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Disclosing: A Disability Positive Perspective

Written by Marlies Farrill, Recruiter and Advocate for People Living with Disabilities.

There is an argument that is believed by many in society that living with a disability is a tragedy. Without ignoring the challenges that People with Disabilities(PWDs) face there is a better way to look at living with a disability.

One of the challenges, PWDs face when looking for employment is the issue of disclosure. Many questions arise at this point: Do I disclose? When do I disclose? To whom do I disclose? And what do I say when I disclose?

Disclosing is a very personal choice, as candidates worry that they will be perceived negatively and it will affect their ability to get the job, however, this perspective is short-sighted. People living with disabilities bring valuable skills to an organisation and this needs to be recognised. If, and when you make the decision to disclose, why not reframe your disability through positive terms, and focus on your skills.

Here are two samples of disclosure statements that could be used:

  1. I am a recent computer science graduate with experience in software development and networking. I require a sign language interpreter for interviews, but despite my limitations, I bring skills that would be an asset to any employer.  My hearing disability has proven to be an asset in my career because I can screen out distractions in the office and focus on producing work more efficiently.
  2. I love diversity, and I am passionate about recruiting people living with disabilities. I gained this passion due to the mental health challenges experienced by myself and my family. Some consider my sensitivity a weakness, but I see it as a strength, as it allows me to connect with a deep range of people and to pick up things others may not notice. As a recruiter, having that sense about people is an asset.

Individuals with disabilities are constantly told to see their “perceived limitations” as barriers, however, they manage to overcome them through innovation, creativity and persistence; which are assets to any employer.

In the words of my friend and mentor Tim Rose “In my mind, the concepts of disability and innovation are rather closely linked. When you grow up with a disability, in my case a significant physical one, you often have no choice but to be innovative. When society puts barriers up around you, you must be innovative in figuring out how to tackle them.’’

Things to Note:

  • You are not required to name your disability; I would instead encourage you to focus on your accommodation needs.
  • When you disclose, ensure that you are focusing on the skills you bring to the table instead of the challenges you face.