Deciding whether or not to inform a potential employer about your disability is one of the hardest decisions that those with a disability or long-term health condition face; both at the start of their career and once they are more established.
By informing an employer at the start of the recruitment process you can access the support that you may require to get through the process. You are also being open and honest. However, there is a real fear of rejection. But by not informing them you will potentially face an obstacle during the recruitment process, which could have otherwise been avoided, resulting in your being rejected. You also have this ‘secret’ hanging over you which at some point in the future you are likely to have to share.
It’s Your Choice
Only you can decide whether or not to be open and, if you are going to be open, when you are going to be so. Prior to making any decisions look at both the benefits of being open and the consequences of not. Ask others for their opinion – but remember it is only their opinion. And remember that times have changed since your parents entered the word of employment!
Whilst I can’t hide my disability – I use a wheelchair – this has still been a personal consideration. I decided that I would always tell an employer about being a wheelchair user before I arrived for my interview. There are a number of reasons for this, including:
I can confirm that there will be wheelchair access, including a parking space and an accessible toilet.
I don’t have to worry about how they will react to me being in a wheelchair since they already know.
By removing the element of ‘surprise’ it enables them to focus on my skills rather than anything else.
I can demonstrate the skills they are looking for by drawing on examples related to my disability.
If you are going to be open, your next step is to decide how you are going to do this by presenting yourself, and your disability, in a positive light (see Making Your Disability Work For You).
Be clear in your own mind why you are being open; what do you want the employer to do as a result of the information you share?
Tell the employer only what is relevant in terms of their providing support and / or implementing adjustments.
Be prepared to answer any questions that they may have; help the employer to understand what you need.
Be timely in your communication; if you require adjustments give the employer plenty of time to implement these.