Invisible Disabilities & the Job Hunt: Do You Conceal or Reveal?

When the average person hears “disabilities,” they think of someone with an obvious physical disability. Wheelchairs, crutches and prosthetics generally come to mind. When it comes to seeking employment,  it would likely be clear to your potential employer from the first interview that you were living with a disability. But not all disabilities are visible. Many disabilities, such as brain injury, hearing loss, epilepsy or mental illness to name a few, are invisible. The average person on the street wouldn’t know you had a disability unless you told them – and neither would a potential employer. So when it comes to having an invisible disability, do you conceal or do you reveal?

This topic was discussed in a recent article in The New York Times about looking for employment when you’re living with an invisible disability. While the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people living with disabilities from hiring discrimination, it’s more difficult for people with invisible disabilities – particularly those who choose not to disclose them to a potential employer.

While the question to disclose or not disclose your invisible disability to an employer may be an easy one, the answer is not. Remember that you are not required to disclose your disability to your employer. If you do, you may risk being stigmatized by your boss or coworkers; if you don’t, you won’t recieve the accommodations you need. For example, someone with hearing loss not getting a job for being unable to keep up with conversations, or someone with bipolar disorder being fired for appearing disinterested.

So what do you do? Jan Johnston-Tyler, founder and CEO of EvoLibri, a company that offers job placement for people with disabilities, said 75% of her clients choose not to disclose their disabilities even after being hired due to feared stigmatization. For example, people with hearing loss are concerned about being perceived as old, people with mental illnesses being perceived as crazy, or people with brain injuries being perceived as unreliable.

While the choice is entirely up to the individual, she does advise disclosing your invisible disability if you begin to receive negative performance reviews or feedback – while this may not prevent disciplinary action, it will at least provide a context and allow for accommodations to be made in the future.

To read the full article, click here.

We want to hear from you! Do you have an invisible disability? When it comes to employment, have you chosen to conceal or reveal, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

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