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Encouraging Self-Identification

Learn more about the role of employers in supporting self-identification. 

While the choice to self-identify as a person with a disability is entirely up to the individual, employers are increasingly interested in fostering an environment that encourages self-identification in order to:

  • Increase hiring and retention of people with disabilities to capitalize on their unique skillset, talents, experiences and perspectives.
  • Ensure they are creating and sustaining diverse and inclusive workplaces.
  • Achieve compliance with federal regulations requiring affirmative action in disability hiring, such as Section 501 and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which cover federal agencies and federal contractors, respectively.

In order to measure their success in meeting each of these objectives, it is critical that employers create an environment in which employees and applicants are comfortable self-identifying, including when a disability may be non-apparent. But research has shown that many people with disabilities experience fear about doing so. This fear can be based on previous negative experiences and may include concerns that the employer will choose not to hire them, focus on their disability rather than actual work performance, limit opportunities for advancement or terminate them. 

However, people with disabilities have reported that they are more likely to self-identify if they see their employer making concerted efforts to recruit and hire candidates with disabilities and react positively to other employees’ self-identification. 

Strategies for Creating an Environment that Encourages Self-Identification

Strategies for fostering such a “disability-inclusive culture” can include the following: