Should I disclose my Disability at a Job Interview?
Job Hunting When You Have a Disability
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in four Americans are living with a disability that impacts their work life. While some people may be incapable of performing any type of work because of their disability and consequently are eligible for Social Security Disability Income, others may still be able to work in some type of job. Though people with disabilities may face personal challenges in the workplace and at home, they still share some things in common with everyone else: the need to work and the desire to work in a job they enjoy and find meaningful.
If you have a disability, you probably have some valid concerns about job hunting and the interview process, such has whether to disclose your disability to a potential employer and when.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking job applicants about disabilities or medical conditions. The exception to this is government agencies who are permitted to ask applicants to voluntarily disclose a disability for affirmative action purposes. There are good reasons to disclose your disability and good reasons not to, so you must use good judgment and common sense and have confidence in yourself.
The first step in finding a job is writing a good resume that includes your contact information (name, address, phone numbers and email), your education and training, and work history.
Do not forget to include any volunteer work for charities and unpaid work for other organizations. However, you should be wary of including anything on your resume that would hint at your disability. According to Dr. Daniel J. Ryan, author of The Job Search Handbook for People with Disabilities, employers use resumes to “weed out” applicants. You do not want an employer to exclude you at this stage nor do you want to jeopardize an opportunity for an invitation. Dr. Ryan also points out that the law is on your side, and you are not required to mention your disability.
The next step is a cover letter to introduce yourself, telling why you are applying for the job and requesting an opportunity to interview. You should only disclose your disability in a cover letter if:
- The job is related to your experience as a person with a disability; or
- Your disability is a qualification for the position; or
- You are applying to a government agency that complies with affirmative action.
The job application itself may be your first opportunity to give a good impression.
If you go to the job location to apply, take care with your appearance and bring a copy of your resume. If possible, take the application home where you can take your time completing it in a stress-free environment. If there are questions about disabilities or medical conditions, leave them blank. If you are granted an interview, you can explain then why you didn’t answer instead of why the questions were left blank.
If you have been denied disability don’t give up! Contact a Disability lawyer at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and get the benefits you deserve.
The interview is the most important part of the process and confidence in your abilities and qualifications is key.
There is mixed advice on when and how to disclose your disability. If you have a disability that is obvious, such as a vision problem or mobility issue, you may want to wait until the interview to discuss it and assure the employer early in the interview that you have the skills to perform the job. Addressing the issue right away puts everyone at ease, demonstrates honesty and shows you are confident in your abilities. However, waiting until the interview to disclose a disability may not be possible. For example, if you are deaf and need an interpreter, you will need to inform the employer before the interview. You should be aware that the ADA does not require all employers to provide special accommodations and some employers with 14 and fewer employees may not be able to.
Prepare for the interview by making a list of the questions you think you will be asked and practicing your responses.
This is especially important for questions you may find difficult, such as explaining gaps in employment. Emphasize your life experiences and what you have been doing – taking classes, learning new skills, or volunteering. Research the company and explain why the job is a good fit for you. If you haven’t disclosed your disability, this may be the time. Gradually bring it into the conversation. Talk about your abilities and how they helped you meet challenges and difficult situations. If you will need some accommodations on the job, for example, short breaks for insulin shots or snacks, be proactive and suggest how you would manage this. In certain situations, you will just have to follow your instincts and wait until a final interview to decide whether or not to disclose, because despite the ADA, some companies will still discriminate.
Like any other job applicant, there are general guidelines to follow when interviewing for a job:
- Be on time for your interview appointment.
- Make sure you have access to the interview location. Call ahead to find out about parking and elevators, if necessary.
- Dress appropriately and neatly.
- Turn your cell phone off.
- Bring a portfolio of work, if appropriate for the position.
Applying for a job may pose dilemmas for a person with a disability, but you should not be discouraged from seeking employment.
If you can perform the tasks of a position and focus on your competence, you can be successful in reaching your career goals.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for over 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Roach obtained board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Highly experienced in Long Term Disability denials and appeals governed by the “ERISA” Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Austin Bar Association, and is a past the director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association (Director 1999-2005) Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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