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Disclosure on the Job

Employer Disability - Employer Disability Congratulations! You’ve gotten the job. Now the question is: Do you disclose your LD or keep it to yourself? There are arguments on both sides. Many adults fear that if they disclose their LD to their supervisor, they will no longer be trusted to take on important projects. Others fear being stigmatized by their coworkers. However, you should know that more people today are familiar with learning disabilities than ever before, and LD on the job has become more prevalent and generally accepted. What is more, if you decide to tell your boss about your LD and need for accommodations, this information must be kept confidential. Your coworkers are not entitled to know about your disability unless you choose to tell them. The National Collaborate on Workforce and Disability (NCWD) offers advice on how to make an informed decision in their workbook, The 411 on Disability Disclosure.

If you decide to disclose your learning disability, be prepared to discuss the following:

  • The features of your specific learning disability
  • How your LD affects your performance
  • The accommodations or modifications you need to be successful on the job
  • Examples of successes you have had in the past when you have used these accommodations

Be straightforward in your statements. Discuss your disability briefly, honestly, and in a positive light. For example, you might say something like the following: “I have a learning disability that affects my understanding of multistep instructions when they are given verbally. You can help me by either writing the instructions down or permitting me to either write them down or record them. In my last job, my supervisor always sent me email messages with instructions, and it worked out fine. In fact, I received an outstanding evaluation on my last performance review.”

At this point, you should be prepared to answer questions about your LD. There is a common misunderstanding that learning disabilities are somehow related to other conditions like intellectual disabilities (formerly known as mental retardation) or vision and hearing impairments. Be prepared to dispel these myths. You may even wish to give your employer a simple fact sheet on learning disabilities.

After you have come to an agreement with your employer about your specific LD-related needs, you might want to ask for a memo or letter documenting your discussion and detailing any specific accommodations that you have arranged. Asking for this memo should not be seen as adversarial, but rather as a record of mutual understanding of what you need to be productive on the job.

Choosing Not to DiscloseDepending on the type of job you have and your job responsibilities, you may wish to explore ways to circumvent problems without disclosing your disability. For example, you may arrange to share responsibilities with a coworker to capitalize on each of your strengths. The following are some real-life examples from people who decided not to disclose their LD.

The Trade-Off — Exchanging Work

  1. Frank's job requires him to do a quarterly report. Frank dreads turning in his reports because he has trouble writing. He finds it difficult to organize and outline his thoughts, so his reports are not always as clearly written as they could be. But Frank has great artistic talents. So he asked his co-worker, Janice, to help him outline and organize his quarterly reports and to review his drafts before he sends out the final copies. In exchange, Frank has offered to design the layout and format of Janice's reports.

  2. Consuela has trouble balancing the monthly budget at work. But she has great people skills. She has asked Carey to handle the budget. In exchange, Consuela has offered to make Carey's beginning-of-month sales calls to customers, telling them about the monthly specials. Carey is happy to handle the budget and not have to make those monthly phone calls.

There are other ways to self-accommodate besides exchanging tasks with a coworker. Look at the following examples.

The Trade-Off — Tricks of the Trade

  1. Frank might try to self-accommodate by asking his supervisor if he can install a software program on his computer that can help him outline his thoughts when writing. Frank can simply tell his boss that the program helps him work more efficiently without disclosing that he has LD.

  2. Sarah is expected to take minutes at the monthly staff meeting. But Sarah has trouble writing down what's been said while the conversation continues. So she has asked her boss if she might tape-record the staff meetings to be sure that she doesn't miss anything. Then she can play back the tape later to be sure her notes are complete.

  3. Micah is a machine operator and has trouble measuring to the fraction of an inch. So he developed a small card to fit in his wallet. The card had an enlarged picture of an inch on it. Micah was then able to compare the picture of the fraction on the card with the location on the ruler.

As you can see, it is often possible to make adjustments to your work that will allow you to you perform your job duties without disclosing your LD.

Ultimately the choice is up to you.

Tags: college-adult