Disclosure and Self-Identification: What’s the difference?!

Disclosure and Self-Identification: What’s the difference?!
Monday, November 20, 2017
Man being interviewed in suit

Author: Kathy Petkauskos, Director of Work Without Limits


Disclosing a disability to an employer for the purpose of requesting an accommodation is a complex decision that bears with it both benefits and risks to the individual.

On one hand, telling an employer about a disability is the only way to protect an individual’s legal right to any accommodations they might need to get or keep a job. On the other hand, revealing a disability may subject someone to misperception and discrimination which could limit opportunities for employment and advancement.

Disclosing a disability to an employer is a very personal decision and not an easy one to make­ – when and to whom should someone disclose? If they do disclose, will they be looked at or treated differently? Will they be passed over for promotions, or interesting projects? Worse yet, will they be fired? Is the employer aware of, sensitive to and educated about disabilities?


A person may self-identify informally when they feel confident in doing so and as part of their core beliefs in overall identity sharing.  They feel comfortable in sharing this information as a part of who they are as a person. This is a personal decision and a totally voluntary action.

A person may also self-identify formally in response to a self-identification survey at work. 

Recent amendments to the ADA have put pressure on employers to ‘do better’ regarding recruiting, hiring and retaining veterans and employees with disabilities.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires employers to invite applicants and employees to voluntarily self-identify:

  1. At time of application
  2. At pre-offer
  3. As current employees

Self-Identification Surveys

It’s important that employers communicate to their employees and candidates that self-identification surveys are:

  • Voluntary
  • Anonymous
  • Aggregated
  • Secure
  • Used for internal inclusion program development purposes

Employers should also communicate that self-identification surveys are NOT:

  • Personally identifiable
  • Added to HR records
  • Used to exclude or discriminate
  • Available for other uses

Information obtained through self-identification surveys helps companies to:

  • Learn more information about their employees
  • Foster inclusive environments where different perspectives are welcome and all employees can bring their whole selves to work
  • Gain valuable insights that can help create ‘best in class’ workplace environments

For more information on self-identification and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, visit OFCCP’s web site at 

Click Here


Man listening to training with hand on face

Work Without Limits offers training's that covers topics like self-ID and disclosure. To find more information about these training's and how your company can participate please

Visit Here

Kathy Petkauskos, WWL DirectorAuthor: Kathy Petkauskos is the Director of Work Without Limits and Associate Director of the Disability, Health and Employment Policy unit at UMass Medical School. Kathy lives in Hudson, Massachusetts and is the mother of two children both of whom have disabilities and are now grown adults living and working successfully!