Disability Issues

Disclosure of a Disability

As a person with a disability, one of the issues that you will face during your job search is whether or not to disclose your disability to potential employers. The first step in this decision is to know your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA makes it illegal for employers to ask whether or not a person has a disability. However, if you need an accommodation either on the job or during the interview process, you must disclose your disability in order to receive it.
Therefore, it is necessary to decide whether you will need an accommodation to perform the job to which you are applying. The best way to accomplish this is to find out what duties are required and consider how you can fulfill them with or without an accommodation. This will allow you to confidently decide whether or not to disclose the disability. You have several options if you wish to disclose:

Disclosing on the Resume/Application. It is not necessary to disclose a disability on your resume. Disclosing on the resume may or may not hinder your chances of being called for an interview. If you are a member of any organization related to people with disabilities you may choose to include this information on your resume, especially if you have held any leadership positions within the organizations. Some employers may require candidates to complete a job application. It is illegal for employers to ask if you have a disability on an application form. If an application form asks about disabilities, it is advisable to leave it blank.

Disclosing Before the Interview. If you have a disability that requires an accommodation for the interview, you will need to disclose this when you are called to schedule the interview. This will allow the employer to make any necessary arrangements for your interview. For example, if you use a wheelchair, you should make sure the site of the interview is accessible. Also, if you require the use of a sign language interpreter, you need to make arrangements with the employer prior to the interview.

Disclosing During the Interview. This allows you to educate the employer concerning your disability and to discuss how you will be able to perform the job duties. The downside is that if you do not get the job offer, you will not know if you were rejected because of your qualifications or because of your disability. If you have a hidden disability that requires an accommodation, it is appropriate to disclose at the point of a job offer. An example of this would be an individual with attention deficit disorder who requires a flexible work schedule.

Not Disclosing. If you do not require any accommodations to perform the job, there is no reason to inform an employer that you have a disability. For example, if you have a hidden disability such as a learning disability that does not affect your ability to perform the job, you need not volunteer this information.

Legally, employers cannot and should not ask…

  • Do you have a physical or mental disability?
  • How did this happen to you? Were you born this way?
  • How will you get to work?
  • How often will you need to be away from the job for treatment for this condition?
  • In addition, an employer may not require a pre-employment medical examination or inquiry. An employer may require a medical examination after an offer of employment has been made, if all employees are required to take a medical examination.

Legally, employers can ask…

  • How you would perform a particular task or to demonstrate how you would perform a particular function. This is known as the “essential functions of the job.”

During the Interview

  • Interviews can be very stress-provoking; therefore, it may be beneficial to think of the meeting as a conversation between two potential business partners. Also, bear in mind that your resume has prompted interest in you, so put your best forward!
  • Be punctual. Arrive 15 minutes early, attend to any personal needs and compose yourself for the interview.
  • You may be asked to complete an application when you arrive. If you need any special assistance or accommodations, be sure that you have indicated that prior to arriving.
  • Know the name of your interviewer and address him/her by Mr. or Ms., unless invited to do otherwise.
  • Greet the employer with a handshake. If your circumstances do not permit this, greet the employer with a warm and enthusiastic acknowledgement.
  • Smile, show enthusiasm and present a positive attitude.
  • If your disability is a hidden one such as hearing loss and you read lips, it is advisable to inform the employer that he/she needs to speak at a moderate pace and face you so that you can read their lips.
  • If your situation allows, maintain good eye contact–this shows that you are interested and attentive to the employer. If eye contact is not possible, then an occasional nod is appropriate.
  • Dress professionally. Business attire is appropriate for most interviews. For women, typically a suit or dress is recommended. However, if you feel more comfortable in a pants suit, choose one that has a polished and professional appearance.
  • Rapport is very important! Put the interviewer at ease. Whatever your disability, focus on your strengths and abilities, and let the employer know that you are comfortable with your disability.

After the Interview

Immediately after the interview, you might want to write notes about any important details discussed. Within 24 hours, write a short thank-you letter to the interviewer for meeting with you. The letter can emphasize your interest in the position and how your qualifications match the employer’s needs.

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