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Disclosing to a potential employer

Disclosing to a potential employer

From The Career Development Project for College Students with Disabilities
By Anne R. Thompson, Leslie Bethea and Jamie Satcher

Decisions about disclosure are one of the most important questions to be resolved in the job search process. The best guideline in making the decision is whether this time and this place and in this way will contribute to the employer’s decision to hire. If the employer will see the disability as a positive for hiring-then disclose early. Employers who may be positive would include organizations that serve persons with disabilities, companies that receive federal grants, or companies that have a policy for hiring persons with disabilities. It is important for the job seeker to research the company.

Possible times to disclose include

Cover letter

Generally this is not the best time to disclose as the job seeker may not get the interview. If the job seeker has a job match that the disability helps meet, then this may be the best time to disclose.


Once again, this in not the best time to disclose in most cases as the job seeker may not get the interview. It would be appropriate to disclose if the company has a positive attitude toward hiring persons with disabilities. If the job seeker discloses in the resume, follow the three basic disclosure rules: keep it brief, do not use medical terms, and keep it job related.

Telephone call for an interview

If the applicant uses a wheelchair, will need a sighted guide, or other accommodation for the interview, it is essential to disclose to assure accessibility. The rule here is to disclose only after the time and place for the interview have been established and the applicants have had the opportunity to point out some of their skills and abilities. In conclusion of setting up a time and place the interview, the applicant might say: " I use a wheelchair, can you tell me where I will find the accessible entrance?", or, " I have a visual impairment and may need a guide for the first time to orient me." Exception to the rule: if a secretary calls to set up the interview then set the time and place. Do not disclose to the secretary. Call the employer or interviewer back and disclose with a carefully prepared script.

Application form

Any questions that cannot be answered without disclosing on the application form may be answered by a statement such as "will discuss". Application forms may not ask if the job applicant has a disability but may ask about limitations in performance of the essential job functions.


Disclosing a visible disability for the first time at the interview may cause awkward situations and a shock effect on the employer. Some job seekers still prefer this time and capitalize on the opportunity to sell their abilities face to face with an employer. Applicants who choose this time need to follow the basic rules for a good disclosure:

  1. Script the disclosure and rehearse the script.
  2. Avoid medical terms and not give medical history
  3. Keep it brief-remember the employer is only interested in whether the applicant can do the job.
  4. Keep it job related.
  5. Point out abilities developed from living with a disability. For example: "Being a wheelchair user has enabled me to develop special skills in advance planning and problem solving. I have had many opportunities to perfect my organizational skills."

After disclosing a disability, the job applicant should take the initiative in discussing the accommodation needed to perform the basic function of the job. The employer is not required to bring up accommodations and may expect the job applicant to discuss accommodation if any is needed.

Disclosure is a personal matter. Decisions about time, place, and how should be based on the best way to get the interview and then get the job offer. Applicants who are able to disclose in a manner that is comfortable to them and focuses on their abilities will impress the interviewer that they are capable and ready to go to work.

Saturday, September 8th, 2012