The topic of disclosure can be tricky to navigate. You can read article after article on this topic and still feel that you are not 100% sure of whether or not to disclose your disability to an employer. This article provides an insider's perspective of this decision-making process taken from the point of view of several job seekers who have worked with Resource Partnership to obtain employment.
Generally speaking, if you do not need a reasonable accommodation to help you perform the basic duties of your job, you do not need to disclose your disability. The decision to disclose a disability will vary greatly depending upon whether the disability is visible or hidden. With a visible disability, employers in most cases will know that a disability exists as soon as you meet them. The question for these job seekers is, does one acknowledge it in the interview? Or even before the interview, let's say in the cover letter or over the phone? If a disability is hidden, the question then becomes, does one need to disclose this disability and if so, when and how? What do you say and what do you not say?
Job seekers with visible disabilities working with Resource Partnership are split when it comes to the decision of bringing attention to their disability. For some, the decision is made for them due to building accessibility needs.
"I always disclose because I need to make sure that the building I would be working in is accessible to a wheelchair," writes one job seeker.
Another job seeker says, "An employer can see that I have a disability. If a remark is made about me using a cane, I don't dwell on it, but keep the conversation on my positive attributes instead."
This is a common theme among job seekers with disabilities. Another job seeker states, "The only thing I do not allow during the interview process is to let the interviewer focus on it [disability]. I try to take charge of the interview and tell them how we can mutually benefit by hiring me."
The same job seeker continues, "If the employer won't overlook my disability and hire me for my skills, then I'd rather not work for that employer anyway."
Finally, one more job seeker with a visible disability states, "Disclosure for me is automatic once I get to the interview. It has been a long time since I have had to worry about disclosure. In some ways, it is one less thing I have to worry about."
For those with a hidden disability, the process is very different. Interestingly, most of the job seekers who were interviewed regarding the decision to disclose a hidden disability decided to disclose it either during the interview process or within their tenure with their respective employers.
One job seeker writes, "The symptoms of my disability are triggered by stress. It is important that I inform my employer so that the proper care is given if needed. I disclose after a one month period so that the employer can realize that I have the ability to perform the needed tasks to get the required work accomplished." Another job seeker writes, "All of my co-workers are disabled also. I disclosed and now have a job that I love and that I had to work really hard for. I feel that it was not just because of my disability, but because I am a hard worker."
Words of Wisdom from Job Seekers
It may take some time for you to figure out what is best for you to do when it comes to disclosure. It may mean that in interview situations you explore different options before you settle in on what works best for you. Whatever your decision is, be confident in yourself, the skills you have, and your abilities. I leave you now with some selected words of wisdom on this topic from Resource Partnership job seekers...
"I never raised the issue at work perhaps because I wanted to be evaluated like everyone else. Nevertheless, one should discuss the issue with an employer if he or she feels it has an impact on an essential job function."
"To disclose or not to disclose is up to the individual job seeker. I would say it depends on the job seeker's comfort level and the situation or surrounding circumstances."
"If you have a disability that is visible or one that you know could be affected by the work environment, disclose, but make sure you are up front with them, letting them know that you do not want to be treated any different and with the same respect that they would give to the average employee."
"One thing I feel strongly about whether you decide to disclose or not is to make sure that you are comfortable with your disability because your confidence of who you are will show in an interview. One must weigh the pros and cons of each situation. It may even change from interview to interview. Just be comfortable with whom you are, and, should you decide to disclose, I feel strongly not to allow that disclosure to be the focus during the interview. Talks of accommodations can always be made after the job offer is in hand."
Jennifer Seamans joined the Resource Partnership as an Employment Specialist in January 2004. She holds a Master's Degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology with a focus in Counseling and has worked with athletes and teams nationwide to help them to enhance their Mental Toughness in their respective sports. Jennifer is located at JobNet in Boston and works with individuals with both mental and physical disabilities providing Career Development and Job Placement.
Resource Partnership [http://www.resourcepartnership.org] is a non-profit organization that assists individuals with varying abilities and disabilities find and experience success at all levels of employment and in a wide range of industries and occupations.
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