When do I Disclose or Discuss my Disability?

For you as a student self-advocacy often involves disclosing that you have a disability. Disclosure means to reveal or to make known. One of the most personal decisions that you will make is to tell someone about your disability. Disclosure has an element of vulnerability, or not feeling safe. In order for you to disclose you must know and understand your disability and be comfortable talking about it.

The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities is a great resource to help you and the people around you to learn how to identify and disclose your disability.

You are not legally obligated to disclose to anyone that you have a disability though finding a healthy ownership to your disability will be to your advantage. Disclosing a disability can open up doors since colleges and/or employers are not obligated to ask if you need accommodations. Even when you disclose your disability, most employers and post-secondary schools will NOT offer accommodations. Under the law, it is up to you to ASK! This is very different than when you were in elementary and high school and your school was required to provide you with the supports you needed.  Now it is up to you to identify, within the guidelines of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) law, what accommodations you need in order to work and/or learn.

It is best practice, if you need an accommodation, to have a plan in place for how to disclose and what accommodations to request.  Being proactive creates an atmosphere of conviction and credibility and communicates a “can do” attitude! 

The decision of when and how to disclose a disability  is different for each situation. Disclosing a disability to a potential employer may look very different from disclosing a disability to a potential college. Disclosing to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way, can help to create a strong, working relationship.

Again, it is your responsibility to understand what the procedure and requirements are for each situation. If you need help understanding, ask someone within your family and friend network to help you.

Remember, not all employers and/or schools are the same. Some employer/schools are great at providing accommodations and helping people with disabilities!…some are not.  Do not get discouraged.  Keep asking questions and finding out who or what will be the best fit for you! There is a great fit for you.  Keep trying!

This site is specific to students with learning disabilities but also has some good general information:http://www.ldonline.org/article/c675/

When you graduate from high school, each institution and employer will ask for specific documentation to prove that you have a disability. Psychological reports from high school, private assessments, and doctor’s orders may all be means of documentation. These documents should be current within 3 years. The IEP meeting leading into your last year of high school is a nice time to ask for a new psychological evaluation to be done. Vocational Rehabilitation may also be able to assist you with this. Keep in mind, that each institution/employer has their own set of requirements which will be outlined in their policies and procedures.

Here are some links to websites that talk about how to and when to disclose to post secondary schools.