How to Disclose a Disability

Disclosing a disability when in the midst of a job search is a complex decision. While some disabilities are clearly visible, others are not. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against prospective job applicants with a disability, statistics show that the percentage of disabled people who are unemployed in spite of the law, has not decreased significantly.

The revisions to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, that went into effect March 24, 2014, holds federal contractors accountable for 7% utilization goal for candidates with disabilities. This is a lofty goal federal contractor will need to aspire to. This should give candidates with disabilities enormous confidence about increased job opportunities in the near and distant future. Another component of the new regulations is that employers will need to ask candidates to voluntarily disclose their disabilities by using an OFCCP approved form.

Here are some things to consider if you have decided to disclose your disability:

  1. Research the company to assess their attitude towards those with disabilities. Do they hire a lot of people who are disabled? Do they promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Can you find someone within the company that can provide insight into their work culture?
  2. Take a close look at the job requirements and determine if your disability impedes in any way your ability to do the job. If you will not be able to lift heavy materials, for instance, and this was listed as one of the job requirements, you should disclose this during the interview.
  3. Discuss if you need any special accommodations. For instance, if your disability concerns your vision, you may want to ask if you will be able to obtain the use of a specific computer monitor. If you need to take periodic breaks, you may want to discuss if this is an option during the interview or early on with your manager.
  4. Determine how many details of your disability you want to disclose. You may have a disability that is not clearly visible. Since you have decided to disclose, you may only need to outline certain limitations you may have, but do not need to get into details such as the medications you take.
  5. Prepare what you want to say in advance. Be prepared for the questions that you may be asked, such as why are there are gaps in your work history, and be ready to answer them.
  6. Focus on your abilities. Even though you have chosen to disclose your disability, it is still best to minimize this part of the discussion and highlight your ability to do the job. You want to divert attention away from disability and toward your skills and experience.

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