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Considerations for Disability Disclosure

If you are a person with a disability it can be difficult to decide whether or not to disclose to your employer. Since this is a highly personal choice—and you are the only one that can make it—the decision can become even tougher. In any case, we recommend that you review the information and resources available on disclosure to help you make the best decision for yourself.

There are often one of three reasons why people choose to disclose:

1.  Ask for accommodations

You can request an accommodation at any time during the application process or while you are employed. Furthermore, you can request an accommodation even if one was not requested when applying for or upon receiving a job. If you are an employee facing a workplace barrier that impacts your ability to be successful in your job, you might consider requesting an accommodation through disclosure.

2.  Receive benefits or privileges of employment

Under the ADA, employers must provide accommodations that allow employees with disabilities to enjoy the same privileges of employment as those offered to employees without disabilities. Examples of such benefits could include training, cafeterias, lounges, and gymnasiums.

3.  Explain circumstances

If your disability may require an employer to be flexible in work arrangements during certain times (i.e. telecommuting during air conditioning repair for someone with temperature sensitivities due to multiple sclerosis (MS)), disclosure can help an employer to understand this request.

Here are two key tips for accommodation requests:

1.  Language

You can use plain English to request your accommodation. In fact, you do not have to use the phrase “reasonable accommodation” or mention the ADA. You can simply say to your supervisor or human resources personnel, “I would like to talk with you about a difficulty I encounter when _______ing due to a medical condition.”

2.  Timing

Ideally, individuals will disclose a disability and request accommodations prior to any performance problems—or before they become an issue. Since employers do not have to rescind discipline that occurred before they knew about the disability, timing can be important to your success as an employee.

Stay Informed

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and requires an affirmative action plan, setting an employment goal of 7%.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a great resource where much of this information originated. For more tools to aid in disclosure, visit HERE.

ECS offers diversity resources for students with disabilities on our website and within CareerEngine. Schedule an appointment with an ECS Advisor if you have additional questions about disability disclosure and available tools.

“It was ability that mattered, not disability.”
- Marlee Matlin

Categories: Miscellaneous

About the author

Ashley Taylor

Ashley Taylor is a Career Counselor at Engineering Career Services.