The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is a law that makes sure that employers do not discriminate against people who have disabilities who apply to them for open positions. The federal version of the law applies to companies that have 15 or more employees, and some states hold even smaller companies to the ADA standards. There are a wide range of disabilities for which the ADA is applicable, but at its most basic it covers people whose physical condition limits their abilities in major life activities such as eating, speaking, hearing or walking. People who have limiting disabilities are able to apply for any job for which they meet the job qualifications. That means that if their educational background job experience matches the hiring standards listed for the job, they should feel free to apply, even if employing them would mean that the employer would need to make a reasonable accommodation. They also do not need to worry about not being able to do some duties that are not essential parts of the job’s functions – the ADA’s protections mean that if you can fulfill the essential functions, with or without accommodation, an employer cannot discriminate against you.
Many potential job applicants who have disabilities wonder whether they should alert a potential employer about their disability when it is not immediately obvious. The question is worth discussing, as there is no legal requirement to do so. There is no question that it may be easier to avoid the subject completely until after you have been offered a job, but talking openly and candidly has its benefits as well.
The disadvantages of disclosing your ability are obvious: it puts you at risk of being subject to stereotyping and assumptions about whether or not you will be able to do the job, or the trouble that an employer may need to go to in order to accommodate your needs. On the other hand, it gives you the opportunity to dispel myths and to show what you can do. If you do disclose, it is essential that you make it clear that you are able to perform all of the job’s essential functions, and to discuss the reasonable accommodations that you need. By showing a potential employer how you would do a job, you can set aside any doubts and provide a strong sense of your abilities as well as your willingness to do the work that is required. Keep in mind that it is perfectly within a potential employer’s rights to ask how you would do a job, or to ask you to show how you would do it.
When you not only disclose your disability but also show your ability to perform the job, you put yourself in a strong position to get hired. If you do not get a job offer, it’s a good idea to ask why. Simply indicate that you’re asking so you can use the answer as a guide when applying for future job opportunities.
If you believe that your disability is the reason you did not get a job, then having disclosed from the beginning (and demonstrating your abilities) puts you in a better position to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.