Disability Confidence: The Disclosure Dilemma

Disabled Graduates Are In Demand

Do you worry that your disability or long term health condition will affect your employment prospects? It may surprise you to know that increasing numbers of employers are actively seeking disabled and diverse candidates.

So, let’s talk about positive disclosure – what it is and how to handle it in job applications and interviews.

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Many recruiting organisations now recognise that candidates who manage a disability or long term health condition bring a unique set of skills to the workplace.

Yet this seems to be a well-kept secret. I often see students who feel unsure about disability disclosure and how to do so with confidence.

What is Disclosure?

“The act of making new or secret information known” – The Oxford English Dictionary

First thing’s first, I really dislike this definition being applied to disability disclosure.

Talking about a disability or additional need should never feel like you are whispering an embarrassing secret into an employer’s ear. The Cambridge English Dictionary better describes disclosure as “the act of making something known”.

This is really what confident disability disclosure is all about: calmly stating a fact about yourself.

Why Disclose?

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It is completely understandable to feel awkward about discussing a disability or additional need.  After all, this is personal information and you are sharing it with a total stranger via an online application form!

So why share such personal details with a potential employer? Well, there are lots of great reasons to do so.  Here’s just a few:

1) Disability as a Unique Selling Point

Consider the different skills and characteristics that your disability – and how you manage this every day – has enabled you to develop.

For example, I’m hearing impaired. Ironically my condition has led me to develop excellent listening skills, and a keen sensitivity to group dynamics and non-verbal communication. These are very handy assets in a people-facing role.

Being deaf is not a weakness it is a unique strength I bring to my job.

2) Make Sure you are Competing on a Level Playing Field

Being open about disability at application stage ensures employers assess you fairly alongside non-disabled candidates.

For example, being partially deaf means that telephone or group interviews might be trickier for me. The employer could not fairly compare my performance in this task against a hearing candidate.

Under the Equality Act 2010 candidates may request for ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be made to the selection process, so that tasks or activities are accessible to you and your condition. Don’t be shy about asking them to assess you in alternative ways; this is your legal right.

Taking the initiative to request amendments also shows that you are a mature and self-aware candidate, and demonstrates your keen enthusiasm to do well in the tasks.

3) Inclusive Schemes Offer Unique Opportunities

Disabled job seekers can actually find it easier to ‘get your foot in the door’ with top employers.

Organisations like Barclays, EY, KPMG and the Civil Service offer internships, placements and graduate roles that only disabled candidates can apply for. So if you don’t disclose you can’t compete for some pretty amazing opportunities that your non-disabled course-mates might be jealous of!

If you’d particularly like to target inclusive employers, you might like to explore the Disability Confident scheme. This is a list of organisations that are explicitly committed to recruiting inclusively and attracting diverse employees.

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4) Tick All The Right Boxes

In addition to being Disability Confident, many organisations offer Two Ticks Guaranteed Interview Schemes.

This means disabled candidates who meet the minimum criteria are guaranteed an interview. I used to worry that this was a ‘pity interview’, but it really isn’t – you are qualified for the job, and they’re not promising to interview you because they feel sorry for you, but because they can see you have the potential to be the right candidate for that job!

There have been many times when I’ve felt sure that if I could just sit down with the employer to talk through my CV, they’d want to offer me the job. Under Two Ticks you can be confident that you’ll get the chance to impress.


5) Delays Waste Days

Up until now you have hopefully had relatively smooth access to the equipment and support you need to do well in your studies.

Once you step out in to the world of work you can still apply for funded support and specialist equipment through a scheme called Access to Work. Ideally you want that equipment waiting for you when you arrive on Day 1. The earlier you disclose a condition, the quicker your paperwork will be processed.

Late disclosure can lead to delays that are frustrating (and stressful) for both you and your employer if they make it difficult for you to do well at work.

Decision Time

For years, every time I applied for a job I’d ask myself whether I wanted to disclose. Like most people, I want to win a job because I am the right candidate. And a small part of me wondered whether disclosing my condition would mean that I would get a ‘pity interview’ and / or my colleagues would treat me differently.

Deciding to disclose is an immensely personal choice. Disability Rights UK issued a particularly informative factsheet that you might find useful when making your own decision.  The BBC has also published a thought provoking blog  on the subject.

Ultimately whether you disclose or not, may come down to how much you want that job. When I saw my dream job advertised, I didn’t hesitate to disclose. I was guaranteed an interview with the people who could make my dream come true.

If you would like to talk this dilemma through in confidence please contact me via the form below.  I look forward to meeting with you.


This is the first in a series of posts that we have planned on Disability Confidence so follow our blog to make sure you see the rest and look out for our ‘Being Disability Confident’ workshop on CareerHub too.


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