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FAQ: When Should I Disclose My Disability?

Published onMay 06, 2024
FAQ: When Should I Disclose My Disability?
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Summary of Problem

When should a disability be disclosed? This is a question that arises for individuals who are disabled. For some with visible disabilities, it may make sense to disclose early in the job searching process, if accommodations are needed when applying for employment and during the interview process. For those with invisible disabilities, the best time to disclose can be a question of need and preference. Or if such disabilities should be disclosed due to societal views of disability as a whole and/or the assumption that the disability will impact productivity. Disclosing a disability is a personal choice and is dependent on each individual’s situation and personal needs. The next section presents some considerations, timing options, and next steps.

Considerations

  • Do you need accommodations during the application process for employment in order to submit an application and/or during the next rounds, including interviews?

  • Do you know if future accommodations will be needed including time off to manage the disability? Will it be helpful to disclose up-front so that the disability does not lead to concerns down the road? 

  • What are the typical reactions you have received when you have disclosed your disability to friends, family, and/or coworkers in the past? What has been their reaction?

  • Would disclosing a disability and receiving accommodations allow you to perform your job better? 

  • Is the organization known for healthy work practices for disabled employees, and thus, can applicants and employees disclose without fear of prejudicial treatment? 

Timing Options for Disability Disclosure

Disclosing Your Disability on Your Job Application, Resume, or Cover Letter: Except in special cases when a position specifically invites applicants with disabilities, career experts strongly recommend against mentioning your disability on your job application, resume or cover letter. Typically, such early disclosure will subject you to potential discrimination in the job hunting process. If you are concerned about gaps of unemployment on your resume due to your disability, you can work around this challenge by (a) using a Functional Resume format rather than a Chronological Resume format; (b) list freelance work that you have done, and/or (c) list volunteer experience during your gap period. Job application forms that ask whether you have a disability should include an option of “Prefer Not to Answer” that you can select.

Disclosing Your Disability Before Your Job Interview: If you have a disability that requires an accommodation to complete your interview, you will likely need to disclose your disability prior to the interview. Otherwise, you may opt to wait until after a job offer has been proffered, to consider disclosing.

Disclosing Your Disability After a Job Offer: Employers are not permitted to retract a job offer based on a disability disclosure, but they can require you to complete certifications that you meet all job expectations, including medical examinations. It may be necessary to disclose your disability at this stage, if satisfying the onboarding process requires this. There is no limitation on the categories of questions that employers may ask during the post-offer stage.

Disclosing Your Disability When You Are Employed: Recommended practice is to share your disability on a need-to-know basis, as required to allow you to do your job. For example, you might request accommodations via the Human Resources department, without discussing with your supervisor or colleagues. If disclosing your disability and receiving needed accommodations will help you to function in your job role, it may be a good choice to do so.

Next Steps

When to disclose a disability is a very personal choice, and depends on one’s location, culture, and comfort. For example, you are not required legally to disclose a disability when applying for or accepting a position of employment in the USA under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Outside the United States, regulations differ for each country, and cultural standards and assumptions pertaining to disability vary by society. You should research legal regulations involving disability disclosure in your own region. Disclosing your disability early in the application process may prove necessary if you do require accommodation during the employment process. 

Use Case

Albert is a male identifying neurodivergent and struggles with the traditional interview process. Traditionally, neurodivergent individuals tend to be underemployed, as they do not perform well in the standard interview process. Albert is interested in working for an academic institution known for its inclusive hiring practices and was able to advance to the next stage of the interview process. Upon his acceptance for an interview, Albert receives no information about the proposed questions the interview committee will ask. He does know from peers and from his network that it is starting to become a more common practice to send questions ahead of time for an interview. Albert is wondering if he should self-disclose in order to receive an accommodation. His choices are as follows:

  1. To write to the hiring committee informing them that he identifies as neurodivergent and explain how sending the questions ahead of time is an accommodation that would be helpful in the process.

  2. To write to the hiring committee without disclosing his disability and ask for the questions since this is something his peers have done at other institutions.

  3. To not disclose at all and to not send an email asking for the questions ahead of time, effectively not receiving an accommodation of any kind.

In this situation, Albert opts to not disclose at this time and asks for questions for the interview, since he is concerned about disability-related stigma. The hiring committee replies that questions will not be given in advance, but questions will reflect information from the job description. Albert wonders whether, if he had disclosed his disability, the accommodation would have been granted, but he decides not to reach out to mention his disability, as this could be considered a red flag in the hiring process. 

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