One of the questions that I get asked most often by individuals with disabilities is “Should I disclose my disability to potential employers?”. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. The decision to disclose a disability in the work place is very personal and cannot be made by anyone other than you. However, to make that decision a little easier, I’ve rounded up a list of things to consider when figuring it out.
- Will you need an accommodation? Reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you know that you will be in need of an accommodation in the workplace, it may be wise to disclose to your manager and possibly HR early on in your employment, or even during the application or interview process.
- Are you hoping to be hired by way of Schedule A hiring, or some other program that gives priority to individuals with disabilities? There are currently numerous programs and incentives that allow individuals with disabilities to find jobs more easily. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit provides employers with a tax break for hiring members of specific populations, including individuals who receive public benefits. Schedule A hiring, done by many states, as well as the federal government, gives individuals with a documented disability a leg up in the hiring process. In order to take advantage of these programs, you would need to disclose your status as a benefits recipient or your disability during the application process.
- Are you comfortable discussing your disability? When you are approaching a manager or HR department, it may feel uncomfortable to explain that you have a disability, or a need for an accommodation or job coach. I recommend practicing with a friend, family member, or job coach ahead of time. When explaining your disability, you may find it helpful identify what accommodations you need, while explaining how you will utilize them to get the job done. For example, some who needs a standing desk due to back issues may say “Due to severe back pain, I would need a standing desk in order to effectively perform my duties. When I am standing, I do not experience severe pain, which allows me to dedicate 100% of my focus to the tasks at hand.”You may also want to keep in mind that while HR and hiring managers are obligated to protect your confidentially and not answer questions that your coworkers may have about you, that might not stop people from asking you directly. If you are comfortable sharing information about your disability, you could certainly do so. If you are not comfortable, we recommend politely telling your coworker that you are not obligated to share personal information with them and notifying your manager.
- Do you plan to utilize the assistance of a job coach, employment specialist, or other related service? Having a job coach visit you on the job site, communicate with your manager, or provide assistance in learning your new job duties is protected under the ADA, and can be considered a reasonable accommodation. However, like other reasonable accommodations, your employer is not obligated to allow this if they are unaware that having a job coach is related to your disability. It is important to note that you can still have your job coach even if you choose not to disclose; however, the support that they are able to provide you regarding your job will be limited to behind the scenes.
- Finally, be sure to consider when you want to disclose. When I have discussed disclosure with individuals I was serving, many people opted to disclose “as needed.” This is fine because again, the decision to disclose is quite personal, and that includes when you want to disclose. However, I found that many times people who wanted to disclose their disability as needed, ended up not disclosing until it was too late. By too late, I mean at or around the time they were about to be let go for being unable to perform their job duties or for other disability related issue at work. When working as a job coach, I fielded many calls from people saying that they were about to be / were just fired and could I call their manager and tell them about their disability and that I’m their job coach and save their job. Unfortunately, at that point, it could be too late.
Disclosing personal information to a potential employer can certainly be intimidating, but if you carefully consider all the point I mentioned above, you are to make the best decision for your personal situation. If you are in need of assistance with deciding to disclose, feel free to contact us today!