Disclosing a disability

There are no hard and fast rules in relation to disclosure and you do not have to tell an employer about your disability.

It is up to you to decide if, and at what point in applying for a job, you let an employer know that you have a sight problem.

Reasons for disclosure

Equality Act or DDA

If you disclose your disability during the application process, and then feel you have been treated unfairly, you can make a complaint under the Equality Act or DDA (applies in Northern Ireland). However, if you have not told the employer about your disability it may be possible for them to say that they did not know about it and could not have been expected to make any adjustments. By not declaring your disability it takes the emphasis away from the employer to make a reasonable adjustment.

In addition, if you have disclosed the fact that you are blind or partially sighted, the employer cannot lawfully refuse to employ you because of your sight problem without a genuine occupational reason.

Access to Work scheme

You can get funding from Access to Work for any specialist equipment or extra transport costs and help with work related obstacles resulting from a disability. Employers are often worried about the potential costs of taking on a disabled employee and many are not aware of the Access to Work scheme. By openly disclosing your disability you will be able to raise your employer's awareness about the help that is available and allow them to focus on your skills and abilities.

Equal opportunities policies

Some employers use the 'two ticks' Disability Symbol on job advertisements, which are awarded by Jobcentre Plus. This symbol means that the employer has made a commitment to employing disabled people. The symbol also means that the employer has guaranteed to interview any disabled candidates if they meet the minimum criteria from the person specification. Also, look out for positive statements about disability on an employer's equal opportunities policy. In some cases, your disability may be viewed as an additional qualification.

Position of trust

It is worth bearing in mind that when applying for a job, many employers require you to be truthful in all aspects of the application form and may say that any non-disclosure is a justified reason for dismissal.

Positive aspects of your disability

Your disability may also have provided you with unique experiences that may be useful in the workplace. For example, your sight loss may mean that you have acquired excellent IT skills through the use of access technology or that you have developed excellent organisational skills.

Forming a disclosure strategy

If you decide to tell a potential employer about your disability, the next stage is to establish at what point in the application process you should tell them.

Curriculum Vitae (CVs)

It is not necessary to mention your disability on your CV. You may feel that an employer will see your disability as the most important thing about you or make assumptions about you on the basis of your disability. Also, there may not be room on your CV to qualify your disability or to highlight the range of positive adjustments that could be made.

If the CV is speculative, or not followed by an application form, you need to decide if you would prefer for an employer to know about your disability before you are called for an interview. This may depend on whether you will need a reasonable adjustment to be made for you at the interview and in order for you to do the job satisfactorily.

Covering Letter

A covering letter should be sent with your CV to potential employers. You do not need to disclose your disability on the CV or covering letter. However, if your CV highlights that you have a disability (for example, you attended The Royal Blind School), the covering letter allows you the opportunity to explain your disability in more detail than on a CV. You can also highlight the range of adjustments that are available and that funding for these is available through the Access to Work scheme. Bear in mind that the focus of a covering letter should always be on your skills to do the job.

Application form

Some application forms ask direct questions about disability, so you can consider what details you choose to include at this stage.
You may have done voluntary work which may cause the employer to wonder if you have a disability. For example, you may be the secretary of your local voluntary society for blind people and have gained skills and experience that are relevant for the job you are applying for.

Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form

Some employers may have a separate equal opportunities monitoring form that they ask all applicants to fill in. These forms are not used to judge application forms and are separated from the form. The people who carry out the shortlisting process do not see these forms.

Interview

It is important to focus at an interview on the ways in which you fit the requirements for the job, rather than your disability.
During an interview you should be prepared to talk positively about your disability and be able to highlight the range of support and equipment that is available.

Summary

You do not have to tell an employer about your disability. By not saying anything it may mean that you face less discrimination, but it also takes away some of the obligations of an employer. It might be a good idea to form a disclosure strategy, where you plan how you tell an employer about your disability. This means that you can positively discuss your disability on your own terms and retain a focus on your own skills and abilities.

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