Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Disclosing a Disability to Your Employer

Recently, my friend asked me if I discussed my hearing impairment with my employer when I was first hired and if I need any accommodations at work. His questions were interesting because I have a visible disability and therefore I don’t have the option to disclose my hearing impairment. If you see my hearing aids, you know I’m hearing impaired.

However, I do have the option not to discuss my hearing impairment. I did choose not to talk about my disability during the interview process. I’m not sure whether or not being disabled had any bearing when my application was evaluated, but I wanted to be hired based on my qualifications. For me, not discussing my disability allowed me to speak of my merits, and helps me believe I was not hired out of empathy.

Only one can decide whether and how much information to share regarding his or her disability. For residents of the United States, the following facts are good to know:

  • Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person with a disability can choose to disclose his or her disability at any time. Disclosure can take place during the interview process, upon a job offer, or anytime after beginning a job.
  • Although one is not required to disclose his or her disability under the law, one should disclose his or her disability in order to request reasonable accommodations or to receive protection under the law. Telling an employer about a disability is a safe way to gain proper protection under the law.
  • It is likely that one will have difficulty being protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act if one discloses a disability right before being fired. Employers are most likely to be responsive to a disclosure done in good faith rather than done as a last-ditch effort to keep a job.
  • No one can force an individual to disclose or discuss a disability if he or she doesn’t want to. If an employer brings up the topic and one does not want to talk about his or her disability – he or she does not have to.

I knew as long as I had a phone in which I could increase the volume, I would most likely not need to request any accommodations. The first thing I checked when I moved into my cube was my phone. The receiver had volume amplification control. As a result, I’ve refrained from discussing my disability with my manager. He has never brought the topic up with me. So far, my performance at my company has been solid and I’ve not had any issues interacting with clients on the phone.

What do you think?

  • Should I have a conversation with my manager regarding my disability despite not having any issues on the job and not foreseeing any potential issues in the future?
  • Have you disclosed your disability with your employer, and if so, how’d you go about doing it?

Feel free to respond via posting a comment or email me at

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