Thursday, March 11, 2010

To Disclose or Not to Disclose – Part One

By Keith Hosey

I was recently invited to speak about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and disclosing disability at a job search support group by my friends at the local VA Compensated Work Therapy program. They have one of the best programs in the country and I’m proud to say they’re serving our veterans here in Louisville. I was happy to take this opportunity to share my knowledge and give a little back to the men and women who have given so much for me in their service to this country. Here is my advice.

Visible Disabilities

Chances are the employer will notice that wheelchair, those Canadian crutches, your service animal or whatever the visible part is of your visible disability. My best suggestion is to disclose after the interview offer but before the interview. An appropriate time to do this is at the end of the phone call in which the interview is offered. The employer may even say “Is there anything else?” If they don’t leave a good opening - make one. The bottom line is people don’t like surprises. If the interviewer has never experienced disability first hand, this gives them time to prepare, possibly look into common accommodations or even just get comfortable with the idea of meeting someone with a disability.

Trust is important, so if you go into an interview and spring your visible disability on the interviewer with no warning you’re not really giving them a fair chance at a productive interview (let alone giving yourself a fair chance!). Those who have gone into an interview situation without disclosing that visible disability have probably experienced the infamous ‘deer in headlights’ interviewer once or twice. What if the interview location or worksite is inaccessible? At that point it’s not the interviewer’s fault because you didn’t give them advance request for accommodation.

Many employers have told me that, for visible disabilities, disclosure prior to the interview is ideal. As I said, people don’t like surprises. Employers want employees that are (mostly) predictable, on time, regular, consistent. People with disabilities can have those qualities but what will the interviewer assume if their first impression is a surprise? Human nature in all of us will ask (with that little voice in the back of our head) what other surprises is this person going to spring on me if I hire him? Remember that there are questions an interviewer can’t ask, so make sure and address your abilities and capability to do the job well. They need to know that you can do the job as well or better than the non-disabled competition. If your disability is in their face, make sure your abilities are too.

Next, part two, Hidden Disabilities.


  1. I agree that people should disclose their disabilities which could directly influence the job they are applying for but why, if "Currently around 10 per cent of the total world's population, or roughly 650 million people, live with a disability", should it still surprise employers that a candidate for a job just happens to be disabled? and why in the 21st century should we still have buildings that are inaccessible???!!! Sylwia

  2. Thanks for your comments Sylwia. When you look at the US only, then we're talking about roughly 20% of the population and it will just grow as the baby boomers age.