In considering when, if ever, to disclose information about a disability or medical condition to a prospective employer, it is important to remember that disability is not the central issue of concern in the process of applying for work. Indeed, it may not ever be relevant at all.
As with all steps in the job application process, the emphasis should be on the skills and qualities of the applicant and not on issues that may have no bearing on whether the applicant can do the job well. In most circumstances it will not be necessary to mention anything about a disability or health condition in application letters, forms or resumes.
When and how to disclose will be affected by such factors as:
- The type of disability
- The type of employment
- The need for some type of accommodation either at the interview or at job offer for example, interpreters, special signage
- Whether the disability is apparent or not and how this might affect a prospective employer’s judgment as to how particular duties will be performed
- The need for workplace modifications or supports
- The attitude of the interviewer
Reasons for disclosure:
- Many employers have equal opportunity policies and / or action plans which reflect a commitment to non-discriminatory recruitment and employment procedures.
- Some applicants feel it is more trustworthy to discuss it from the beginning, as they may need to negotiate adjustments and accommodations.
- The disability may be obvious and misconceptions can be dealt with and the correct information can be provided to show how problems that may arise in the workplace can be solved.
- Disclosing can be done in a very positive way. A firm statement, presenting the disability not as a problem but as a positive experience that can give evidence of the skills and personal qualities that are brought to the role.
Reasons against disclosure
- Feeling like it may cause discrimination or rejection
- The employer may label by disability and not see abilities
- The disability has no effect on the ability to do the job applied for.
When to consider disclosure
In general, disclosure of each individual’s situation should be left until the point where it becomes directly relevant to the duties that will be performed in the position. Particular circumstances may arise however, where disclosure should be considered. For example, when contacted to set up an interview, during the interview, once a job is offered, or if there are problems in the job.
In the application
It is generally not recommended that disability or health matters are mentioned in resumes or letters of application. Some application forms ask direct questions about disabilities or health problems but it is not necessary to mention anything about disability or health matters at this point if it is not appropriate or relevant. If the employer is very supportive of equity and that disability and life experiences have relevance to your job, then including them may demonstrate suitability for the job.
Prior to the interview
There may be some advantages in disclosing prior to attending an interview depending on assessment of the situation. If there is a visible or obvious disability it may avoid awkwardness during the interview. This may also give the opportunity to check on the accessibility of the venue and let the employer know about any accommodations that may be required for the interview.
At the interview
You may choose to disclose at the interview where you have more opportunity to present your situation in a positive and relevant context. You will also have the chance to deal with misconceptions, provide factual information and suggest strategies to accommodate any obstacles to the job. However, there is still a chance of discrimination taking place if too much time is spent talking about the disability as the employer may be left wondering about your capacity to perform the job adequately.
After job offer
Once offered the job, if some accommodations are required it would be appropriate to notify the employer before starting the position. If workplace accommodations are needed do not leave the issue to go on for too long before addressing it, this runs the risk of it adversely affecting work performance and it can become harder to disclose.
How to disclose
- Talk with assurance; be positive, honest and specific.
- Identify where some problems may occur, offer some solutions to those potential difficulties.
- Rather than avoiding the subject, discuss them and demonstrate how unimportant it is.
- Don’t leave the interview panel wondering if you would be able to cope with particular aspects of the job. For example, if you have a visible disability the approach may be to say to the interviewer, “We haven’t discussed my disability or how it might impact on the job and carrying out the duties. I understand there is some travelling involved and I don’t foresee that being a problem as I drive my own car. As long as there is disability parking available there will be no problem”.
- Be brief and don’t necessarily dwell on potential problem areas. Try to keep discussion about the disability job specific, because the context for the discussion is always how well the job will be performed and not what problems may arise.
- Be enthusiastic and assertive in describing skills, abilities, ideas and experience. Point out any abilities developed from living with a disability that may serve as an asset in the workplace.
- If the issue is relevant, take the initiative to discuss accommodations that will be needed performance in the job. Discuss how these accommodations can be provided efficiently and proactively organise them or identify funding sources for them.
- Be prepared to deal with inappropriate and insensitive questions, perhaps do role plays with a friend or colleague.
Resources on disclosure
Choosing your path – Disclosure: It’s a personal decision is a website that provides information about options and pathways that people with disabilities can use in disclosing their disability. The website also explains the role and responsibilities of employers and educators.
Disability Discrimination and the Law
Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission
Address: Level 3, 204 Lygon St, Carlton VIC 3053
Phone: 1300 891 848
TTY: 1300 289 621
Email: [email protected]
Disability Discrimination Legal Service Inc.
Address: Ross House Association Inc, 2nd Floor, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000
Phone: 9654 8644 or 1300 882 872
TTY: 9654 6817
Email: [email protected]
We gratefully acknowledge that the information was sourced from Choosing your path – Disclosure: It’s a personal decision website.