If you're looking for a new job, you already have plenty of things to worry about. You shouldn't have to worry about disclosing a disability to potential employers, but many people with physical and psychological disabilities struggle to determine the best time to make such a disclosure. Employers are not supposed to make decisions based on disability status, but disclosing a disability does have the potential to affect your job search.
There are pros and cons to letting a potential employer know about your disability early in the hiring process. One of the biggest advantages is that you won't have to worry about how the hiring manager perceives you if you are invited to participate in an interview. Disclosing a disability early on also makes sense if you need to find out if the employer has ADA-compliant facilities.
Although there are benefits to disclosing a disability early, you don't necessarily need to do so in your cover letter. Once you submit your application materials, there is no guarantee of moving forward in the hiring process. If you aren't selected for an interview, then you have disclosed your disability for nothing. Many job-hunting experts also believe you should never reveal any of your physical characteristics in a cover letter. They're typically referring to eye color or hair length, but their advice can also apply to disability status.
Despite some progress in the mental health field, there is still a stigma attached to having a psychological disorder. Disclosing this type of disability in your cover letter might help you narrow your list of potential employers, but it can also hurt your chances of being interviewed for the job you really want. If you really want to make a disability disclosure during the hiring process, wait until you meet with the hiring manager. This way, you can give the manager concrete examples of how you have been able to manage your condition while excelling at work.
Disclosing a disability is especially difficult for people in high-stress fields. If you are a doctor, pilot or attorney, you may wonder if your disability disclosure puts your license in jeopardy. If you are in the initial stages of the hiring process, there's really no need to tell potential employers about your disability. If you are invited to meet with the hiring manager or participate in a panel interview, you can disclose your condition at a more appropriate time.
Although making hiring decisions based on disability status is illegal, it's often difficult to prove that a hiring manager removed you from consideration solely because of your disability. Disclosing a disability is something you have to do at some point, but it's probably not necessary to do so in your initial application materials.
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net