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Clueless employers can be bad news for disabled workers

Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, as many New Yorkers know. While some are quite visible to the average person, others are less obvious. Just because a disability is not obvious, however, does not mean it doesn't have a major impact on the person who lives with it.

When it comes to finding a job, these so-called invisible disabilities can present a serious quandary to the applicant. Do you mention your disability in the job interview? Do you include it on your resume? Do you wait until after you have been hired to bring it up? These are all important questions, and the decisions people make around them can affect the hiring process.

Even though many people in New York who live with unseen disabilities are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, many are hesitant to mention a disability at all. Many people are rightfully worried that their application will be overlooked or they will be turned down after an interview if they disclose a disability. Not mentioning a disability, however, can lead to problems if a person is hired.

As an example, the writer of a recent New York Times article lives with a hearing disability. After deciding not to mention the disability to her employer, she said her hearing started to affect the way her co-workers perceived her. People viewed her as aloof and disinterested. The real problem, however, was that she simply couldn't hear much of what was going on.

Because of situations like this, some people do advise telling an employer about a disability after being hired. Keeping it a secret can sometimes result in poor performance reviews or even termination. If an employer is aware of a disability, they may more willing to find a solution.

Ultimately, the decision to inform an employer about a disability is up to each individual. Hopefully those who do choose to tell their employer find that they are met with understanding. Those who are not may want to consider talking to an attorney about whether an employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Source: The New York Times, "Quandary of Hidden Disabilities: Conceal or Reveal?" Katherine Bouton, Sept. 21, 2013

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