A Student's Guide to Disclosure
For students and graduates thinking about how/ if to disclose. It is a personal choice and should be considered carefully. Here’s one way to help you work through that decision. Whatever your current situation, whoever your audience - apply these questions one at a time.
We recognise the term disclosure can mean different things to different people and its meaning changes by the context. Disclosure is often defined as ‘the act of making something known’ that may have been previously private or a secret. From our engagement with students and graduates with disabilities, they feel the word ‘disclosure’ can be perceived as negative, which may not align with how they feel about sharing their disability or identity with an employer.
Using the word disclosure has particular connotations in the legal framework, when we use the word disclosure in the context of a work or educational environment, we define it as: ‘informing or telling someone about your disability’
Good Reasons to Consider Disclosing:
- You need to provide medical information so that you get appropriate care in the case of a medical emergency.
- You have Accessibility Requirements.
- You would benefit from Reasonable Accommodations being made for you and your disability.
- You feel comfortable, confident, and happy for others to know.
Less Favourable Considerations:
- You feel deceitful or guilty.
- You're being pressured to disclose by others.
- You think you're "lying by omission"
If there is no reason currently for you to disclose, do consider reviewing your decision later. Reasons can become apparent as you become familiar with your environment, or if your environment or disability changes.
If your considerations around disclosure centre around other people and there is no clear benefit or desired outcome from disclosing, it may not be the right time for you to disclose.
We suggest that you disclose at the point when your disability becomes relevant.
This may be:
- When requesting a form in a different format for accessibility reasons.
- In advance of an assessment or exam in which you need assistive technology to perform at your best.
- Before an interview to ask for an accessible room or some questions in advance.
- At an interview or presentation, if you are experiencing acute symptoms of anxiety.
- Upon getting a job/course offer and know you need an ergonomic chair or any other support to be in place before you begin.
- When during your lectures or on the job you come to a task you struggle with and need an accommodation in place to successfully complete it.
You can tell anyone about your disabilities, but people who you may get most benefit from disclosing include:
- Your College's Disability or Access Office.
- Your lecturers and tutors.
- The accessibility/attendee contact for an event you are attending.
- Once in a job: your line manager, the health and safety department, colleagues you work closely with and human resources staff.
If you decide to disclose it should come from a place of wanting to, rather than feeling obligated to.
If/Once you decide to tell someone about your disability for the first time
- Choose a time when you are both free to chat.
- Choose a method of communication that you feel comfortable with (face-to-face conversation (followed by an email), email, instant messaging chat, phone call, video call).
- Prepare notes or a loose script if it will keep you on track
- It is always your choice – there are consequences involved in both disclosure and masking.
- Be specific about your specific experiences, needs and wants
- Unsure of what to do? Discuss you options
- Prepare and practice what you wish to get across.
- Be aware of supports
- Never forget your strengths, skills and worth.