Disclosing a Disability

Do I have to disclose a disability to a potential employer?

No. It is ultimately your decision to disclose your disability. There is no law that says a person with a disability has to disclose that disability to a current or prospective employer. Keep in mind that once disclosed, the employer may ask additional questions about the disability and/or require information regarding the individual’s ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job. In general, the information revealed has to be kept confidential. Remember, you should focus on your abilities to perform the essential functions of the job, not your disabilities.

When is it time and how do I disclose a disability?

If you have a physical disability or visual impairment, the best time to let an employer know is when you first call for an interview. Discuss your disability with the person who will be conducting the interview, not the receptionist scheduling the interview. Be honest, professional, and positive.

There is otherwise no, one "right" time or place to disclose your disability.  Select a confidential place in which to disclose and allow enough time for the person to ask questions. 

One way to become comfortable with discussing your disability is to find someone you trust and practice the disclosure discussion with that person.  The two of you can put together a disclosure script that contains relevant disability information and weave in your strengths. You should weigh the pros and cons of disclosure at each point of the job search, recruitment, and hiring process and make the decision to discuss your disability when it is appropriate for you.

What should I do if the office is not accessible?

It is your responsibility to find out what your surroundings will be like and how they affect your disability. If you are in a wheelchair, you will need to know if there are stairs that lead to the office or a ramp, and if you are blind, you may need assistance getting there. Explore the setting prior to the interview.

How can I request accommodations from an employer?

Accommodations must be made on a case-by-case basis based on the nature and extent of the disability and the requirements of the job. The applicant or employee with a disability is responsible for letting the employer know that an accommodation is needed to participate in the application process, to perform essential job functions, or to receive equal benefits and privileges of employment.

Employers can not provide accommodations if they are not aware of the need. The American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not include specific guidelines or forms for requesting reasonable accommodations. However, some employers have developed in-house forms. If so, employees should use the employer's forms for requesting accommodations; otherwise, individuals can use any method that is effective since the ADA does not require a specific language or format.

What questions are inappropriate for an employer to ask?

A potential employer should never ask if your disability will interfere with your ability to perform the job.  Employers asking, “Do you have a heart condition, asthma, or other medical problem?” are inappropriate. Also, an employer asking, “How long have you been disabled?” is also inappropriate. If these questions do come up remember to turn your disability into ability! Give a brief explanation and focus on your skills, strengths and what you can do for the company.

What additional resource can help me find a job?

Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a source for free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. JAN also helps people with disabilities enhance their employability and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

Linking Employment, Abilities, and Potential (LEAP) serves people with disabilities in northeast Ohio and promotes self-determination, peer support and self-advocacy which leads to empowerment, independence and inclusion. LEAP offers an individualized job-search plan and services to help build skills for maximized independence. 

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities is a state agency that partners with Ohioans with disabilities to achieve quality employment and independence through its Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR) and other services.

When can an employer ask about medical documentation?

Contact JAN directly for specific situations and read the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations and Pre-employment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Examinations for an overview.  Also, see JAN’s Medical Inquiry Response to an Accommodation Request.

How can I improve my interviewing skills?

Dress professionally and go alone, unless you are blind when guide dogs are appropriate. Be prepared to answer questions about your qualifications for the position in which you’re applying. Meet with a Career Advisor for a mock interview or practice from home using Interview Stream.

I currently receive SSI/SSDI.  Will I lose benefits if I become employed?

No, not necessarily. It is important to complete a Benefits Analysis through BVR/BSVI services. A Benefits Analysis will show how much an individual can earn without losing their SSI/SSDI benefits. For some individuals, such as those who are blind, the benefits can be used to pay for equipment they need, guide dog care, etc. A referral to BVR/BSVI is recommended.