Disability Disclosure: a Very Personal Issue
CUNY LEADS (City University of New York Linking Employment, Academics and Disability Services) is a program of CUNY created to provide students with disabilities the skills to make realistic academic and career choices that will result in successful careers. CUNY LEADS will share job search insight on this blog on the 2nd Tuesday of every month.
If you are a person with a disability, who is currently seeking employment, you may be struggling with the questions: “Should I disclose my disability to an employer? If so, when do I do this?”
Disclosure is an individual and personal issue which does not have a universal answer. Disclosure of a disability is not required under the law and one may opt to disclose (or not) at any point throughout the interview, hiring or employment process.
So how does one make this very personal decision?
To some degree, this discussion may vary depending upon two factors:
- whether you require an accommodation in order to effectively do the job; and
- if you have a disability that is visible to the eye.
For those who are not familiar with the term “accommodation” as it is used in employment, it is defined as “a modification that removes a barrier that prevents an employee from attaining the same level of performance or enjoying equal benefits and privileges as are available to other similarly situated employees without a disability.” This can be something as simple as the installation of a volume control on a telephone or a device to raise a computer keyboard.
For the person with a visible disability (i.e., wheelchair user), the issue is less about whether to disclose, but how and when to approach this issue. It is generally suggested that the cover letter is not the place to disclose. Once on the interview, it is up to you to focus upon your skills and why you are the best possible candidate for this position.
For the individual with an invisible disability, the issue of disclosure is different. Since the disability is invisible, there may be other factors to help you to make the decision such as whether you will require an accommodation. In MOST cases, it is suggested that you request an accommodation upon receiving the job offer. Another consideration may be whether the employer is actively seeking a person with a disability. If the employer is, you probably want to disclose your disability early in the interview process.
Remember that you can disclose and request an accommodation at any point during employment. In a discussion about accommodations, be sure to be honest and positive. It helps to have done your homework and be able to communicate the type of accommodation that is needed.
If you do choose to disclose, be advised that the information is confidential and any necessary documentation should be kept in a separate file from the personnel records. Additionally, the accommodation information is only shared with those who must be informed of the accommodations to be provided.
Always keep in mind that you are applying to a position because you have the skills to successfully perform the job. Be sure to talk about your experiences and skills that are relevant to the company. Employers look to hire the candidate who is best qualified to do the job, so go out there with confidence and show that you are the best person for the position.
Good luck in your job search!
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The views, opinions, or expressions provided by CUNY LEADS do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or expressions of the City of New York and/or the New York City Department of Small Business Services.