Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer: Advantages and Disadvantages

Disclosing your disability to an employer:Advantages and Disadvantages
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through my affiliate links provide a small commission for me at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I know/use.

Like many people, once I got closer to graduating from college, I started thinking about getting a job. One of my biggest concerns has been whether to disclose my illness to an employer. This is not an easy question, and there is no one answer that works for everyone.

I have asked career advisors, vocational rehabilitation workers, people who hire workers, and others with illnesses/disabilities about their experiences and recommendations. I have also researched this topic on my own.

Here is what I have learned about disclosing your disability to an employer.

According to the CDC, 61 million adult Americans (or 1 in 4) have a disability. The U.S. Bureau of Labor has reported that people with a disability have an unemployment rate twice as high as the rest of the population. This means that, unfortunately, it can be harder for us to get a job.

One of the biggest issues around applying for a job is deciding whether or not to disclose your disability to a potential employer. Legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has ensured protection from discrimination, reasonable accommodations, and restrictions on what employers can ask about your disability. Yet, we all know discrimination still happens.

I am scared that if I don’t disclose my disability, I will not know if the company is willing is to work with me if I need accommodations. I am also scared that disclosing my illness will result in me not getting the job. It is a no-win situation. Before making such a difficult decision, I think it is important that you are informed.

Click hereOpens in a new tab. to check out the most popular books on disability accommodations. 

Do you have to disclose your disability to an employer?

Absolutely not!

That is the good news. The ADA offers protection by restricting what employers can ask. It is up to the individual to decide if, when, and how much to disclose.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to disclosing your disability to a potential employer. 

Advantages of disclosing your disability to an employer

Being able to receive accommodations

The biggest advantage of disclosing your disability is that then you are entitled to receive reasonable accommodations to be successful. People with disabilities may require accommodations to apply, interview, or perform the job. The ADA has ensured reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, reasonable accommodations are “any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform a job, or gain equal access to the benefits and privileges of a job”.

Some of these accommodations include changes in the facility or policies and assistive technology. If you don’t disclose, then you cannot expect an employer to make such accommodations. 

If you need accommodations, at any point, then you are going to have to disclose your disability.

Put your mind at ease

Disclosing your disability will allow an honest conversation with the potential employer about if the job is a good fit for you. You can determine if you can meet the requirements. You can also see if the employer is understanding and open to working with you and/or providing accommodations in advance.

If the position is too much for you to handle, or the employer is not accepting that you have limitations or need accommodations, it is better to know before you start the job. If you waited to disclose, you might have gotten the job only later to find out the position or company is not right for you.

On the other hand, you may find out that the job/company is a good fit, which would greatly reduce your stress.

Disclosing your disability can also allow you the chance to answer any questions the employer may have and assuage any of their doubts about your capabilities.

Hiding your disability takes a toll


Trying to hide your symptoms takes a lot of energy. This is physically/mentally draining. It is a waste of energy that could be better spent doing a great job at work. 

On your performance

You don’t want your performance to suffer because of your disability. An employer does not have to rescind discipline decisions based on poor performance if the employee then discloses that this is because of a disability. You need to preemptively work with the company and request accommodations to help you succeed and avoid any performance problems. 

On communication

Avoiding disclosing your disability also can lead to awkward conversations as you skirt around questions so that you don’t have to bring up your disability.

So far, in my professional life, I have tried not to mention my illness (even after I get the internship/job), leading to stilted conversations. Trying to come up with a reason for why I am not looking for full-time employment at the moment without saying that “I have a chronic illness and right now part-time work is all that I can handle.” has been frustrating and honestly unnecessary. This answer would sound better than what I have been saying.

Explaining the impact of your disability can help the potential employer understand communication difficulties. It is better that employers know the reason behind these issues then immediately disregard you because of them.

On allowing a potential employer to understand your experience

Another advantage of disclosing your disability to a potential employer is that you may need to reference it for an explanation. For example, if you have gaps in your employment history because of your disability, you will need to explain this.

Disclosing your disability may help you

Not trying to hide your disability makes the interview easier. It may be easier to sell yourself and effectively talk about your strengths and qualifications if you aren’t trying to avoid any mention of your disability.

Your disability can also be discussed as a strength. Despite your struggles and the need to rest or dealing with pain, look at everything you have accomplished. It shows perseverance.

Finally, there are some occasions where disclosing your disability may help you get the job, such as if the job is with a disability-related organization or you are applying for programs designed to recruit people with disabilities.

Disadvantages of disclosing your disability to an employer

There is one big disadvantage to disclosing your disability to a potential employer. That is discrimination.

Discrimination can come in many different forms.

Employers not giving you a chance

Unfortunately, despite legal protection, discrimination still occurs. Employers may use your disability as a reason to eliminate you from consideration despite being qualified or pass you over for promotions/raises.

This is especially true if you disclose your disability on your resume/application/cover letter. Employers use this information to weed out people and decide who to interview. Unfortunately, knowing about your disability could (even subconsciously) cause them to think you are not the right fit. It could mean that you get fewer interview invitations.

If you do get an interview, your disability may be a distraction. The interview may end up being all about your disability instead of your abilities and skills.

Even without overt discrimination or distraction, knowing you have a disability can impact how the employer perceives you. Employers may have preconceived notions.


People may assume that anything that goes wrong is because of your disability.

Additionally, people may make assumptions about you because of preconceived ideas about your illness (this can be especially true with mental illnesses), resulting in negative peer relationships and being treated differently.

I hope this helps you understand the advantages and disadvantages of disclosing your disability to an employer. Now you can make an informed decision about whether you should disclose your disability.

If you are still in school, here is a helpful post about how to email your Professor about disability accommodations.

If you are job hunting, check out my list of the best job search sites to find remote jobs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts