The American Disabilities Act strives to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against in the workplace; however, when those disabilities are hidden from view, it can be difficult for employees to have their rights protected.
Consider the New York Times story of a young woman with hearing loss, who was denied a promotion because she couldn’t keep up with the conversation that her senior supervisors were having in a crowded bar. She was well qualified for the role and had all the necessary experience – but because she couldn’t hear a conversation in a bar with her executives, she didn’t get the job.
This story begs the question: if you have hidden disabilities, should you reveal them in the workplace—or conceal them?
As it turns out, keeping your disability under wraps may harm you in the long run. It’s understandable why you may want to keep disabilities hidden, as you want to be treated normally in the workplace. However, if your senior executives or prospective employers are unaware of your disability, they may see a symptom of your disability – such as hearing loss or epilepsy—as a drawback.
Remember that employees are not legally required to reveal disabilities unless they choose to do so, however, keep in mind that it may help you in situations like promotional opportunities and interviews.
For example, the woman with hearing loss could have suggested meeting at a quieter place because of her disability, which probably would have led to a more favorable outcome.
Try to mention your disability in an interview, as your employer may need to know what should be done if you have a seizure or need to be away from work for therapy. This way, you won’t be stigmatized against for missing work or be accused of poor performance when you’re suffering from your disability.
Photo credit: Daniele Zedda / Foter / CC BY