This week’s Seeker Session at Goodwill’s Mission Services Center focused on disclosing a disability to a potential employer. Nicole, this week’s presenter and one of Goodwill’s Job Placement Specialists, has valuable information on the topic. Read on…
For job seekers with a disability deciding when, or even if they want to disclose a disability, can be a difficult choice. Some disabilities are more obvious than others and cannot be hidden but if you have an unseen disability, such as a learning disability, it is imperative to learn when to disclose. For people with more evident disabilities it may not always be possible to decide on when but it is still important to learn how to disclose to employers.
An employer cannot lawfully refuse someone because they have a disability. They are required to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace. If someone discloses a disability and feels that they have been treated unfairly or discriminated against in the application process, they can make an official complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Disclosing a disability is a choice and should be taken into careful consideration by job seekers.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from asking medical or disability-related questions on a job application. The exception to this is that a government agency can ask an applicant to voluntarily disclose a disability for affirmative action purposes.
Some key things to consider when disclosing a disability:
- Come with a script: if you’re going to disclose, write down what you want to say and keep in mind the potential employer wants to know 3 things: 1) Will you be reliable? 2) Can you do the job as well or better than anyone else? and 3) Will you be valuable to the organization? Practice what you want to say until you feel comfortable with it. While discussing your disability, positively describe your skills. The more positive you are about what you can do, the more your strengths and personality come across over the disability.
- Consider visible versus invisible disabilities: A visible disability might put you in the position of having to discuss it. Be prepared. If you have workspace accommodation needs, you may want to discuss that at the same time. Be aware that some employers will make assumptions about a visible disability, so your disclosure can be an opportunity to correct any misconceptions about your ability to do the job effectively.
- Clarify workplace accommodations if necessary: employers are required by law to make accommodations but one concern some employers will have is the cost of workplace accommodations, even though they often turn out to be minimal or free. You may want to briefly explain what you need and what the costs would be.
- Disclosure is a choice not a law: people have a right to choose what information they disclose or do not disclose to employers.