Disclosing Your Learning Disability

Download/Print Adults with Learning Disabilities – Disclosing Your Learning Disability Info Sheet

What is disclosure?

In a disability context, “disclosure” is the act of revealing personal information about a disability for the specific purpose of receiving accommodations in postsecondary school, job training, or the workplace. An accommodation is an adjustment to an environment which makes it possible for people with disabilities to participate equally.

There is no standardized form or set of requirements regarding what people must share about their disabilities, and the choice to disclose is a personal decision that individuals with disabilities must make for themselves. They should decide to whom they choose to disclose and how much information to provide.

When should you disclose?

Disclosing a disability may be a consideration when transitioning to postsecondary education, starting a new job, or keeping a job. Generally, adults with learning disabilities find it best to disclose information only if accommodations will be required in that setting.

In postsecondary schools, students with disabilities should disclose their disabilities during the enrollment period.

In the workplace, employees can request an accommodation any time during the application process or after being hired. Usually, employees with learning
disabilities should disclose the disability at work when there is a job-related barrier that is preventing them from doing a job or competing for a better job unless they receive job accommodations.

Who do you disclose to?

To receive accommodations at work or in postsecondary school, information about the disability must be shared with the appropriate authorities.

In postsecondary education settings, there are disability service offices that oversee accommodation requests for students with disabilities. The school’s administration office can direct you to the office for disability services.

In the workplace, many employers have specific procedures to handle accommodation requests. Check the employee handbook or the company’s
intranet for this information. If there is an EEO office or a human resources department, they can handle the request.

The other option at work is to talk to a manager or supervisor directly. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you only have to let your employer know that you need an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. You do not have to mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” Just give basic information about your challenges and what accommodations would help you to be more effective in your job.

Also, it is not necessary to tell co-workers about your disability or your need for accommodations. Your employer is required by law to keep your disability information confidential and to give it to managers and supervisors only on a need-to-know basis.

What should you know before you disclose your disability?

    • Your areas of strengths and challenges.
    • The accommodations and strategies that will work best for you in your school or job.
    • How to effectively communicate information about your learning disability, including your strengths and needed accommodations.
    • It is most important to provide information about:
      • how your disability impacts your ability to learn and work effectively; and
      • what accommodations, supports, and services you will need in order to access, participate, and excel in your school or job, and
        how they have helped you in past, similar situations.

How do you disclose most effectively?

Arrange a meeting with the person in charge of handling accommodation requests. Verify that the conversation is confidential. Tell the person that you have a documented condition that may require some job or school adjustments that will allow you to complete your tasks
successfully. First discuss the strengths you have that pertain to your learning or job, then suggest accommodations that allow you to use your strengths to compensate for your areas of difficulties.

For example, “I do a great job following written directions. However, when someone gives me verbal instructions, I need a written copy to ensure that I don’t miss any steps along the way.”

Additional Resources

Rights and Responsibilities of College Students with Learning Disabilities (LD)

Self-Advocacy in the Workplace: Requesting Job Accommodations

Job Accommodation Network

Download/Print Adults with Learning Disabilities – Disclosing Your Learning Disability Info Sheet

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Comments

  1. I have had my job for almost a year now. I have a learning disability which effects my writing skills and reading. Luckily, I have been able to over come my reading problems by pushing myself to read more. However, my writing has become an issue at work. I’m not sure if I should disclose my learning disability to my boss before it becomes a bigger issue or I’m afraid that I’d be layed off. Should I disclose my learning disability and try to take a writing course to see if it helps? I’m feeling a little lost and could use some help!!

    • LDA of America says:

      Congratulations for improving your reading skills! That must have taken a lot of time and hard work, and hopefully, you recognize your well-deserved achievement as a sign of your high levels of commitment and persistance, which are good skills for any employee to have!

