SHOULD I DISCLOSE MY LEARNING DISABILITY TO AN EMPLOYER?

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 teeveryone-is-a-genius-but-if-you-judge-a-fish-lgsting 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. quote-i-get-stubborn-and-dig-in-when-people-tell-me-i-can-t-do-something-and-i-think-i-can-it-goes-back-ann-bancroft-11327

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.

Finding Employment

When I was asked if I wanted to contribute to a blog about learning disabilities, I was a little skeptical to say the least, because I definitely am no expert on learning disabilities; but I do enjoy writing and doing research, so I thought why not. (The fact that my girlfriend is involved with the LDAWE and is a LST for the public school board was a motivating factor as well).

After reading some of the other posted blogs, and I sat down to write my first blog; I am now a little nervous. I realize that I know very little about learning disabilities. That being said I will concentrate more on what I do know….preparing people for the workforce.

At my job (I work at Insight Advantage Inc.) I work with adults who have physical ailments or restrictions, or have been referred to us by help_wantedOntario Disability Support Program ODSP. Many of them receive computer, life skills, customer service or job specific training either with Insight or another company or agency. (Some are even referred to us after receiving a post-secondary education.) Our ultimate goal is to help find employment for our clients. My job is twofold. The first part of my job is to teach the classes and skills I discussed above, the other part is teaching a Job Search training course which consists of creating a resume, writing cover letters, thank you letters, job searching skills and job interview preparation and training, including mock interviews. The two biggest hurdles I see clients facing (outside of the economy) are confidence and motivation. I am going to talk today about confidence.

First off let me tell you what my definition of confidence is in this context.

Dictionary.com describes confidence as: belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence. In job searching it is belief in yourself and your abilities to do the job you want or are applying for. That may sound so obvious, but for somebody with an ailment or a disability (physical or learning) it is often a struggle to find that confidence. To help attain this I talk to the job seeker, get to know them, find out their interests, what they want to do, even if they do not think they could do it. What you have to do is find a job area or field they are interested in. Offer suggestions abimagesout jobs by asking, “What about…., or Can you see yourself,” questions. If the job seeker is looking for work doing something they would like, the confidence will increase. At Insight, we have the capability and means to offer job specific training as well, to help boost the confidence of the job seeker.

If you have a learning disability it is important to disclose this information to anyone helping you find a job. If you were to secure an interview, thought should be given to disclosing the disability to the interviewer, especially if it would affect your performance in the interview.  In my next blog I will discuss disclosure in more detail.