Decision to disclose disability

The decision to disclose

Self-disclosure of a disability is a personal choice. The job-seeker should disclose disability-related information only as necessary.  It is important for the job-seeker to decide

  • whether or not to disclose
  • what they want to disclose
  • when they want to disclose

based on the impact of the job search and/or job performance.

Know Your Legal Rights

The Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act defines discrimination in the area of job applications, advertisements and employment practices. These include questions about your:

  • Mental disability
  • Physical disability
  • Race/ Colour
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender
  • Religious beliefs
  • Age and
  • Ancestry

It is not necessary to disclose to the employer your illness unless you want to. Keep in mind; it is not permissible for the potential employer to request an applicant to provide any information about the general state of their health, appearance, height and/or weight as part of the pre-employment inquiries.

Knowing Your Responsibilities

  1. Apply for positions that are within your capabilities.
  2. Ask the potential employer for a complete job description so that you can assess your suitability for the job.
  3. Sell the employer on what you can do and can learn. Sell your future potential not your past problems.
  4. Answer questions honestly, but keep it short and simple.
  5. The employer wants to know that you are Ready, Willing and Able to work.

If the job doesn’t match what you want; then don’t apply.

The following table shows some of the risks and benefits of disclosing your disability. Add your own risks and benefits in the blank spaces provided. Source:

Risks of Disclosing Benefits of Disclosing
You may not be hired. The employer may be recruiting for diversity.
You may be labelled. The employer may value your openness.
You may give up your privacy. The employer can provide accommodations* if you disclose.
You may face discrimination, subtle or direct. Your abilities, attitudes and success may counteract any discrimination. You may be an ambassador for others with disabilities.
You may face the envy or resentment of your co-workers if you ask for special treatment. Your openness can create understanding among your co-workers.
You may face the anger of an employer who finds out about your disability later and feels misled. Your openness and cooperation may create a win-win situation so both you and the employer get what you need.
* Accommodations are changes to the physical workplace, or to the way in which a job is performed, which reflect the specific needs of the employee. Examples of accommodation include flexible hours for someone with a mental illness and physical aids for someone with multiple sclerosis.

The issues:

  • What do you do when you are asked illegal questions?
  • How can you talk to employers about your physical requirements without blowing employment opportunities?

Possible Situations

Employers may ask questions about your mental health and limitations even though they know the questions is not legal. You have a choice of how you are going to reply.

  1. Address the issue. Ask why they want to know information about your mental health.
  2. I understand that a job-related medical examination may be required and that the offer of employment may be contingent upon a satisfactory, job-related medical examination.

Keep in mind

  1. Employers hire people who can do what needs doing.
  2. Ask the employer why they are asking the question.
  3. In some cases you might be able to turn the situation around by addressing the employer’s concern(s).
  4. You need to decide if you want to work for an employer who asks you illegal questions.

Some resources for the Job Seeker


Some resources for the employer


As a job-seeker keep focus on what you bring to the table (your qualifications and past work history). Talk about your abilities; I can ________; instead of I can’t _______. Keep positive and do not focus on the disability or inability to perform the job essential job functions.

Believe in You. Be You.


Alnoor Damji

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