Disclosing Your Disability During the Job Hunt
Summer jobs, internships and co-ops are a great way for students to prepare for their future by gaining work experience and learning new skills. Finding work you’re interested in — and getting hired — is difficult for everyone. For a student with a disability, getting that job or internship can carry an additional challenge: deciding when, or if, to tell potential employers about your disability.
Depending on the nature of your disability, your employer may eventually need to know, but the time for you to make this information available can vary.
Applications and Resumes
Generally speaking, it is suggested to avoid including mention of a disability in your cover letter, resume or other application documents, for several reasons.
Your resume is how you sell yourself for the job, and unfortunately the job market at any level — even for student summer employment or part time work — is very competitive. Though it can feel unfair, you don’t want to give employers the opportunity to pass over your resume without looking at your qualifications for the job, just because they don’t know what accommodations you might need or are unfamiliar with the disability in question.
It’s also important to keep in mind that from a legal perspective, you are under no obligation to reveal your disability to an employer. In any case, it really should not matter. However, depending on the company, it could.
The exception to this is if you are applying to work somewhere that your experience with a disability is a specific asset to the job. For example, if you have a vision impairment and apply to work at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), or wish to work as a mentor or counselor for others who have a similar disability.
During the Interview
Being invited to an interview is another point where it’s common to feel that you should disclose your disability so that you won’t catch anyone off guard. However, as with the resume, the general advice is not to disclose your disability prior to the interview, regardless of whether your disability is visible or not visible. Instead, be prepared to demonstrate you have the skills and knowledge for the job, and show the prospective employer that you are able to do the work.
It is suggested that you also be prepared to answer the questions an employer may have regarding how your disability affects you, and what — if any — workplace accommodations you might need. Having this information ready to go can help resolve any concerns your potential employer may have.
The exception here would be if you require some form of accommodation in order to perform the interview, such as needing a sign language interpreter, large-print forms and paperwork, or whether the building is wheelchair accessible.
Time to Share
If and when you do choose to disclose information about your disability, just remember to include solutions to the concerns your employer may be worried about. Use this opportunity to show your coping strategies and how they will relate to the job you’re applying for, how they will help you perform the work, and how these unique skills are your valuable contribution to the workplace.