Should I disclose my disability to an employer?

Another way of putting that could be: is equality real now?

Dan Brooke, Channel 4’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, said recently, “Employing disabled people drives innovation”. At Channel 4, it happens behind the scenes in production roles but increasing diversity across society is also reflected in its programming. For instance, Hollyoaks recently had wheel chair user Amy Conachan join the cast as Courtney Campbell, a science teacher.

There is more seen evidence that disabled people are getting further in all sorts of labour markets. To stick with the media though, why not check out the interview did at the start of this year with Lucy Martin, the weather presenter who was born without her right hand and forearm. A geography student, she became interested in meteorology and applied to do a three day workshop at the BBC. This led to training and then a full-time job.  The BBC now offers their Extend Hub, their disabled talent recruitment programme.  Any media roles interest you?

Of course with the success came the media exposure!  But Lucy says, “Yes, I have had a real mix of comments, 99% of which have been positive. A lot of people have said that they find it inspiring or refreshing to see me on screen, and are supportive of what I’m doing. There has also been a lot of interest in what exactly happened to my hand”.

So with many recruitment scenarios now, yes you would say that you have a disability or long-term health condition because many employers themselves are known as disability confident employers and there are also internship and graduate programme organisations such as MPSC and EmployAbility. These market a range of genuine and well paid opportunities to students and recent graduates on behalf of the employers they partner with. On the employer side of things, there is a great desire and a commitment to increase the number of disabled graduates in the workforce – to drive creativity and innovation.

BBC Academy

We know however that it is not all plain sailing. The very question “should I…” entails the fear or expectation of discrimination.  This can be a barrier. We tend to think of the external  barriers which can be overcome now with reasonable adjustments but if internal barriers reduce your chances because you don’t factor yourself in to the process, then these are major hurdles in themselves.

The Careers Service recommends that you are open about your disability and its implications. You’re talking at every stage about what you have achieved but also initially about what you need to operate at your full potential. This includes the mid-stage and end-stage recruitment experiences. So you’re talking practically about your disability both in terms of positive messages – how you have solved problems and shown resilience, pursuing academic and extracurricular goals while managing a disability – and in terms of what you require. An openness statement from you includes: this is my disability/long-term condition, these are the implications for recruitment and therefore I require e.g. a sign language interpreter, alternative forms of psychometric tests, physical access. This all increases the chance of a fair recruitment experience.

Discrimination in recruitment can occur, of course.  But employers are under a legal obligation to provide reasonable adjustments in recruitment and in work.  The employers are under what we call an active duty. But no knowledge of someone’s disability entails no duty to make reasonable adjustments.

How disability positive are the employers you’re interested in? They may participate in inclusion programmes and networks such as MPSC but you can also check the employers out online. Their careers sites often have a disability representative listed and other disability information.

If you’ve set your sights on a specific employer, factor yourself in from the start and show them what you have already achieved. Also tell them what you require.

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