Disability Disclosure...That is the Question
WHAT IS DISCLOSURE?
Disclosure is the process of informing a potential employer
that you have a disability. Many people are unsure as to whether or not they should
inform potential employers about their disabilities, and at what point it would
be appropriate to disclose this information.
DO I HAVE TO TELL POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS ABOUT MY DISABILITY?
You are not required to tell potential employers about
your disability, and they cannot ask you about your condition. Disclosure is a
personal choice dependent upon type of disability, how the disability will effect
your work and your personal feelings. Explaining your disability and how it will
effect your work is recommended, because most potential employers feel very positively
towards those applicants whom they feel have been completely honest with them.
WHEN SHOULD I DISCLOSE MY DISABILITY?
There are several appropriate times to disclose your
disability to a potential employer. You should decide when you would feel the
most comfortable making this disclosure.
- Application - Never state your disability under
the health section of an employment application. This reinforces the stereotype
that people with disabilities are unhealthy.
- Resume - If you have had work experience (paid or
volunteer) that is related to your disability, be sure to include it on your resume.
However, never state your disability at the top of your resume, since this implies
that you feel that it is a very important aspect of the job search process.
- Cover Letter - Disclosing in a cover letter is appropriate,
especially if your work experience clearly indicates that you have a disability.
(See example). If you choose to disclose in your cover letter, you may want to
staple the letter to the back of your resume so that the employer reads about
your abilities before learning the specifics about your disability. Be aware that
disclosing in a cover letter may lessen your chances of being granted an interview
in some cases.
- Interview Confirmation - Many people choose to disclose
at this point. It would be very difficult for the employer to back out of the
interview at this late time. Also, employers react more favorably to this type
of disclosure than to the "shock" tactic. (See #5). When you call to confirm your
interview, be sure to talk directly to the person who will be interviewing you.
- Interview - Some people do not disclose their disabilities,
and simply show up at the interview, "shocking" the interviewer. This tactic is
not recommended, since employers often feel unprepared, embarrassed, and even
hostile. The first five minutes of the interview are the most important, and you
do not want to spend them in uncomfortable silence.
No matter when you decide to disclose, you will
want to present your disability in the most positive way possible. Make sure to
discuss the following:
- Disclose your disability - you do not need to go
into extensive detail.
- Describe your skills and specifically how you will
do the job.
- Show that you are aware of attitudinal barriers
that you may encounter in an office, and be prepared to discuss how you make others
feel more comfortable around you.
- Mention that you do not expect special treatment.
- Specify that you have references to verify your
work experience upon request.
The most important aspect of disclosing your disability
is presenting yourself as a problem-solver rather than a problem-creator. You
are someone who can do the job and help work towards greater productivity. Above
all, you can compete on equal terms with people who do not have disabilities.
DISCLOSING DURING THE INTERVIEW CONFIRMATION (SAMPLE)
- Call to confirm the interview. Make sure to ask
to speak directly with the person who will be conducting the interview.
- Confirm the date, time, and location of the interview.
- Disclose your disability. Example: "I want to be
frank with you. I use a wheelchair because my legs are paralyzed as a result of
an accident. However, I assure you that my disability will not effect my ability
to work or my attendance record. I wanted to let you know about my disability
in advance to avoid catching you off guard at the interview. Please feel free
during the course of the interview to address any questions or concerns about
how my disability might affect my work performance."
- Close the conversation positively. "Thank you for
your time. I am looking forward to meeting with you and discussing the possibilities
SAMPLE COVER LETTER FOR DISCLOSURE
113 Bay St.
Tuckahoe, NJ 08003
Ms. Elizabeth Trent
Mann Industries, Inc.
2356 Sutter Pike
Ritter, NJ 08836
Dear Ms. Trent,
I am responding to your advertisement for an assistant
in your finance department. As I have stated on my resume, I graduate with a B.S.
in Business, with a concentration in finance. I worked as an intern at Dean Witter,
Inc. for the duration of my senior year.
In addition to my experience at Dean Witter, Inc.,
I have worked as a volunteer leader at the YMCA of Tuckahoe for the past three
years. I feel that this experience has helped me learn how to work effectively
with others in a supervisory capacity.
I wish to be honest with you. I have used a wheelchair
since my tenth birthday, due to an automobile accident. My disability does not
interfere in any way with my ability to perform the skills needed in a finance
department. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have concerning
I hope that I will have the opportunity to meet
with you to discuss my qualifications for this position. I will call you in a
few days to arrange an interview at a mutually convenient time.