Thursday, March 18, 2010

Disability Disclosure - What do you think?

To Disclose or Not to Disclose – Part Two - By Keith Hosey

Hidden Disabilities

I know that people with psychiatric disabilities are often very apprehensive about disclosing their disabilities due to the societal stigmas that continue to be unfairly associated with various mental illnesses. I read an article about three months ago written by a guest commentator with bipolar disorder about his experiences in employment. He wrote, “Maybe I would have lost the job if I had disclosed. I did anyway because my behavior… I do not walk up to people and say ‘Hi, I have bipolar disorder.’ For myself there is a time and place for disclosure.”

I believe the time and place for disclosure on the job is when your disability is affecting your performance. This is really a good rule for disclosure for anyone whose employer doesn’t know they have a disability; not just those with psychiatric disorders. So, if you need an accommodation you should disclose your disability to your employer. As the author stated, though he had fears related to disclosure he lost the job anyway because he didn’t get an accommodation to help him successfully do his job. If you feel your immediate supervisor won’t understand, Human Resources should know how to respond to your request. The Americans wit Disabilities Act (ADA), and now the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), protects you from discrimination based on an employer’s knowledge about your health conditions and disabilities.

In all disclosure situations it’s a personal choice of where and how you do it. What are your thoughts on disclosing disability in the workplace?

Additional Note:

One big misconception I hear often is that you can’t ask for an accommodation after you’ve been on the job for some amount of time. That’s just not true whether you have a hidden or visible disability. You may ask for an accommodation anytime from the application process through the entire span of your employment. If you work at a company for thirty years and on year thirty and a day, you decide you need an accommodation, that company is obligated to begin the accommodation process.

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.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"No Cuts to Medicaid and Human Services"

Immediate Action Needed!

Legislative Alert!! From Greater Louisville Metro Arc

Stand Up & Make a Difference

"No Cuts to Medicaid and Human Services"

Call to Action Campaign - Let's Get 5,000 Telephone Calls By 5:00 PM Monday

Most of you read the article in the Lexington Herald below and have heard that critical budget decisisons are being made this week in Frankfort. James Cheely, Marsha VanHook, Glenna Taylor, and many others testified before the BR Subcommittee last week stressing there be no cuts to Medicaid, and have generated calls to their legislators. Now is the time for all of us to speak up and out to make our VOICES heard by our legislators and the Governor that there be "No Cuts to Medicaid and Human Services." We are already at the poverty level.

The Arc's goal is to get 5,000 phone calls to our members of the General Assembly and Governor Beshear by Monday, March 1 by 5:00 p.m.. The five (5) minutes or so that it takes to TAKE ACTION will have an impact on the lives of thousands. If you prefer to e-mail, please do so -- just so we make ourselves heard!

Your calls are needed now! Please respond as soon as possible and forward this e-mail to everyone you know asking them to join you in the this campaign. The toll free number to talk to your legislator or leave a message is 888-887-0088. You can also call LRC at 502/564-8100 to reach your legislator. The number to the Governor's office is 502/564-2611 to leave a message or e-mail

The LRC 's website is and click on e-mail your legislator. Please take time to personalize your message by adding that "you or your family would be affected by cuts to community services."

Please help us -- STAND UP for a life like yours. Just think, if all Arc members and five of our friends or relatives made phone calls, it would have a huge impact.