Deciding when to disclose your disability is your own personal decision. It can be made at any point during the job search process and even after you have begun working.
You can wait until you know what you need on the job before you disclose. In fact it helps if you have thought about some possible solutions to include in that first discussion. This isn't an issue of whether you are being honest or not, it's making sure you first understand the nature of the job so that you can identify and suggest appropriate accommodations. This shows the employer that you want to make sure you are a productive member of the team. Not disclosing at all is also an option, if you do not require any accommodations to perform the essential functions of the job.
After you identify the need for specific accommodations, the negotiation of accommodations is meant to be an on-going, interactive process.
Factors to Consider
There may be many factors to consider when deciding the timing of disclosure. Here are a just a few:
- You need accommodations during the interview process so that the employer can make the necessary arrangement ahead of time.
- Employers may be "disability friendly" and have a strong commitment to include disability in their diversity recruitment programs. They sincerely will want to know early in the process that you have a disability.
- If you are interviewing with a visible disability, an employer may hesitate to initiate disability-related discussions but may still be making assumptions about what you can or cannot do based on your disability.
- You may have a personal preference around disclosure and need to factor in your own level of comfort talking or not talking about your disability
- As a student you have been very active in disability-related organizations and it's very apparent from your resume that you have a disability
Tips for Disclosure
Disclosing your disability is most effective within the context of presenting your qualifications for a particular position. Use statements about your skills and abilities that include examples of previous successful accommodations and keep the focus of the discussion on the essential functions of the job.
After deciding when to disclose your disability during the job search process, you would then need to do it effectively.
Anticipate and address employer disability-related questions or concerns. Misconceptions about your disability most likely are nothing new to you and the same misconceptions may be influencing the interaction during an interview. Your own level of comfort with your disability and confidence in your qualifications will often put the employer at ease.
Be yourself. Know your strengths and make them known to the employer. A sense of humor, enthusiasm for your major, etc. conveys the most important message -- that you are first and foremost a bright Cal student -- who happens to have a disability.
Prepare and practice your disclosure.
The legal definition of "reasonable accommodation" includes:
- Modifications or adjustments to a job application process or the work environment
- Modifications or adjustments to the manner or circumstances under which the position is customarily performed and
- The equal benefits and privileges of employment
This may include but is not limited to:
- Making existing facilities readily accessible or modifying work sites
- Job restructuring, having minor job duties eliminated
- Part-time or modified work schedules
- Modifications of examinations, training materials or policies
- Provision of readers and interpreters or specialized equipment and assistive devices
- The Americans with Disabilities Act provides comprehensive information about the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Disability.gov provides information on topics such as applying for benefits, getting health care, finding a job, paying for housing and protecting the legal rights of people with disabilities.
- Janweb provides helpful articles on a variety of ADA-related topics, including "Pre-Employment Testing and the ADA", "Health Benefit Plans and the ADA" and many others.
The Social Security Administration provides a Resources Toolkit to explain the work incentives for SSDI and SSI beneficiaries. "Work incentives" are special rules making it possible for people with disabilities receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid.