Skip Navigation

Employees Need to Feel Comfortable Disclosing Disabilities at Work | Blog by NOD President Carol Glazer

Oct 20, 2016

Post thumbnail

When workers tell their employers about a disability they free up valuable emotional real estate, says Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability.

The National Organization on Disability was proud to serve as a knowledge partner with the Working Mother Research Institute and PwC on this important new survey, Disabilities in the Workplace. For us at NOD, this kind of research is in our DNA. For years, NOD partnered with Harris Interactive to assess the gaps between Americans living with and without disabilities. That research was instrumental in shaping public policy decisions in Washington and beyond for many years, particularly as it related to access to education, transportation and other key factors for people with disabilities.

The results of this new Working Mother survey are no less remarkable and should be read by every CEO who cares about workplace productivity. The research tells us that employees with a visible disability have much greater satisfaction at work across the board than employees with a non-visible disability, including in the hiring process, advancement opportunities, and accommodations at work.

A vast majority (86%) of people with a visible disability disclose it to their employers, as opposed to only 67% with a non-visible disability. In our work with leading national employers, we find anecdotally that disclosing a disability at work can free up a huge amount of ‘emotional real estate.’ Being one’s full self at work, by disclosing a disability at a disability-friendly employer, can increase productivity by increasing trust with co-workers, bosses and lessen the stress from hiding it.

What is particularly troubling is that the survey shows that employers can be less responsive to a non-visible disability. Indeed, one-third of respondents with a non-visible disability choose not to tell their employer. Of those who don’t, 43% say they keep it a secret because they want to hide their disability from their employer or don’t feel comfortable bringing it up.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy within the U.S. Department of Labor has elevated the topic of workplace disclosure as part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to push federal contractors to hire more people with disabilities. Members of NOD’s Corporate Leadership Council – our corporate partners who distinguish themselves as leaders in diversity and employers of choice for people with disabilities, such as PwC – all know that creating an environment that is welcoming to disclosure is critical for maintaining a productive and dedicated workforce.

When we are hired by employers to deliver disability employment etiquette and awareness training, our trainers specifically discuss with managers how they can signal their organization’s commitment to individuals with disabilities as a valued segment of the workforce, thereby increasing the likelihood that existing employees feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities. That’s why we encourage employers who are looking to assess their capabilities in this area to try NOD’s Disability Employment Tracker. The Tracker is a free online assessment tool that benchmarks areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. With your assessment in hand, NOD then can work together with you on a disability-hiring plan.

Our success in the global economy depends, more than ever, on how well we inspire and put to use the talent and energies of every person in this country – every talent, every skill, every ability. That is why the National Organization on Disability was created: To see to it that no ability is wasted, and that everyone has a full and equal chance to play a part in our national progress.

Carol Glazer joined the National Organization on Disability (NOD) in July 2006 as the Executive Director of its National EmployAbility Partnership. She became NOD’s President in October, 2008. Under Carol’s leadership, NOD has developed important new relationships with the US Army, leading employers, national and local foundations, allied disability organizations and scores of new corporate donors to NOD’s programs. She put in place NOD’s signature employment demonstrations, Wounded Warrior Careers and Bridges to Business and now oversees NOD’s professional services to companies to help them become more disability inclusive.

Carol is a speaker and subject matter expert on issues regarding the employment of people with disabilities and has addressed audiences at national conferences, corporate forums and higher education institutions, among others.

Carol holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and in 2012, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Allegheny College for her work on behalf of individuals with disabilities. She has two children, one of whom was born with hydrocephalus and has physical and intellectual disabilities.

Read the blog on Working Mother