilities/disclosing-a-disability.aspx


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