Disclosing Your Disability


If you have a disability, the next time you go to an interview you may want to consider whether you should disclose to your potential employers what your disability is and how it will affect your ability to do the job. Certainly you’ll need to do so if you are going to require a reasonable accommodation. If you are qualified to do the work, mentioning you’ll need a reasonable accommodation during the interview process lets the interviewer know up front that it is something she or he must consider. You don’t have to disclose, but obviously you are only entitled to a reasonable accommodation if your employer knows you have a disability.

Reasonable accommodation means any change in the work environment or the way things are customarily done that allows an individual with a known disability to enjoy the same opportunities as an individual without a disability in order to complete the interview or do the job correctly. An example would be requiring someone to interpret the paperwork you’re signing when you’re hired if you have a form of dyslexia that makes it difficult for you to read, or having someone provide you with a detailed written description of how to do your work if you are a visual learner with difficulty remembering the fine points as you are learning the job.

Reasonable accommodation allows you to change the way your work is done, just so long as it is done correctly in the end. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers need to provide a reasonable accommodation if it is not an undue hardship on the company or organization to do so. If reasonable accommodation is not enough to allow you to do the job correctly, then it is a job you are not qualified to do in the first place.

Potential employers are not allowed to ask what kind of disability you have during the interview; nor can they require you to undergo a medical examination unless it is a requirement for all applicants. What they can ask is for you to explain your limitations to do the job related to your disability. Think of it this way: the potential employer can ask you how your disability affects your ability to do the job, and they can ask you to tell them or show them how you would do the job.  Your potential employer will need enough information to determine whether the reasonable accommodation you are requesting will be enough to allow you to do the job and do it right.

If you’re going to disclose that you have a disability and that you require reasonable accommodation, keep the information you discuss within the context of the work you’ll be doing. Don’t focus on the limitations of your disability, just mention that you will be able to do a better job with your accommodation. As with any interview, keep the emphasis on your strengths.

If you do disclose, remember that you have the right to have information about your disability kept confidential, and to be seriously considered for any position you have the skills and experience to perform.

When you disclose that you have a disability, and you do it thoughtfully, it sends the message that you’re on top of the situation, and you’re prepared for your interview. It also says that you’re willing to work with your new employers to do the job right. Thinking through whether you should, or shouldn’t, disclose information about your disability allows you present yourself in the best light possible.

Christine Wistrom is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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