Volume 01 Issue 13
Deciding when to disclose a disability can be a difficult choice for a person with a disability who is job hunting. If you have a hidden disability such as a learning disability or a psychiatric impairment, when and how to disclose your condition can be a real dilemma. Below are some guidelines for dealing with disability issues in the pre-employment process:
Step One: Start with a Good Resume
Take time to write a good resume. This is a written summary of your education, training, work experience, and most importantly, contact information. A resume should have three basic components:
1) Name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address;
2) Education and training experiences; and
3) Work history and experience.
Do not overlook the value of non-paid work experience such as internships, volunteer activities, and work that you have done for non-profit organizations such as a church, civic organization, or political party.
Step Two: Write a Cover Letter
A cover letter is used to introduce you to the perspective employer. It should briefly identify who you are and why you are applying for the position. It also should invite the employer to contact you for an interview. Be sure to enclose a copy of your resume with this letter.
A cover letter also gives you your first opportunity to disclose your disability. This would be to your advantage 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.
Step Three: Completing Applications
For most people, the employment process begins with a company's job application. How you obtain and fill out this application can be the first impression the employer has of you. If you go to the job site to obtain an application, be mindful of your appearance. While it may not be necessary to wear your best interview suit it is important to wear clothes that are clean, ironed, and free from tears or holes. Be polite and come prepared with a pen or pencil and a copy of your resume. If possible, take the application home with you. This will allow you to complete the information in a calm, stress-free environment. Remember that neatness counts.
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, leave them blank. If necessary, this can give you the opportunity to explain why you did not answer the questions instead of why you intentionally gave false answers.
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May 13 2010, 09:19 AM