Many employees don’t disclose their disability, and employers need to move past ‘transactional accommodations,’ says expert

On July 26, Governor of California Gavin Newsom declared July 26 would be known as “Americans with Disabilities Act Awareness Day” in California — 33 years after the Act was signed into law in 1990.

And while the systemic changes the Act has brought about are worth celebrating, many neurodiverse individuals still face considerable barriers — and one of the first hurdles is disclosing their disability to HR or a manager.

While 93% of 483 U.S. corporations encouraged employees to self-identify as disabled, only 4.5% of them chose to do so, according to the 2023 Disability Equality Index (DEI) from Disability:IN (formerly the US Business Leadership Network), which advocates for more disabled representation in corporate America.

This number, far below the 25% of people in the workforce who identify as disabled, according to a BCG survey, reveals a hesitancy to disclose.

Dr. Hala Annabi, associate professor of information science at the University of Washington, specializes in neuro-inclusivity in organizations — particularly how to recruit, retain and advance individuals with autism. ADHD, dyslexia, OCD and Tourette’s syndrome are other examples of neurodiversity.

“Most employers that I talk to state that they wish that more employees would disclose and engage with them, so that they can provide the right support,” Annabi told HRD.

To address hesitancy around disclosure, Annabi identified three distinct areas that HR leaders can focus on to increase neuro-inclusivity in their workplaces. Awareness and action around these areas can help facilitate the disclosure process and take the onus off the individual to normalize neuro-inclusion.

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