Disclosing Your Disability
Deciding whether, when and how to disclose a disability is a complex personal decision.
You are not required to disclose that you have a disability or mental illness unless it interferes with your ability to carry out the essential functions of the job you’re applying for. However, keep in mind that you have the legal right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace and that if you do require accommodations, it is your responsibility to let your employer know.
Click the image below to view a resource to help you explore issues surrounding talking about your disability to employers.
The Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canada Human Rights Act both legislate that employers cannot discriminate against persons with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations. As well, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) mandates requirements for all workplaces to adopt inclusive recruiting and selection practices. Be aware of your legal rights by reading over the legislation and the related guides.
The Experiential Learning Hub respects students’ right to privacy, although we do highly recommend and encourage co-op students to disclose their disability to employers to ensure open and clear communication. In our experiences, failing to disclose during co-op work terms – especially when accommodations are required – can lead to frustration and disappointment for all parties involved.
When should I disclose?
Considering when to disclose your disability can be tricky, as there are benefits and disadvantages of disclosing at different stages. Keep in mind that your main goal is to be hired to do a job that matches your skills and qualifications, and your timing may affect your success in securing a position. Click here to view your options to decide when is the best time to disclose. Click here to learn more about "Disclosure Timing Options".
What Should I Say?
You don’t have to explain what your exact diagnosis is when disclosing to an employer, but you need to communicate what your functional abilities and limitations are in regards to the job. Consider the following do’s and don’ts when disclosing:
Provide positive examples of when you have overcome challenges. By stressing the positive aspects of your disability you can confront any negative perceptions at the earliest stage possible. Admitting the difficulties you have had and stressing the ways you have found to overcome them shows maturity and determination to an employer.
Demonstrate, with examples, the skills gained from managing a disability. Think about what your disability has taught you. What skills have you used in your academic career that could be transferred to the workplace? For example, if you were partially sighted you may have exceptional verbal communication skills.
Prepare a disclosure script and rehearse it. Write down what you’d like to disclose and run it by a friend or colleague to give you feedback. Then rehearse it until you can say it comfortably and naturally. Click here to view a sample disclosure script and tips on how to create your own. Click here to learn more about creating your disclosure script.
Use complicated medical terminology to describe your disability. Speak about your abilities and limitations in plain language that an employer can clearly understand.
Unintentionally answer illegal questions about your disability. After you disclose, the employer may unknowingly ask a question that is prohibited by law. To learn more about what questions are illegal and how to handle this situation, see the “Interviewing” tab above.
Leave room for doubt. The employer needs to be convinced that your disability will not impact your job performance. Demonstrate, with examples, that your disability has not limited your personal achievements in your academic and professional life to date.
Career Advisors in the Experiential Learning Hub are available to discuss your career needs, including disclosure and how to advocate your strengths to employers. Click here to schedule an appointment.
Canadian Hearing Society, University of Tennessee