Tools for Finding Employment: Writing a Disability Statement
An important factor in disclosing a visual impairment is considering what to say to your potential employer.
Ways to Disclose a Visual Impairment
At some point in the employment process—most likely during the interview process—you will want to describe your disability and how it affects you in life and in the work place. Doing so will allow you to be covered under the ADA and will also give you the opportunity to make your potential employer more comfortable and informed about what you can bring to the company. Whenever you decide to disclose your disability, it’s important to think about how to talk about it in a professional, honest, and non-threatening manner.
As a person with a disability, it’s important to be able to express what your disability is and how it affects you. It’s important to not use too many technical terms and to keep your explanation practical. Make sure to be clear about what you can see, and explain how you accommodate limitations. Mentioning how you access computers or other information is usually a good idea.
Putting together a disability statement prepares you for the moment in the job hunting process where you’ll need to both emphasize your skills and potential and put an employer’s concerns to rest. Using plain language in describing your ability to accomplish job duties or meet general goals in life is important.
You can talk about your disability by explaining how you will perform the job duties in question, or by describing how you have performed similar jobs in the past. It can be helpful to relate possible accommodations to specific job duties, and to think about what the employer will want or need to know. Disclosure during the employment process is not an appropriate time to lecture someone about having a disability. Rather, your disability statement is an opportunity to promote yourself and to help a potential employer see how you will be a valuable member on their team.
Examples of Descriptions of Disabilities
When you describe your disability or impairment, always use positive language, simple terms and phrasing, and include functional implications. Here are some examples:
“I have an eye condition that limits what I can see. It’s like looking through a straw. I have to scan or look around more because of this loss of peripheral vision. I can look at you and see your face, but I do not see the rest of you or the surroundings.”
“I use screen reading software called JAWS. It reads information from the screen to me. I use one earphone for listening to my screen reader; I can use the other ear to use the phone or listen to other information.”
“Because of my visual impairment, I am unable to drive, so I use the bus system to get around. I took the bus here today. If the bus is not working, I have other methods of transportation.”
“I use a device that enlarges paper documents to allow me to see them easily. Other documents can be given to me electronically or I can scan them into my computer.”
“As you can see, I have great technology skills and I am very creative and will be able to meet the duties assigned to me.”
The Job Seeker’s Toolkit
This article is based on the APH Job Seeker’s Toolkit, a free, self-paced, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the employment process.
This article and The Job Seeker’s Toolkit are based on the 2nd edition of The Transition Tote System, by Karen Wolffe and Debbie Johnson (1997, American Printing House for the Blind).