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Disclosing a Disability

Disclosure, telling others about one’s disability, is voluntary. It is a personal decision, usually made with a specific purpose in mind, and it should be an informed choice based on disability laws, legal rights, and legal responsibilities. There is no requirement to disclose a disability but disclosure is required to receive accommodations and/or services.

Why Might a Person Disclose?

  • to request and receive necessary accommodations and/or services
  • to receive legal protection from discrimination (ADA/504)
  • to maintain or improve relationships with employers, coworkers, instructors, peers, etc to reduce stress by being open and honest
  • to allow self-advocacy

Why Might a Person Not Disclose?

  • accommodations and/or services are not needed in this environment performance and/or relationships are not compromised
  • person may be unaware that accommodations and/or services are available fear of discrimination, negative attitudes, exclusion, etc.
  • may increase stress because of embarrassment, anxiety, etc.

What Should a Person Disclose?

  • how disability and limitations affect performance current difficulties
  • solutions that will allow improved functioning and success

To Whom Should the Person Disclose?

  • to those who have a need to know to provide accommodations and/or services at NC State, a person who has a disability should disclose to the Disability Resource Office

Disclosure Script

It is recommended that disclosure be written down, edited, rehearsed, and committed to memory. The disclosure script should be brief, free of technical, clinical, or medical terms. It should emphasize abilities, solutions, and success. Modified versions can be used in different settings. A disclosure script can allow easy, consistent, and relaxed disclosure. It can give the impression that the person who has a disability is responsible, prepared, and capable.

The disclosure script should include:

  • a brief description of the disability. There is no need to include diagnosis but functional limitations should be included if observable or expected to reduce functioning.
  • strengths, skills and abilities. Include specific solutions used to improve functioning and achieve success.
  • requested accommodations and/or services.

Sources and Additional Information

National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability

The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities

GW HEATH Resource Center, The Disclosure Dilemma For Advocates

Study Abroad

Mobility International USA (MIUSA)

Disability Disclosure and Study Abroad: Understanding the Issues


Office of Disability Employment Policy US Department of Labor

Job Accommodation Network (various documents available, search “disclosure”)