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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Deciding When to Disclose Your Disability

To disclose or not to disclose? This is a question every person with a disability eventually asks. Should I tell someone in advance of an interview that I am blind or have low vision? There is no easy answer. There is no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal preference. In other words, only you can decide!

However, to help you make an informed decision, the following list of possible consequences is provided as "food for thought."

If I tell someone about my disability in advance—whether on the telephone or in a cover letter—will they still consider me for the job or simply make a polite excuse for not interviewing me?

Possible positive consequences:

  • The employer will think you are comfortable with who you are and well-adjusted to your disability.
  • The employer will consider you assertive.
  • The employer believes that a blind or visually impaired person can do the job and is not off-put by your revelation.
  • The employer knows competent blind or visually impaired adults and looks forward to meeting you.

Possible negative consequences:

  • The employer will be intimidated and find an excuse to not interview you—any excuse will do.
  • The employer will be afraid that you might sue under ADA and will interview you, but plan not to hire you—any excuse will do.
  • The employer has an elderly relative with poor vision and hearing and will think that you are deaf, blind, and dumb—no interview.
  • The employer has had a bad experience with another blind or visually impaired person and assumes that you are the same—no interview.

If I go to the job site and pick up an application, thereby revealing my blindness, will the employer still interview me?

Possible positive consequences:

  • The employer will think you are competent enough to get in to pick up the application and, therefore, may well be competent to do the job—interview forthcoming.
  • The employer will discuss how you came across to others in the office (personnel clerk, for example) and find out whether or not you seemed competent, pleasant, assertive, etc. and will decide to interview you based on their observations, rather than speculation.
  • The employer will assume that you are comfortable with your disability (as above) and interview you.
  • Employer will base his or her judgment on you and not some distant relative or association with another blind person from the past—definitely to your advantage!
  • Someone, possibly the prospective employer, will have an opportunity to ask you what kinds of accommodations you will need to perform on the job or for the interview or for pre-interview tests—it won't be a guessing game.
  • You have an opportunity to demonstrate your competence, to "strut your stuff."

Possible negative consequences:

  • There is someone in the personnel office or "front office" who has a prejudicial attitude towards blind people and circumvents you from getting an interview—maybe better not to work there.
  • The employer refuses to believe that you a) got there by yourself, b) could ever find the place again, c) had extensive supports to "look" so independent, d) fill-in the blank....
  • Employer refuses to believe you are visually impaired—must be a scam!

If I wait until I get to the interview to reveal my visual impairment, will I still get the job?

Possible positive consequences:

  • Some employers don't mind the surprise and you can allay their concerns, if they have any, in person.
  • The evidence on your paperwork (application and resume, if you have one) has proven you are qualified and should be interviewed. Now you can demonstrate your competence in person.
  • There are no preconceived notions of who you are—old, deaf-dumb-blind, other.

Possible negative consequences:

  • Some employers definitely do mind being surprised and will wonder what else you've failed to mention or share with them.
  • Some employers may feel as if you have "sprung" this on them as a warm-up for a lawsuit, if you're not hired.
  • Some employers may be so distracted by your disability that they don't pay attention to who you are and what you have to offer.
  • You could end up making another person feel very uncomfortable and out-of-sorts with you.

I have pretty good vision. If no one can tell I have a disability, can't I get away with not revealing it and have a better chance of getting the job?

Possible positive consequences:

  • Maybe the boss won't notice and will hire you, assuming you have no disability.
  • Maybe your co-workers won't notice once you're on the job and you won't get caught in an omission of the truth. Can you live with that? Can you maintain the "appearance" of normal vision? What will happen if you are found out?

Possible negative consequences:

  • The boss will notice and think you are lying or trying to "pull one over" and then assume that you a) can't see well enough to do the job and, hence, the lie; b) you are not well-adjusted to your disability and may be difficult to work with; c) think the boss is too stupid to notice; d) fill-in-the-blank...bad vibes.
  • Your protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may be jeopardized—the employer is not required to make any accommodations for a disability he or she is unaware an employee has.
  • The boss and/or your co-workers will notice that you have trouble with printed materials and assume that you are learning disabled, mentally retarded, or have some other problem—maybe even a visual impairment!
  • The boss and/or your co-workers will discover that you have a visual impairment and assume a) it must be a progressive problem and that's why you didn't discuss it, b) it must be contagious, c) it must be part of deeper-seated problems—maybe you are psychotic or sociopathic and they should be concerned about their safety around you, d) it must bother you so much that you won't talk about it.

So, what to do? Think long and hard before you decide. Consider the listing above and add to it other consequences you can think of, because you know how people react to you and how you want to handle their reactions so that things work out best for you.

You decide. Take care of yourself and do what feels right in your heart as well as your head!

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