If you have a hidden disability and you’re looking for a job, deciding when to disclose your disability can be a difficult choice. Hidden disabilities like hearing, learning or psychiatric impairment, pose a dilemma for many when it comes to informing potential employers. But if your disability can affect how you work, you should think about how and when to divulge this information.
According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN)*, a cover letter gives you the first opportunity to reveal your disability and this could be to your advantage particularly if:
- You are applying for a job with a state or federal agency that must comply with affirmative action policies;
- The job you are applying for directly relates to your experience as a person with a disability such as a rehabilitation counselor; or
- Having a disability is a qualification for the position. For example, a job as an addictions counselor may require that an individual be a recovering alcoholic.
You should know
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from asking medical or disability-related questions on a job application. The exception to this is that a government agency can ask an applicant to voluntarily disclose a disability for affirmative action purposes. Otherwise, if you encounter specific questions about your disability or medical history on an application, don’t give false answers, but consider leaving them blank instead. Wouldn’t you rather explain why you did not answer the questions instead of why you intentionally gave answers that were false?
Resources for finding a job
There are literally thousands of job boards, but there are some niche sites aimed at disabled job seekers.
- GettingHired.com is the place where people with disabilities seeking employment, employers committed to hiring people with disabilities, service providers, college disability and career services departments, and disability advocacy groups connect. Click on http://www.gettinghired.com to learn more.
- Hire Disability Solutions provides comprehensive career services to facilitate employment for people with disabilities, veterans, their family members, and others who face challenges in their lives.
- Since 1995, ABILITY Jobs has helped 100’s of thousands of job seekers with disabilities in their employment search. With the first stand-alone resume bank, employers can actively seek talented people with disabilities looking for work.
Disability-related job banks
A job bank allows you to post your resume on the Internet for employers to see. Below are a number of job banks where you may want to post your resume.
- Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD)
- Disaboom Jobs
- Sierra Group’s One More Way Foundation
The Illinois Disability Rights Bureau enforces State and Federal laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities to equal access to buildings, housing, and services. If you have questions or complaints contact:
Office of the Attorney General
James R. Thompson Center, 11th floor
100 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601
*The Job Action Network is one of several services provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).