Many students with a disability struggle with the question of disclosure during the job and internship search process. “Will disclosure hurt my chances of landing the job?” “Is not disclosing somehow unethical?” “If I don’t disclose my disability, will I feel that I have not been true to myself or allowed all my identities to shine?”
First, you should know that the choice is yours. To prevent discrimination, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits employers from asking questions which might reveal a disability before making the job offer. Employers may ask these questions after the offer has been extended, as long as they are asking the same questions of other applicants to the same type of job.
So, if you don’t have to disclose a disability during the job application and interview process, why do some people choose to disclose? Here are a few scenarios:
- Some students have a disability that is obvious, and disclosing in advance allows them to get out in front of the process – to frame their disability in a positive light and address potential concerns the employer may have.
- To thrive during the interview process, some students need a reasonable accommodation. For example, a deaf applicant has the right to request a sign language interpreter so she can communicate with the hiring manager with ease. Applicants with certain learning disabilities could reasonably ask for more time during a case interview for a consulting job or internship. Read more about accommodations during the hiring process.
- Many students have overcome great obstacles posed by their disability, and they choose to speak openly during the application and interview process about these challenges and the strengths they have developed by overcoming adversity. Read more about viewing your disability as a strength.
- Some students choose to disclose their disability only to those employers that are clearly working to build a rich, diverse workforce and are aware that an employee with a disability may bring a fresh perspective to their team. Read more about identifying disability-friendly employers.
A side note – the federal Rehabilitation Act requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain individuals with disabilities and sets a 7% goal for hiring of people with disabilities. One way these employers can meet that goal is by encouraging job applicants and current employees to disclose a disability.
If you see a box on an employment application which asks if you have a disability, checking that box may give you certain advantages in the hiring process. However, if you are uncomfortable disclosing this information on an application, you are not required to do so. The only time you have to disclose a disability is when you are requesting a reasonable accommodation.
Here are a few resources to help guide you:
- Join the Lime Network and be matched with a professional mentor with a disability. Take advantage of their workshops, networking events and fellowship programs. Also, view their article, To Disclose, or Not To Disclose, That is the Interview Question.
- Job Accommodation Network provides free consulting services for all individuals, regardless of employment status. Services include one-on-one consultation about all aspects of job accommodations, regardless of the medical condition. They also offer a wide range of online guides.
- Ask BC alumni with disabilities for their advice. Use your Eagle Exchange account to find mentors and set up conversations. Once you’ve registered, click on Explore the Community >> More Filters >> Do You Identify With Any of the Following Affinities or Groups >> Check the “Persons With Disabilities” search box. And view our guide to these career conversations.
And finally, make an appointment with a BC career coach to discuss your job search. We are here to help you!