Determining whether and when to disclose a disability to an employer can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be.
To discuss accommodations and disclosure, I connected with Kaye Leslie, the Manager of Workforce Diversity at Scotiabank. Kaye travels across university campuses speaking to students and new grads with disabilities about career opportunities. She shared some valuable insights to help make these decisions and conversations with employers easier.
“When should someone disclose their disability (if ever)?”
Kaye: “Ultimately it is a personal choice, and you need to decide what works best for you. Disclosure depends on the comfort level of an individual…I like to get it [my disability] out there so people understand. Human Resources may be afraid to ask [me] questions about how I may perform certain tasks. Creating openness and talking about disability can put people at ease.”
“Is it a good idea to disclose a disability in a job application?”
Kaye: “The purpose of your cover letter is to demonstrate how you best meet the qualifications for the position and why you are the best candidate for the role. Your application needs to focus on your skills, qualifications and abilities for the position. If a job requires experience working with persons with disabilities or knowledge of disabilities, lived experience can demonstrate how you might be the best fit for the opportunity.”
“What about requesting accommodations during the interview process?”
Kaye: “If you have a visible disability, you may want to disclose that you require an accommodation before the interview to ensure the interviewer focuses on your ability. If the interviewer is caught off guard and realizes certain accommodations need to be made, it could result in them being distracted during the interview process. If you feel comfortable disclosing your needs in advance, it can allow the interviewer to be prepared, and ensures the space is accessible and suitable to your needs to conduct the interview.”
“Who is the right person to ask regarding an accommodation on the job?”
Kaye: “At my company, you can go to the manager and talk about your needs. Then the employee fills out an accessibility form and a 3rd party completes an assessment. Remember that accommodations are available to ensure equity during the recruitment process. Hiring managers want to learn about you as a future employee to determine fit. They want to hire the best person for the job and to set you up for success during the interview process to determine who is the right candidate.”