As the Disability Navigator for Workforce Solutions, I’ve been asked by job seekers and staff how to disclose a disability to a potential employer. More often, job seekers with disabilities that are not visible have the hardest time deciding when to disclose their disability. After much research and speaking to disability advocates, I have learned that there is no right or wrong answer; it’s a personal decision that only the job seeker can make. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there. I will share with you some tips that can be useful when deciding to disclose a disability to a potential employer.
Keep in mind that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states, “People with disabilities are not obligated to disclose their disability unless it is likely to directly affect their job performance.” This being the case, I offer the following advice:
Be honest with yourself and know your skills and limitations. Every individual is different. Not every individual with a mental illness will need the same accommodations or face the same challenges in a working environment as a person with a learning disability. So, it’s up to you to learn about your disability and qualifications for the job. If the employer is asking for experience do you have the experience? If you’ve done this job before did you need accommodations, or is this your first time doing this job with your disability. Take time to answer these questions on your own and be honest.
Do Your Research
Learn the essential functions of the job that you are applying for. An essential function is a task or service duty that is critical to the position. If it is not performed, then the nature of the position is fundamentally changed. If your disability will not directly affect an essential function of the job and you will not require an accommodation you might choose not to disclose your disability to a potential employer. However, it can be that there is an essential function of the job where you will need an accommodation. Then it’s important for you to disclose it to the employer and inform them about the adjustments that would need to be made without changing the jobs essential functions. The employer has the right to not make the accommodation if they feel that the adjustment would change the essential functions of the position.
Choose the Right Time
When and if you choose to disclose, you do not need to disclose specific medical or personal information about a disability. It is not recommended that you disclose the disability in your resume. Remember, it is a very personal decision and always talk about your abilities, not your disabilities. Employers need qualified, capable individuals to fill positions. Find a way to show that you are that person. For more information on disclosure, accommodations, and sample letters you can use, visit or call the Job Accommodation Network, (800) ADA-WORK or (800) 232-9675. It is important for you to know yourself, do your research, and decide when and if to disclose.
Claudia Magallan is the Disability Navigator for Workforce Solutions Workforce Solutions- Gulf Coast ensuring that customers with disabilities utilize all the services offered by Workforce Solutions. She has over 5 years of experience building relationships in the Houston Community and working with job seekers with barriers to employment.