Disclosure & You

You do not need to disclose a disability if it does not affect your ability to perform your work. However, if you are seeking accommodations, you are responsible for informing your employer. You have control over your decisions regarding whether, when, and how to disclose a disability. For an SFU student's perspective on their experience with disclosure, check out this blog post: Disclosing Disability.

Disclosure is a process

The process of disclosure involves deciding whether or not to disclose to your employer, reflecting about when to disclose, creating a disclosure script, working collaboratively with your employer to develop an accommodation plan, and consistently communicating with your employer moving forward.

Should I disclose my disability?

Based on your personal context, review these questions to help assess if/when disclosure is something you would consider.

SELF CHECK

  • Am I comfortable speaking about my disability and the impact it has on my life?
  • Can I explain my disability simply and succinctly?
  • Do I have experience telling someone about my disability; how did that experience go?
  • What kind of accommodations (at school/work) have been helpful in the past/present?
  • What are my strengths? How has my disability contributed to the development of my strengths and skills? (e.g. problem solving, creativity, independence)

RESEARCH

BRAINSTORM

  • Have I reflected on whether and how my disability could impact my performance during the job search or in the workplace?
  • Have I reflected on my options for how, when, and with whom I would discuss my disability?
  • What are the pros and cons of discussing my disability?
  • Do I find it hard to make decisions?

RE-ORGANIZE

  • What is the best approach I could take to be successful in this situation?
  • What approach works best for my personal communication style and preferences?
  • Would it be helpful for me to practice a disclosure script before disclosing to an employer? 
  • What's next? What do I have to do to move forward?

RE-ASSESS

  • What approach did I take?
  • Did the experience go as I expected it to or did anything feel different than expected?
  • How did this experience make me feel?
  • Looking back, what worked well and what could have gone better?
  • Did I learn anything from this process that I want to remember for next time?
  • Has this process helped me develop my skills and/or confidence? If so, in what ways?

When to Disclose is Contextual

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Do's and Don'ts to Self Disclosure.

What should I say and not say?

When disclosing your disability to an employer, there is no requirement to explain your exact diagnosis. You can focus on communicating your functional abilities and limitations as they relate to the specific requirements of a position. As you make a plan to disclose, consider the following do's and don'ts:

DO's:

  • Discuss times when you have overcome challenges and provide specific positive examples. Discussing challenges and focusing on the ways in which you have successfully navigated them demonstrates to the employer that you are mature and determined. Additionally, focusing on the positives can help confront any negative perceptions that an employer may have early on.
  • Clearly communicate your strengths and skills using specific examples. Take time to reflect on the skills and strengths that you have developed from managing a disability. Perhaps there are skills that you have used to succeed with your academics that could be relevant in the workplace? 
  • Take time to prepare and rehearse a disclosure script.  Planning your thoughts can help make the process easier and less stressful when it comes time to discuss your disability with an employer. Make sure to rehearse your script in front of the mirror, with a friend, an advisor, or a colleague so that you are comfortable saying it. Review this document for a sample disclosure script and tips on how to create your own.

DON'T:

  • Describe your disability with medical terminology that is complicated. It is more effective to focus on your functional abilities and limitations as they relate to the specific requirements of a position. It is important to use plain language so that the interviewer can clearly understand what and why you are saying it.
  • Accidentally answer prohibited questions regarding your disability. If the interviewer is inexperienced, they may unintentionally ask illegal questions. To learn more about what questions are illegal and how to handle this situation, go to the Prohibited Interviewer Questions page of the Your Rights & Workplace Accommodations section
  • Leave the interviewer uncertain. Use examples to demonstrate and illustrate to the employer that your job performance will not be negatively impacted by your disability.