Self-Determination

Disability Disclosure: To Tell or Not to Tell

There are no Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) after a student graduates from high school; college faculty and staff are not required to provide accommodations to students who have chosen not to disclose their disabilities.

Self-determination is the desire and practice of directing one’s own life. A self-determined individual sets goals, sees options, evaluates potential outcomes and makes decisions. It is an important and personal choice and should be an informed choice.

High school students with a goal of attending college or post-secondary education programs need to understand that whether or not they disclose their disability will impact their ability to request and receive accommodations.

Weigh the Advantages and Disadvantages

In addition to receiving reasonable accommodations, there are other advantages to disclosing a disability:

  • It provides legal protection against discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • It provides greater freedom to communicate should a student face changes in his or her situation or condition
  • It improves self-image through self-advocacy

But there can also be a downside to disclosure. Some of the disadvantages may include:

  • Some young adults find explaining their disability difficult or embarrassing
  • It can bring up conflicting feelings about self-image or it may lead to being viewed by others as needy or not self-sufficient
  • It could cause a student to be overlooked for a team, group or organization

Students considering college should know how their disability affects their capacity to learn and perform academically and if there are accommodations, services or supports that will help them participate in and excel in their studies. They should carefully consider the pros and cons of disclosure and talk to parents, teachers, coaches, and friends before making the decision.