Supporting Clients with Disability Disclosure

The decision to disclose is personal and depends on many factors. Support professionals can work with clients to explore the different options and to determine, if, what, when and how to disclose. Working together and practicing how to talk about strengths and needs can become an empowering experience for clients and prepare them to advocate for their own inclusion and proactive ways for achieving this. 

Supporting Clients’ Disability Disclosure in the Workplace

The decision to disclose is personal and depends on many factors. Support professionals can work with clients to explore the different options and to determine, if, what, when and how to disclose. Working together and practicing how to talk about strengths and needs can become an empowering experience for clients and prepare them to advocate for their own inclusion and proactive ways for achieving this.

Disclosure in the workplace

When supporting clients through navigating disclosure throughout the employment process, it is important to consider:

  • If and when it is necessary or beneficial.
  • Who will it benefit?
  • Is it an inclusive environment?
  • What information is necessary to share?
  • Who to share the information with? How is the organization set up to facilitate this process?

There are no right and wrong answers.

It will depend on the client, what employment the person is interested in or what is available, and the employer – all of these variables will affect this decision.

When to Disclose

The majority of people with disabilities do not see many examples of thriving inclusive employment options and feel the weight of not knowing whether or not to disclose disability status. There is no right or wrong answer as to when to disclose disability status. There can be pros and cons to disclosure at each point of the job search: from recruitment to the hiring process, receiving the job offer, during employment, or never. Each individual client will have to determine a timeline that works best.ings.

How to decide about disclosure

Explore different employment options and work with clients to go through different scenarios to be able to answer these questions:

  • Does your disability affect your ability to participate in an interview? How?
  • Does your disability affect your ability to do the work? How?
  • Does not disclosing put your safety or the safety of others at risk? How?

If the answer is yes, disclosure at the outset could be the best course of action. If disclosure may not be necessary, it will need more thought.

Practicing Disclosure

If clients have decided that disclosure will be the best course of action, there are ways to support them to have a positive disclosure experience.

Questions to explore with clients:

  • When do you feel most comfortable and confident disclosing your disability? How can we try to create this feeling during your employment process?
  • When you have disclosed disability in the past, what was your experience and how can we learn from this?
  • Let’s prepare ourselves with good information or resources to address any comments or concerns the (potential) employer may have.
  • Have you encountered stigma or misconceptions about your disability in the past? Let’s prepare some responses to be ready to address these, if ever they may arise.

Questions like this create an opportunity for clients to share past experiences. Through sharing, clients can build upon the positive things that have happened to them as well as experience a supportive space to share negativity that they have had to deal with. This knowledge can provide you both with an excellent starting place to build on and learn from.

What to Disclose

If clients decide it will be best to disclose a disability status, work with them to figure out all the possible ways disability could affect work, and then make a plan together about how job tasks can be accomplished and how to communicate this.

It can be helpful to go through the following points about what to share and have the client answer the following:

  • General information about your disability;
  • Why you are disclosing your disability;
  • How your disability affects your ability to perform key job tasks;
  • Types of accommodations that have worked for you in the past;
  • Types of accommodations you anticipate needing in the workplace.

Together you can work with your clients on a disclosure script, the more prepared the clients are to discuss disability, the more empowered they will be. A disclosure script should include the client’s needs followed by suggestions for accommodations. Only relevant disability information needs to be mentioned, and as with all clients, strengths should be the focal point.

A strong planned out disclosure will:

  • Illustrate how the applicant is suited for the position;
  • Show how at ease and comfortable the applicant is with the job requirements;
  • Demonstrate the applicant’s own self-awareness and knowledge.

All of these traits are great qualities in an employment candidate!

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