      Regarding the writing problems, your boss can NOT legally fire you for disclosing your learning disability. There is information about your legal rights at work, how to disclose your disability, what employers need to know, and ideas for accommodations and assistive technology at http://oldldaamerica.org/category/workplace-issues/ If you do decide to disclose to your boss, be sure you have that discussion AFTER you have already determined what accommodations and assistive technology may help you do your job more effectively. That way, you can explain to your boss that although you do have a learning disability, it will not affect your job performance if you have access to the tools and accommodations you need to do your job most effectively.

      For example, you may want to ask about using a speech-to-text program when writing documents and emails. Windows has one built in – you just need a headset with a microphone to start talking and have your computer type for you. Or you might want to try a commercial program like Dragon Naturally Speaking.

      For organizing your thoughts before writing, sometimes it’s helpful to use a mind-mapping program or app so you can organize your thoughts in a picture format to create a graphic organizer. More information about graphic organizers can be found here: http://oldldaamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Graphic-Organizers-info-sheet-final.pdf.

      For taking notes, you may want to try the Audio Note app (free trial), which lets you take notes while it records what the speaker is saying so you can listen to it again later if needed.

      Also, it’s a good idea to contact the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at http://www.askjan.org (or call 800.526.7234) and speak with a job accommodations counselor about what accommodations may help you the most in your job, and how to effectively disclose your learning disability to your boss. JAN is a free service that can help you work toward practical solutions that benefit you, your boss, and your organization. JAN’s expert consultants offer one-on-one guidance on workplace accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation.

  2. I went to special ed since third grade till I graduated from high school! I have problems with math speech reading spelling understanding directions I forget verbal instructions if I drive I get lost I was ridiculed humiliated bullied made fun of every job I have ever had I have been let go of all of my relationships with men have gone no where my frienships were all a lie people were never ever trully my friend been taken advantage of ! Every one that I have told that I have a learning disability does not believe me! Its been a struggle to deal with this so much discrimination n indiffernce! I am also mentally ill with severe depression n severe anxiety n panic attacks ! I pray that these Employers n hopefully this world can open their Eyes n stop calling us people with learning disabilities stupid or treated us like misfits or outcasts! Trully Katie Familia from Wellington Florida

    • I understand as I have also been misunderstood my entire life. People have no concept of our daily struggle to hear, comprehend and interpret words and sounds. They can’t conceive why it takes longer for us to respond with correct words and convey in an effective way. The generalized anxiety we feel with all the different people we meet and difficulty in communication because their accent, low voice, mumbled speech, etc. makes it impossible to know what they’re saying. The frustration in reading body language and wondering if those cues are enough to interpret when their words don’t make sense. Don’t give up! These weaknesses are strengths in God’s plan. The careful consideration we take in choosing what to say and how to say it. The empathy we have for others who are weak, sick, disabled and struggling. The love we feel for the unlovable. What people regard as wrong with us, Jesus calls it right. Our desire for good, justice, and righteousness to prevail. All the hate, betrayal and rejection we’ve endured has made us stronger to overcome evil. Jesus knows our pain and sorrows. He cares. Whenever people have given me less, God gives me more. His love is greater than every wrong. Jesus gives strength to live with faith, hope and love. I encourage you to keep trusting and believing in the way, the truth and the life!

    • OMG!!! READING THIS MAKE ME FEEL TEN TIMES BETTER.. I FEEL LIKE I WAS THE ONLY ONE FELT LIKE THIS FOR MI ENTIRE LIFE AND I’LL B 32 YRS OLD IN FIVE MONTHS.. I THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS EASY FOR ME, BECOMES IVE BEEN IN Denial N IYS KILLING ME BECAUSE IM NIT ABKE TO HELP MY KIDS LIKE IM SUPPOSE TO IT MAKE ME FEEL LEST THEN A MOTHER…

  3. Timothy Tyus says:

    i need on my reading is bad

  4. I wonder if you could talk to an HR department about learning disabilities. I feel like I should be upfront to my employer about it. I took special education classes when I was still in school. I am very grateful for the help I got while in school.

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