IT Employment

When should a job applicant disclose a disability?

Even though the law protects people with disabilities in hiring situations, the issue of when to actually disclose a disability is still a puzzle for some.

I received an email last week from a TechRepublic member who asks at what point in the hiring process he should disclose his disability to an employer. His email:

One issue I have is that I'm disabled. Were I to be offered a job, when in the process do I (should I) mention certain accommodations I require?

Also, in some more casual interviews, they'll want to do a 'walkabout' and take off. I can't do that. I can't walk any distance or do so briskly. Nor can I just 'stand around' talking or being talked at.

I've gritted my teeth before and gone along with it, but the physical reaction has been significant.

I know on some applications, they'll ask if you need special assistance due to disability. Well, not really: I can get to the interview, sit comfortably and discuss things and, at the close, get up and walk out.

I've had it happen that saying, for example, "I can't walk that far," has turned a friendly exchange into a bit of a chill. I no longer 'fit in.'

This is a complicated issue, as you well know. Although in the United States and a significant number of EU member states, pre-interview disclosure is against the law, offering significant protection to people with disabilities and long-term medical conditions. That means a prospective employer can't ask on an application if you need special assistance due to disability. If you have actually seen such wording, you may want to talk to someone involved with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

Now, in your case, your disability is not obvious and would only come to light if you chose to mention it. Since an interview is a two-way street, I would recommend full disclosure. If you require certain accommodations as you mention, it is in your best interest to mention them before the hiring decision is made. You want to make sure you'll get what you need.

But as you're surely aware, an employer may decide not to hire you based on this information and, unfortunately, there may be no way you can prove discrimination. You can lessen the chances of this by being forthcoming with your disability and talk about how you've successfully managed your challenges on the job before. For example, if you're applying for a programming position, your inability to walk long distances shouldn't be a factor. Here are some ways to handle the subject in the interview:

  • Prepare something ahead of time that explains your challenges so you can give it to employers once you've disclosed your disabilities.
  • Give some examples and references of your accommodations. Provide the prospective employer a reference from someone who has seen you create and use accommodations effectively on the job. This kind of preparation also shows your creative abilities on the job, which can create an advantage for you over other applicants.

Anyone else had experience in this particular type of situation who could add more tips?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

11 comments
jpnagle59
jpnagle59

Glad to see this addressed here in some fashion. I know that there are many members here that DO the hiring of people for their organization. I ask of those that do this, to help me understand- as them being an employer of people- the following situation. If a candidate has a mental illness- let us not beat around the bush- if a person has a mental illness such as, Major Clinical Depression with Psychotic features, how would you handle that, and how would you suggest someone with this to do his part in explaining it to a company to which they seek work with? What does one say about this handicap? How would an employer feel about this if faced with it? I am not expecting a absolute answer, just some ideas to look at. I am a honest person, so to lie, or overlook it till some point after being hired, goes against my nature. Depression at times can be crippling, psychosis (visual or auditory episodes) can happen at times. Sticky situation. if anyone has an input, please feel free to post as hard as needed....J

Tig2
Tig2

For me, I have never found the right time. My disability is a type that many people don't believe exists to begin with, even though the ADA sees fit to cover it as a disability. Because of that, disclosure for me is on a case by case basis. One thing that you learn is that it can be detrimental to ask for any kind of accommodation, regardless of how badly you might need it. In small circles, that kind of news has a tendency to travel. Edit- typo

LarryD4
LarryD4

Tough call and tough question, but in my opinion I would tell them once they make an offer. Its negotiation time and its usually when you mention things like, I have a family obligation in a month and would need to be out on this day.

l7008424
l7008424

As a person who formerly did deskside support, I have found that disclosing my disability has lost many positions or, if the post states ability to lift and carry 50 pounds, not even thinking of applying, a hard question to answer. In the tough job market of today, I would say that if it feels right, do it during the initial interview. Otherwise, do not say anything and see what happens.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Epinephrine. It was an alien thing I had to learn; just as alien and wonderful as the person I hired; just as unaccustomed as I am to every person I encounter, my wishing not only to embrace, but to measure up. All this will be alien to any employer who looks down.

williaa6
williaa6

I have faced this situation, but in a slightly different way. I have a chronic illness (type 1 diabetes). It is not commonly recognised, but this can have a temporary detrimental affect on my ability to perform at 100%. It is plain common sense for me to ensure that my workmates are aware of my condition, but this of course leads to the necessity to also tell my employers. I always mention it in the interview and have never received an obvious negative response. We have very strong laws here in Australia controlling that sort of thing. My part of the unspoken bargain is that I must minimise the risk of having a problem by keeping myself healthy. It's a symbiotic relationship. Alex of Oz

abledbody
abledbody

Disclosing a condition can help protect your legal rights but can also leave you open to discrimination. I wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal last year that discussed disclosure tips. You can read it here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121970164024670703.html Some tips include knowing the kind of culture at the company for which you're applying for a job: some companies do a great job in making sure they can accomodate the needs of a diverse workforce. Also, there's a right time to disclose. It can be in the interview, or six months after you start working and realize you need an accommodation. Just remember that Your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to "reasonable accommodations" to perform your job aren't protected until you've disclosed your disability. Good luck! Suzanne www.abledbody.com

santeewelding
santeewelding

The better to close around you, each member more acutely aware of their duty to you, and self-appraisal as to their fitness for that duty.

gestawoman
gestawoman

Although, I do not think that many employers understand, people that have disabilites are often the best employees. They not only have to prove themselves, but they must do a very good job to show that the disability won't hold them back. The disability can actually help in the understanding of co-workers or consumers who also have disability problems. Often, people with mental disabilites have a great talent in some area. We just need to pick up on that talent. People can work, if we understand what they are gifted at doing.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

and only IF you need a reasonable accommodation in order to perform job duties.

jck
jck

whenever it can/will possibly keep you from performing the duties of the position you are being interviewed for. anything that keeps you from doing your duties is reportable.