Disclosure of a Disability
There is no law that makes disclosing a disability a legal
obligation unless it is likely to affect a person's performance
of his/her job requirements. Employers may only inquire about
activities that are necessary to perform a job, and the interviewee
is only required to answer "yes" or "no".
Some people fear that if they do not disclose a disability they
are being dishonest. However, if the disability does not require
special accommodations, then disclosure is not mandatory.
Research regarding when/if to disclose a learning disability
is varied. Some sources recommend disclosure during the job interview.
Others recommend that a person wait until the job is secured,
and still others believe that disclosure is only necessary when
modifications to the job are necessary. When it comes right down
to it, only one person can make this judgement call: YOU.
following suggestions are offered to help make this decision
- People may be more understanding and helpful if they know
about a handicap. Information about a disability can be given
with scientific words or in simple everyday language. For example,
"I have an auditory sequencing problem," or "I
have trouble hearing sounds in order." If scientific words
are used, following up with easier words will help clarify for
those persons who do not understand.
- Don't mention a disability right after you make a mistake.
If you act ashamed, people will think of your handicap as shameful.
Talk about your disability in a positive way, showing how you
compensate or how, as a result of this weakness, you have developed
an alternative method of accomplishing a task. For example, "I
noticed this mistake in the bylaws because I read very slowly.
My learning disability forces me to concentrate and read one
word at a time. It takes me a long time, but I don't miss anything!"
- If a person chooses to disclose, then the timing of the disclosure
becomes an issue. Generally, disclosure in a letter of application
ore resume is unnecessary, unless the applicant is applying for
a position with a company that supports the same disability as
the applicant's. Examples might be counseling or support services
or government agencies. These employers would be able to point
to current employees as role models for the disabled clients
- When a phone call is made to schedule an interview, disclosure
could be done after the interview is arranged. If the
caller is the employer, and the disability is one that will be
obvious at the interview, disclosure at this point would be appropriate.
An example might be if accommodations are needed to enter the
building or to complete an application form. However, if the
caller is a secretary, disclosure is probably not appropriate
at this time.
- Another possible time for disclosure is during the interview.
At this time the interviewee can demonstrate his/her independence
and ability to function in spite of the disability.
- Disclosing after the job offer has been made is another alternative.
At this stage, disclosure would only be necessary if accommodations
were necessary to perform the tasks required of the job. If no
accommodations were necessary, disclosure is not necessary.
Disclosure is a personal choice, but may times is not an
easy decision to make. There are professionals and counselors
who can help a person make this decision. Many resources can
be found on the internet or in listings of local agencies. The
important thing to remember is that if you choose to disclose
a disability, you must do it with a positive attitude.
Possible Advantages of Disclosure:
- The company can make arrangements for you to visit and see
what accommodations might be necessary
- Many employers are committed to Equal Opportunity policies
- Employers may be impressed with your openness.
- Your willingness to discuss your disability may reflect skills
and creativity that would be an asset to the company
Possible Disadvantages of Disclosure:
- The possibility of discrimination
- You may feel singled out and at a disadvantage
- You may feel your disability is no one's business
- Sometimes it is difficult to discuss a disability with a
From: Peter S. Latham, J.D. and Patricia H. Latham, J.D.,
Succeeding in the Workplace. Attention Deficit Disorder and
Learning Disabilities in the Workplace: A Guide for Success
(JKL Communications, 1994).