When Should You Disclose Your Disability to an Employer? 6 Options to Consider

Once you’ve made the decision to disclose, you must determine the best time to do so. The information below will help you consider your options.

Choosing the Right Time to Disclose Your Disability to an Employer: 6 Options to Consider

  1. Disclosing your disability on a resume, cover letter, or job application is generally discouraged.

    • One notable exception is if your disability is relevant to a job, such as grant writing for a physical rehabilitation facility. In that situation, your disability would likely be viewed as an asset that gives you a competitive edge over other job applicants.

    • Keep in mind that your resume may reveal the presence of a disability if it reflects that you attended special schools, received vocational training, participate in activities, or have membership in organizations specific to people with disabilities.

  2. Disclosing your disability when invited to interview is recommended if:

    • You need a reasonable accommodation to participate in the interview process, such as a wheelchair-accessible meeting space or a sign language interpreter.

    • You have a significant visible disability, such as a limb amputation or blindness, which may uncomfortably surprise and distract the employer.

  3. Here are a few points to consider with respect to disclosing your disability during a job interview:

    • Employers are prohibited from asking questions intended to determine the presence of a disability. One exception is the collection of such information for Affirmative Action purposes. In those situations, you must be told the reason for the request, that disclosing is completely voluntary, and that the information will be used only for Affirmative Action reporting and kept strictly confidential.

    • Certain lawful inquiries (for example, employment gaps) may inadvertently cause you to reveal your disability. Preparation is key to answering these questions in the best possible way.

    • You may choose to demonstrate qualities such as problem-solving and persistence by sharing examples of how you manage your disability. If you have a visible disability, or disclosed a non-apparent disability prior to the interview, this is a good opportunity to correct any misconceptions about how your disability will affect your work performance. Hint: Avoid introducing your disability in response to a "tell me about yourself" question; this suggests that you identify yourself by your disability or that your life revolves around it.

    • If the employer didn't fully explain the interview process, you may find yourself unexpectedly disclosing your disability and requesting a reasonable accommodation on-the-spot.

    • If your disability does not come to light for any of these reasons, it is generally suggested that you avoid disclosure during the interview. Bringing it up in an unsolicited way implies that you consider your disability relevant to your qualifications as a job applicant, and this may cast doubt in the employer's mind.

  4. If you have a non-apparent disability that will require a workplace accommodation, and your disability was not addressed during the interview, many people would recommend that you wait until you receive a conditional job offer before disclosing.

    • This ensures that the employer objectively considers your qualifications for the position when making the hiring decision.

    • It would be difficult for the employer to rescind the offer without seemingly violating the ADA.

    • Assuming that you don't start the job immediately upon accepting the offer, this allows time for the needed accommodation to be discussed, agreed upon, and implemented.

    • On the negative side, you risk causing the employer to feel deceived because you did not disclose sooner. Additionally, if reference checks are conducted prior to the job offer, it's possible that the employer will learn about your disability from someone other than you, also potentially resulting in mistrust.

  5. You can choose to disclose at any point once you are on-the-job, either because the need for an accommodation has arisen or because you simply feel comfortable doing so.

  6. You can make the decision never to disclose at all. However, if there's a risk that your disability may cause serious workplace problems, it's best to disclose and explore reasonable accommodations before this occurs. An employer can lawfully discipline or terminate an employee on the basis of disability-related performance or conduct problems if the employer is unaware that a disability exists.

Keep in mind that new regulations require contractors and subcontractors of the federal government to take active and documented steps toward a 7% participation rate of employees with disabilities in their workplaces. As a result, even if your disability is non-apparent and/or you don't need an accommodation, early disclosure will likely be embraced by these employers.

For additional tips and scripts related to discussing your disability with your employer, don't miss our post titled Sample Disclosure Statements for Various Stages of Employment.

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