woman shaking hands with a candidateDisclosing a disability or requesting reasonable accommodations during the application and interview stage of your job search can be daunting. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) explores how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you from discrimination and how JAN can help you consider accommodations that could help you on the path to employment.

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Pre-Employment and the ADA: 5 Tips for Navigating a Job Interview

Jul 16, 2019

By Brittany Lambert, MS, CRC

woman shaking hands with a candidateOne of the first steps to successful employment is landing an interview. As a person with a disability, you may have questions regarding how to navigate this process. Deciding whether to disclose a disability or request accommodations during this subjective stage can be daunting, but job applicants should be aware of the protection provided by Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited in all stages of employment, including the pre-employment stage. Let's take a closer look at what that means for job seekers with disabilities.

Am I required to disclose my disability on an application or during a job interview?

Generally, no. You are not obligated to disclose a disability to a potential employer unless you need a reasonable accommodation for the hiring process. For example, if an individual who is deaf requires an interpreter for the interview, they would need to disclose and request this as an accommodation. If an individual with an invisible disability, such as depression, does not anticipate the need for an accommodation in order to complete the interview, they may choose not to disclose at this time. As a general rule, disclosure is only necessary when requesting an accommodation. You may request an accommodation on the job even if you chose not to disclose during pre-employment.

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JAN will join us as guest presenters for this month’s WISE webinar! Register now to learn more about the ADA and reasonable accommodations.

July 24, 2019
choosework.ssa.gov/wise

May employers ask me to voluntarily disclose a disability on an application or during an interview?

Employers may ask applicants to voluntarily self-identify as having a disability, but only if it is for the direct benefit of the individual, such as through an affirmative action program. If this is the case, it must be clearly stated that the information is completely voluntary and failure to respond will not result in adverse action against the applicant. The information must also be kept confidential. In order to maintain the applicant's privacy and meet confidentiality guidelines, information pertaining to self-identification must be kept separate from the application.

If I need an accommodation for the interview, may the potential employer ask for medical documentation?

Sometimes. If the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer may be entitled to limited documentation to substantiate that the applicant has a disability and is in need of reasonable accommodation. Questions should be relevant to the request at hand, meaning that the employer may ask about the disclosed disability and functional limitations, as well as suggested accommodations. 

Ticket to Work

Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Can the employer propose an alternative accommodation to the one I'm requesting?

Employers have an obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities, absent undue hardship. With that being said, the employer has the right to choose among accommodation options, as long as what they ultimately provide is effective at meeting the individual's medical needs. This means that an employer may not necessarily be obligated to provide your first choice if there is another suitable accommodation that would be sufficient to meet your needs. If the employer suggests an alternative accommodation that you do not feel would be effective, it’s important to let the employer know why.

Here is an example:

An administrative assistant who is blind makes a request for a qualified reader as an accommodation. The role of the reader would be to read information from the employee's computer aloud to the employee, thus giving her access to vital information. The employer wonders if screen reading software would be an adequate alternative. The employer acquires a demo of a screen reading program and finds that it is compatible with the programs the employee needs to access. In this case, the screen reader may be an effective alternative to the qualified reader that the employee initially requested.

What can I do if I feel I have been discriminated against during pre-employment due to my disability?

If you feel that the employer has acted in a way that violates the ADA, you have the right to file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can reach the EEOC by phone at 1-800-669-4000, or online at www.eeoc.gov.

If you feel that the employer has acted in a way that violates the ADA, you have the right to file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can reach the EEOC by phone at 1-800-669-4000, or online at www.eeoc.gov.

Learn more

For more information regarding the pre-employment process, see the following resources:

About the writer

JAN logoBrittany joined the JAN staff as a Consultant in August 2017. As a member of the Sensory team, she fields questions related to low vision, hearing impairments and more. Brittany holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology, as well as a minor in Disability Studies. She earned a master's degree in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from West Virginia University in 2017, and is a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC).

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