December 8, 2022, by Leah Sharpe
Talking To Employers About Disability
By Christian Jameson-Warren, Careers Adviser
Being disabled can impact a person’s ability to show their best self when both applying for vacancies and progressing in the workplace both directly and indirectly, so it often makes sense to talk to an employer about it.
While this may seem logical, from my experience there are three main reasons why people find it difficult to do so:
Talking about disability in this context is often referred to as a ‘disclosing’ it. In reality, this is a linguistic hangover from before the 2010 Equality Act, when employers could ask about disability during the application process, for example, ticking a box to ‘disclose’ that you had a disability. Since the Act, the emphasis is now on adjustments needed to enable you to be your best self, rather than the disability. Legally, employers have to accommodate adjustments and are not able to ask for details or proof of disability during the recruitment process. They may ask after a job offer has been made, in the context of knowing how to support you.
Not knowing how and when
While everyone’s experience of disability is different, there are some good general principles that can help when deciding how and when to talk about disability with an employer. Remember that any decision to share information and how much you share is entirely up to you.
1. At every stage of an application process, consider if having a disability impacts your ability to show your best self. If the answer is ‘yes’, think about what could be changed. Do not feel you have to stick to adjustments you’ve had at university, as this is a different context. For example, if you struggle with processing information, you may consider asking for interview questions prior to the interview. For further ideas of suitable adjustments, have a look at charities who support your people with your disability. They may have information on their website or contact details to find out more.
2. You do not have to give details of your disability, just what adjustments would be suitable, for example, ‘I have a condition that requires X adjustment’
3. Check if the employer has information on their website about the Disability Confident Scheme. If they do, there may be assistance available, such as a guaranteed interview if you meet the minimum criteria for the job.
4. In the workplace, what activities are impacted by your disability? What could be changed to enable you to show your best self? For example, could a screen cover for your computer help? In the first instance, speak to your manager or human resources. Legally employers have to make adjustments to accommodate disability, and the Access to Work scheme exists to help with any larger costs.
Worry about being judged
As humans, once our essential physical needs are met, our deepest, innate worry is being rejected by others because we are different. This often impacts how we approach asking for adjustments, as we worry that people will judge us negatively and this will impact our application or progression regardless of legal protection.
There are different ways to approach this. For me personally, I find it helpful to recognise this fear of rejection and how it shows up, and then I can mentally separate it from my ability to do a task. I also take the approach that asking for adjustments benefits the employer, as I’m able to show my best self either when applying or in my work – whereas if I didn’t do so well, it wouldn’t help them.
Also consider that if an employer isn’t positive about making adjustments, it’s probably not somewhere you’d actually like to work.
From my own experience, this has been an incremental process, starting with asking for small adjustments and slowly developing the confidence to ask for more. In all honesty, with hindsight, I wish I had had the confidence to ask for more adjustments earlier on. Being able to talk about what help I need has also improved my experience of and productivity in the workplace.
Whatever your situation may be, we can help you with identifying and applying for suitable career options, finding work experience as well as other career-related questions you may have.
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