When and How Should an Employee Disclose Their Disability?

Publication Date: October 29, 2019

This is a blurred image of a woman working on her laptop. There is a mouse and mobile phone kept next to her on the table.

One of the more challenging aspects for a deaf individual while seeking employment is knowing when, and how, to disclose their disability to an employer. Navigating disclosure of a disability for employment purposes is a personal decision. Deaf people may find the disclosure process to be challenging because they may encounter employers who are unaware of laws or accommodations, or the deaf people may not have the self-advocacy skills to navigate the job search process.

There is also the concern that they may be treated differently from other job seekers. The National Deaf Center (NDC) states in their Research Summarized article, Modeling the Role of Autonomy in Achieving Sustainable Employment for Deaf Young Adults, that “despite advances in accessibility legislation and academic attainment, deaf young adults in the United States continue to experience underemployment and underpayment”.

Many factors should be considered in determining the deaf individual’s decision when to disclose the need for accommodations during the employment process. There are employment non-discrimination laws to ensure deaf people get the accommodations they need throughout this process. Having an understanding of legal rights and strong self-advocacy skills will assist with navigating when, why, and how to disclose. NDC offers a resource on Self-Advocacy: Navigating Disclosure in the Workplace which shares:

  • Questions for reflection on why should you disclose.
  • Various scenarios to help determine when should you disclose.
  • Strategies on how to appropriately request accommodations.
  • An outline of which laws cover job accommodations and relevant terminology from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In addition, NDC offers additional tools to support self-advocacy skills and making more informed choices related to disclosure:

  • Deafverse: Battle of the Bots also offers the opportunity to practice self-advocacy skills through an interactive game for deaf people, ages 14 – 21.  Deafverse includes navigating real-life challenges, developing self-determination skills, and understanding your rights as a deaf individual.  Deafverse is free and can be played on computers or mobile devices.
  • The #DeafatWork campaign features deaf people in various employment positions all over the United States. Some of the videos feature deaf people discussing when, and how, they disclosed the need for accommodations at work.

Below is a list of additional resources that provide the tools to help the deaf individual decide when and how to disclose:

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