Disabilities differ from person to person. Whether intellectual, developmental or psychiatric, the “disability” can affect the employment process.
For those with a psychiatric disability, telling the employer about your diagnosis is the only way to protect your legal right to any accommodations you might need to get or keep a job. However, revealing your disability may subject you to discrimination, which could limit your opportunities for employment and advancement.
The Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation offers valuable information regarding preparing to disclose and when to disclose the disability to the employer. Disclosure is a complex decision and should be made with care. Here's what you might want to think about:
1. Assess your employment skills to determine whether you need help from your therapist or mental health agency
2. Identify any potential accommodations you might need during the hiring process or on your first day of work
3. Explore your feelings about having a mental illness and about sharing that information with others -- remember, no one can force you to disclose if you don't want to
4. Research potential employers' attitudes toward mental illness and screen out unsupportive employers
5. Weigh the benefits and risks of disclosure
6. If you decide not to disclose, find other ways to get the support you need
7. If you decide to disclose, plan in advance how you'll handle it
1. Decide how specific you will be in describing your psychiatric disability
2. Describe the skills you have that make you able to perform the main duties of the job
3. Describe any functional limitations or behaviors caused by your disability which interfere with your performance
4. Identify the accommodations you need to overcome those functional limitations or behaviors
5. Optional: You may choose to describe the behaviors or symptoms the employer might observe and tell the employer what steps to take as a result
6. Point the employer to resources for further information
You may find it helpful to prepare a script to read from. For example: "I have (preferred term for psychiatric disability) that I am recovering from. Currently, I can/have (the skills required) to do (the main duties) of the job, but sometimes (functional limitations) interfere with my ability to (duties you may have trouble performing).
It helps if I have (name the specific accommodations you need). I work best when (other accommodations)." You could also add the following information: "Sometimes you might see (symptoms or behaviors associated with symptoms).
When you see that, you can (name the action steps for the employer). Here is the number of my (employment specialist, doctor, therapist, previous employer, JAN, etc.) for any information that you might need about my ability to handle the job."
Whether you have an intellectual, developmental or psychiatric disability, understanding your legal rights as an employee is important. Click here for more information about psychiatric disability and employment issues.
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