The most asked question I encounter in the disability employment world is about disability disclosure. Whether it is a good idea to disclose a disability remains debatable. People typically ask, “How much disclosure is too much disclosure? When is the best time to tell them about my disability? Will my disability count against me in the hiring process?” These questions are coupled with a tremendous amount of anxiety.
The truth is every case is truly unique; there isn’t a cookie-cutter answer. However, through my experiences as an advocate and navigator, I have found key strategies that are very important to consider. The three main things to remember when disclosing your disability are timing, strategic terminology, and knowing exactly what you need. Let me explain:
Be confident! The perfect time to disclose your disability varies from situation to situation. If you need help completing an employment application, for example, reach out initially to the employer/HR for assistance. However, if the application is not the issue but you do need some accommodations on the job, then the best time to disclose your disability is after you accept the job offer. While there are laws and rulings in place, like the Americans With Disabilities Act, discrimination in the workplace still occurs. Unfortunately, there is generally no way of proving the discrimination, which is why the safest bet is to wait to disclose your disability after you have an offer on the table.
Be discrete! The second thing to be cautious of is how you explain your disability. For example, if you were unemployed for two years due to depression and anxiety, it may be a red flag for an employer to hear that. While explaining the time gap on your resume, you can say that you had to take some time off due to a health condition instead of going into the specifics of your mental health condition and what may have caused it. There is nothing wrong with being a little discrete in situations like these. Practice what you intend to say, be confident, stay in control, and most importantly don’t overshare!
Be assertive! Finally, think about why you want to share your disability. Is there something you need from the employer? Be clear of the accommodations you are requesting and spell them out to the employer. You don’t want to go in saying you have a visual impairment but don’t know how to work around it. Instead, you want to show the employer that your impairment will not come in the way of your performance because you have the tools needed to perform the job. It is usually acceptable to provide your own assistive technologies if you have them. It is also appropriate to request assistive technologies if needed. Don’t be shy to request a reasonable accommodation that can better your performance. A great resource to check out is Job Accommodations Network (JAN); they have a team of experts that can help you navigate the entire process of requesting accommodations.
With these three strategies in mind, approach your next job interview with confidence. Your disability does not have to be a barrier. Believe in yourself, your strengths, and what you have to offer. Regardless, the interview process can be nerve-racking; we here at Workforce Solutions have subject matter experts that can coach you through the entire process, from resume writing, to mock interviewing; we are here to help you showcase your talents!
Soha Mohammed is a Regional Navigator for Workforce Solutions. As a native Houstonian and graduate from University of Houston with a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communications, she is passionate about health and wellness, specifically workplace wellness, and strives to achieve her fitness goals daily and share her knowledge with others.