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Working Wise: Talking About Your Disability

Dear Working Wise,

Do I have to talk about my disability with my future employer? I don't want to hurt my chances of getting hired.
Signed,  Unsure

November 29, 2017

Dear Unsure,

The decision to talk about your disability is complex—what is right for one person may not be right for another, and what works in one situation may not in another.

If people can see your disability, or if you will need the employer to make accommodations, it may make sense to discuss it with the employer.

You don’t need to disclose your personal medical information or how you acquired the disability. Just talk about any challenges that your disability might create and how you typically work around these challenges and get the job done.

When deciding whether to talk about your disability, consider:

  • How do most people react when they notice or learn about your disability?
  • In the past, when have you felt most comfortable talking about your disability?
  • Would not talking about your disability put anyone’s safety at risk?
  • Will the employer think you’ve been dishonest if you don’t talk about your disability until after you’re hired?
  • Do you need any accommodations to do your work? If so, you might want to talk about it.
  • What do you know about the employer’s policies about people with disabilities?

If you decide to talk about your disability, here are some helpful tips:

  • Try practicing the conversation with someone you trust like a supportive friend or family member.
  • Be positive. Present your education, skills and experience as strengths. Talk about how you will be able to do the job. Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do.
  • Think about questions the employer might ask and how you will answer them. Give examples. For instance, if you tell the employer you have difficulty hearing, they may ask how you will cope during meetings. Explain your solution and give an example of how you’ve handled similar situations before.
  • Know what you need to be successful in the workplace. This includes equipment that you might need.

One concern employers may have is the cost of any workplace accommodations that you might need. You can reassure them by knowing what you will need and how much it might cost.

You can also explain that the Alberta Government’s Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) can be used to help offset some of the costs of worksite modifications or assistive technology.

The decision of how and when to talk about your disability will become easier as you move through your career and become more experienced with the workplace.

For more tips for job seekers with disabilities, visit the alis website.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is December 3, 2017. A number of events are being held to mark the day. Photo Credit: © Government of Alberta

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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