This is a topic that people with learning disabilities (LDs) struggle with, and there is no clear cut answer or guide to go by, as to whether, when or how to disclose to an employer or potential employer.
There is some consensus among research or documentation on disclosure. The first says that if you are going to need accommodations in order to complete job testing or perform well in an interview, and/or if you will need accommodations to successfully perform the daily tasks of the job.
In a document published by York University (Should I Disclose my Learning Disability to an Employer.pdf) – there are many tips and suggestions offered. I will touch on some of them here.
In the study, many York graduates with LDs were happier with and achieved high levels of success in a variety of professional, managerial and technical jobs, with minimal accommodations. On top of that employers who hired the graduates with LDs rated the graduates with LDs higher than graduates without LDs
Despite these findings many people with LDs still worry about negative stereotypes that employers might have if they decide to disclose their LD. Not disclosing though can have negative effects as well, especially if you are capable of doing the job but are not getting the accommodations you need to perform the job.
Before you disclose, there are many factors that should be taken into consideration:
- The seriousness of the LD, and will it affect job performance
- Are job accommodations needed and are they easy to implement or accommodate?
- Can accommodations be attained without disclosure? (spell check on a computer)
- Will the LD keep you from completing the application process or on-the-job training without accommodations?
- How comfortable you are with disclosing?
- Can you positively explain how you compensate – and work efficiently with accommodations
The Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canada Human Rights Act both legislate that employers cannot discriminate against persons with LDs, and have to provide reasonable accommodations if they are disclosed. Specific details of the LD do not have to be disclosed but the employer does need to be provided with documented proof of the disability accommodation.
Disclosing your LD in a positive way is an important life skill at school and at work; that should be practiced before disclosing. Stress your strengths and how you get things done and work efficiently with the accommodations. Some helpful hints for disclosing are:
- Use simple language and keep your disclosure short
- Focus on your strengths first
- Discuss your past successes using the accommodations
- Create a script and practice your disclosure
- Assure the employer that your solutions have worked in school or with other employers
- Provide references that can confirm your past successes using accommodation strategies
There are many more publications and studies on disclosure of a LD and they all offer similar advice. Like anybody applying for a job, whether you have a LD or not, you have to show confidence without being egotistical or coming across as a know-it-all. This may be more important for the job candidate with a LD. Be confident in your abilities that have gotten you this far in life. Job skills can be learned. The thing that employers look for are personality traits – one’s ability to overcome, strive to succeed and deal with stressful situations – hurdles that anyone with a LD has worked to overcome their whole life.