Disclosing Your Disability to Employers

How to ask for reasonable accommodations in your workplace

  • 25 October 2019
  • Author: Sheena Roman
  • Number of views: 1501

woman in wheelchair at desk with coworker in officeThe decision to disclose information about a disability can be challenging for individuals with unique abilities. Whether you are seeking employment, training, or workplace accommodations, you may be hesitant to discuss your disability with others out of fear or uncertainty of how they might react.

Fortunately, there are resources to guide you through the process of choosing to disclose information about your situation. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a free resource funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). It provides a library of information for job seekers and employers on best practices, workplace accommodations, and more.

JAN recommends the following best practices about discussing requests for workplace accommodations along with suggestions on how and when to disclose information on disabilities:

  • Check your employee handbook or your company’s intranet on where to direct your request.
  • Conduct research on what you want to request before approaching your employer.
  • Disclose when you first realize you are having difficulties.
  • Disclose your disability if and when you need to request a reasonable accommodation.
  • Provide basic information about your condition, limitations, and what accommodations you may need in a timely manner.
  • Use "plain English" to make your request.
  • You do not have to mention the ADA or use the phrase "reasonable accommodation."
  • You have a right to keep information about your disability private.
  • You may request an accommodation at any time during the application process or while you are employed.

You may also be wondering “what is a reasonable accommodation”? JAN describes a reasonable accommodation as “any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.” It can be something such as employers modifying your responsibilities or schedule, providing qualified interpreters, or medical leave as needed.

Reasonable accommodations do not include significant restructuring of an essential part of your job, providing items such as a wheelchair or hearing aid, or lowering production standards. Most accommodations are low or no cost to employers, and they may also have access to special tax incentives. However, we recommend you do not mention that to employers when disclosing a disability or requesting accommodations.

We hope these suggestions about disclosing disabilities and requesting reasonable accommodations help you on your journey to achieving your goals!

Written by: Eric Freilich, Career Consultant, Disability Services