I’m a disabled graduate (I’m partially deaf) and every time I’ve applied for a job, I’ve faced a dilemma: do I disclose my disability or not? It is a question that candidates with additional needs wrestle with throughout their career. This blog looks at how it might benefit you to disclose.
What is disability disclosure?
Most job application forms will invite you to state whether you have additional needs, and many organisations offer Disability Confident (formerly a Two Ticks) or have a Guaranteed Interview policy in place. Why? Disability legislation means employers are responsible for ensuring recruitment/selection processes are fair, and that disabled candidates have equal consideration and access to employment. Disclosure processes are also helpful in enabling you and your employer to consider what you may need to access work safely and equally at the earliest stage.
Disability: a secret worth sharing
In 2015 BBC research indicated that 77% of disabled students and graduates were afraid that disability disclosure means disadvantage in employment. However, the keyword ‘disclosure’ is not very helpful, as it implies that disability is a secret we must whisper and be embarrassed talking about. So let’s explore some common disabled candidate concerns and consider why disability is a ‘secret’ worth sharing.
They'll reject me because I'm disabled
Employers can't legally reject applicants on disability grounds. The Equality Acts 2010 aims to promote fairness and equality in recruitment and selection processes and the workplace. Many top employers are focused on recruiting diverse talent.
I don't want a 'pity interview'
No employer gives ‘pity interviews’, they are too busy to waste their own time. They interview candidates that are qualified to do the job.
I want to win it on merit
You will – what happens on the application form and in interview room is completely down to you. However, disclosure can help you get a foot in the door of the interview room for a competitive job and make sure you are competing on a level playing field.
I don't want to talk about it
Disability disclosure is completely up to you, you don’t have to share your condition details if you don’t want to. But disclosure enables you and your employer to have positive conversations about what you need to be able to access the interview and workplace safely/equally.
I don't want to cause a fuss
Disability disclosure is not making a fuss, it ensures you are able to compete for the opportunity on a level field.
Disability and employability
Talking through additional needs, and the skills you have developed through managing a condition can be immensely positive. It allows you to showcase your unique strengths, and to stand out from the job-applicant crowd. For example, I’m hearing impaired: ironically this has helped me to develop excellent listening skills, and to be highly sensitive to non-verbal communication signals. I am also more detailed oriented because I worry that I have not heard or misheard something, and double check everything. Think about your condition – what unique skills/qualities have you developed through managing your condition? Identifying these unique assets will help you to be more confident on paper and in person.
What can I reasonably expect?
Indicating disability when applying is one step, but you also need to consider what you need in the selection process to compete equally. For example, if your condition means a full-day assessment centre (plus commute) may be challenging, ask for regular breaks to be scheduled, or if a virtual assessment centre is available. If video interviews are problematic, request a telephone or in-person interview instead. Most employers will appreciate you proactively raising a potential barrier to inclusive recruitment. In the workplace, you need to proactively ask for support/resources. Discuss reasonable adjustments with your manager, such as assistive technology. The Access to Work scheme means a combination of government and employer funding will cover some/all support costs.
Disability and opportunity
Many employers are creating opportunities that only disabled candidates can apply for. Check out MyPlus, EmployAbility and Change100 to find out how organisations like Google are recruiting diversely. And remember, the Employability & Careers Team are here to support you in developing your CV and application documents.
Ultimately disability disclosure is not about discreetly whispering to an employer that you have an inconvenient condition. You possess unique skills and qualities that graduate employers are actively seeking, so showcase your employability in your application, and take advantage of disability.
Khrieu Healy, Employability & Careers Adviser