How and when you should bring up your disability or reasonable adjustment requests

By: Haley Zilberberg

If you’re wondering whether you should disclose your disability during a recruitment process, or when the right time to do it is, you’re not alone. Disclosing a disability while looking for a job, or when you’re already employed, can be stressful and daunting.

Even though employers aren’t allowed to discriminate, unconscious biases do exist. If you’re not sure whether you are legally required to disclose your disability, you might want to consider whether the disability will impact your ability to do the role. Generally, you aren’t required to disclose if your disability won’t have an impact on your role, but if you’re not sure, it might be a good idea to get legal advice just in case.

If you’re at the point where you know you want to or need to disclose your disability, then the trickier question is “when should I disclose”?

There is no right time to disclose a disability

Unfortunately, there’s no stock-standard answer to the question of when you should make a disclosure. You may be wondering if it’s best to make a disclosure in your application, during your interview, once you’ve been offered the role, or once you’re already working in the role. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what feels right for you. 

You can mention it before your interview to ensure your access needs are met

If you know you have access needs that will impact your ability to attend an interview, like not being able to walk upstairs or a fragrance sensitivity that might mean being in a panel interview could make you unwell, it’s likely a good idea to mention your access needs before the interview. You don’t necessarily need to make a disclosure within your cover letter, but you can let a recruiter know when they call you to arrange an interview. 

You might want to mention your disability earlier on if you know the employer will value your unique lived experience or if you require a different method of applying for a role (e.g. you prefer to apply through audio or video application). 

Usually, you are able to get an indication of whether the employer values diversity , including disability, from their website  and job position wording.

Consider if you’ll need time to set up tools

Some reasonable accommodation requests, like software or desk set-ups, can take time to organise. If you want to make sure you can hit the ground running when you step into a new role, you may want to give information in advance about reasonable accommodations you might require. Often employers don’t know what you will need, so indicating confidence and knowledge in explaining what you do need, is often seen as helpful and a strength.

Things might be different for visible vs. invisible disabilities

Sometimes you don’t get the opportunity to decide whether or not to disclose a disability. If you have a visible disability, your potential employer might know as soon as you arrive for an interview. If it makes you feel more comfortable for an interview panel to know you have a disability before you arrive at your interview, you can make the decision to disclose it earlier. 

If you acquire a disability while working

Throughout our lives, most of us will acquire a disability. Disability is a normal part of being human, and if you reach the ripe age of 90, you may end up being one of 85% of people who have a disability in their lifetime. You might be working in a job for years or decades before you suddenly acquire a disability and find yourself in a new circumstance where you have to make a disclosure at work so you can have your access needs met. In these circumstances, you might not know how to approach the topic or who to talk to. It may be good to have a chat with your human resources department or direct line manager to start the conversation. 

All in all, there’s no right time or way to disclose your disability. You can make informed decisions based on what feels right for you, but if you’re unsure, you can also contact Job Access to get confidential information or find employment services to help you navigate the workplace with a disability. 

Get in touch with Bravo Careers if you're looking for guidance on how to discuss disability arrangements with your employer.