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Disclosing a disability



When a person with a disability tells an employer that s/he have a disability or medical condition, s/he is disclosing a disability. It is important to note that a person with a disability can disclose at any point in the employment process. Also, people with disabilities are under no obligation to disclose a disability to an employer or prospective employer. The ADA specifically limits an employer’s ability to ask questions that are likely to uncover information related to disability (or to make disability-related inquiries) at three stages: pre-offer, post-offer, and employment.



No disability questions are permitted at this stage.  Ask only questions you ask of all applicants.  Focus on the person’s qualifications and the ability to perform the essential functions of the job.


According to the EEOC, “once a conditional job offer is made, the employer can ask disability-related questions and require medical examinations as long as this is done for all entering employees in that job category.”

During Employment

Any disability-related inquiries that are made after someone is employed must be “job related and consistent with business necessity.”

Disclosing a disability

In some cases, when people choose to disclose, they may just be sharing information about themselves. Often people choose not to disclose until they need to do something differently on the job.  In order for a person with a disability to receive a reasonable accommodation, they must disclose their disability to an employer.  Disclosure sometimes initiates the reasonable accommodation process by the employer or prospective employer, as it lets the employer know the reason a reasonable accommodation is necessary.

Disclosing a disability is a personal decision.  This decision is informed by both the environment established by the employer and the individual’s level of comfort within the employer environment.  Medical information should always be kept confidential.


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1995).  ADA enforcement guidance: Pre-employment disability-related questions and medical examinations.  Retrieved from U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2005).  Enforcement guidance:  Disability-related inquiries and medical examinations or employees under the ADA.  Retrieved from von Schrader, S., Malzer, V. & Bruyère, S. (2014).  Perspectives on disability disclosure:  The importance of employer practices and workplace climate.  Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 26(4) p 237-255.  doi:10.1007/s10672-013-9227-9


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