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Disclosing a disability

Disclosure in a work context is just a formal term for discussing your disability with your employer. It means informing your employer, or potential employer, of your disability. You will need to consider whether you wish to disclose your disability, and if you do, when, and how. Whatever you decide, it’s important to know that disclosure is a personal, individual choice and you have no legal obligation to disclose your disability.  

Deciding whether to disclose

Some possible reasons to disclose a disability to an employer include:

  • Personal preference  - you may feel that your disability is an integral part of your identity
  • To highlight graduate attributes such as self-management, communication, resourcefulness and self-awareness.
  • You are protected by the Employment Equality Acts 1998 & 2004 and the Equal Status Acts 2000 & 2004.
  • It opens the door for having conversations about reasonable accommodations.  There are some financial supports that employers can access to provide reasonable accommodations.
  • Many employers are positive about employing people with disabilities.
  • You may need to answer a medical questionnaire.
  • You control how your disability is explained.

Some students feel that they don’t need to disclose their disability because they feel that their disability is unlikely to impact them in a particular job; and some people feel they might receive differential treatment within the recruitment process or in the work environment. It is okay to have views either way about disclosing. However, it is still a good idea to give it a lot of thought in case you change your mind in the future (for example, if your personal circumstances or employment conditions / tasks change).

Questions to consider

Before applying for any job and making your decision, think about the following:

  • Are there personal benefits to me disclosing?
  • Are there any gaps in my application / CV that could be explained by disclosing?
  • The nature of your disability and the work involved.
  • The nature and culture of the employer:  have you looked at their website? Does it refer to ways in which they help people with disabilities?
  • Do I need reasonable accommodations during the recruitment process?
  • Are there any health and safety issues that need to be addressed?
  • The consequences of not disclosing your disability. Could your disability come to light in some way in the future? If that happened how would you deal with it?

When to disclose your disability

If you do decide to talk about it with your employer, you can disclose at any stage of the job application process or you can also disclose after you have started in a job. However, there are a lot of benefits to disclosing within plenty of time; for example, many graduates choose to discuss their disability in order to highlight skills, encourage understanding, and to obtain supports or accommodations. Other reasons can be for health and safety reasons or to secure time off due to illness or for appointments.

Application stage: There may be a section on the application form referring to mitigating circumstances or other information.  This can be an opportunity to disclose if you wish, or if you feel it is necessary due to a possible gap in your application. If you don't want to disclose, simply don't answer the question. You can also use the personal statement section of the form to tell an employer about your disability.  There may be an additional medical form at some stage of the application process. Please ensure that you investigate the process for reviewing these medical forms.

CV: If you are submitting and there is a gap in your educational or work history, you can use your covering letter to explain this.  You can also refer to your disability in your CV if you have had various disability-related roles within college or other various organisations.

Pre-interview stage: This is when you may want to identify practical needs such as such as physical access, an interpreter or extra time in psychometric tests, so you can compete equally with other applicants. If you have not been asked if you need any reasonable accommodations, please contact the employer in advance as it may take time for them to arrange.

Interview:  With preparation, the interview stage can be a good opportunity to disclose, and to reframe your experiences to outline the skills that you have developed. It can also be an opportunity to reflect any research you have carried out into the diversity and inclusion policies that the potential employer may have.  If you have disclosed within your application, the interview is an opportunity to further elaborate on this as appropriate.

In the job: you may decide to disclose your disability once you've been offered the job or when you start work. You can decide who to tell - your manager or HR - and you can also request that colleagues aren't told.  This allows you to start the conversation about reasonable accommodations in the workplace as required.

The important thing to remember is that you don't have to do this on your own.   You can discuss this with a Careers Consultant or a member of the Disability Service Staff.   This may involve discussing how and what to disclose at different points in the recruitment process or beyond.  There will also be a Careers Bootcamp at the end of the year, which will have workshops on disclosure.


Dislosure & WAM Programme Slides from Workplace Disclosure (Talk to us on Tuesday) - November 2021