I was reviewing some of my previous blog posts and realized just how much I focus on the stress of searching for a job. Well, apparently I’m continuing the trend. If the job search is inherently stressful, it gets more complicated when you’re trying to determine whether or how to disclose a disability or disabilities to a potential employer.
There is a range of options in terms of timing and degree of disclosure. You can disclose a disability right in your application, when contacted for an interview, during the interview, once you have a job offer, at any point during your job, or never at all. You can provide a significant level of detail, just enough to meet your purposes, or somewhere in between. You can disclose to a supervisor, specific coworkers, your organization in general, and other people your job brings you into contact with.
Every option has pros and cons, and planning can help reduce—but not eliminate—the risk that your abilities will be misinterpreted. This blog doesn’t provide hard and fast rules. These are suggestions to get you thinking about what will work best for you. And, because disclosing disabilities is a complex topic, I’m not even going to try to squish everything into one post.
So, let’s start with situations in which you think you’d benefit from an accommodation. The when and how of your request may vary. I would argue that it’s rarely to your advantage to disclose a disability in your application, because you have no opportunity to immediately counter false assumptions.
When you’re contacted for an interview, it’s worthwhile asking a few questions about the nature of the interview. Is it a panel interview? Who are the interviewers? Will there be a practical component? The answers can help you better prepare and, if there is a practical component, you’ll have the opportunity to ask more questions, particularly if you typically use adaptive technology when completing your work. If you think using adaptive technology would give the interviewer a more accurate picture of the work you could do for them, consider saying that you use technology X for the type of work the practical component assesses, and checking to make sure you can use your preferred technology for the interview. Again, there are risks either way, so choose your course based on your research into the organization and your own stance regarding disclosure.
Next time (in about three weeks), I’ll look at disclosure in interviews and on the job. In the meantime, though, you might find it useful to look through your provincial human rights code, or the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s webpages on the duty to accommodate, employees’ rights and responsibilities, and employers’ rights and responsibilities.