So you have a disability or have a long-term health condition and are looking to pick up your career. Perhaps starting out at work or would just like a job. Though do you feel confident employers will see past your condition. You have the knowledge, skills, experience and abilities in your CV for the role. Clearly, you are motivated, driven and are ready to go. Your profile has everything an employer is looking for. Question is are you ready to disclose your disability or health condition? To disclose or not this is the question.
My experience working with disabled people and individuals with long-term health conditions suggest the decision to disclose can be hard. These and many other questions stop or hinder applying for work and getting back to a career.
Open about disability & mental health
Research from greatwithdisability suggests that 76% of students are reluctant to be open about their disability or long-term health condition. However, the research did find that 57% of respondents recognised the benefits of being open and honest about their disability/long-term health condition. Right from the start of the process of the recruitment process. Needless to say, these decisions for anyone with a disability or an enduring health condition, are intensely personal and sometimes difficult to overcome.
The definition of a disability, according to the Equality Act 2010 here in the UK, is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on someone’s ability to do normal daily activities. The range of disabilities and long-term health conditions identified is fascinating for a non-disabled person. ADHD, Autism, Acquired Brain Injury and Bipolar. Through to Visual Impairments. These and many more are amongst the conditions that people navigate and manage in their daily lives at work.
So what is the best way to approach applying for work or progressing your career with a disability or enduring health condition?
Disclose or Not?
Employment & disability employment advisers will give conflicting advice on disclosing in your CV/covering letter or application form. Some say yes some say no. Perhaps the easiest choice for some is no. However, you may be missing a vital opportunity to highlight how you overcome daily challenges and still push on to achieve your ambitions and goals. The choice is made easier if the organisation you are applying to are registered with the Guaranteed Interview Scheme. You just tick the box and if you meet the minimum requirements, the mechanisms will be in place for you to gain an interview. So the choice is not easy but well worth considering.
Being open at the outset will no doubt help the employer make those “reasonable and practicable adjustments” for you both at the interview and to their workplace should you gain the role. Helping the employer help you through being open & honest about your condition or disability highlights a level of self-awareness which shouldn’t be ignored.
So you have got yourself in front of the interviewer or interview panel now what. If you have disclosed your disability then they will be prepared to give you the best opportunity to shine. Well, that’s the theory at least. Many employers may need support with disability awareness to stay on the right side of equality and diversity legislation. Having supported employers with many disabled and people with health conditions it is as tricky for them. The employer has little or no experience of disability or mental health issues. As a result, it is for the disabled person to navigate the interview properly.
So if the groundwork between interviewer and interviewee has been done, everyone can get past the condition so that it enables the interview to go without surprises. Thus giving the candidate the opportunity to tell the organisation why they would be foolish not employ you!
However difficult it may be, being open about disclosure and honest right throughout the application process and onward with your career can be the right way to go. Disability & long-term health conditions are wide and varied so will affect people in many different ways. So with more people with these conditions at work, it can only be of benefit to all concerned. Thus paving the way for others following on. No doubt work is a healthy place to be. Fulfilling work can aid recovery and rehabilitation. It can provide focus and a sense of satisfaction to all. Let alone those with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
Being at work in a variety of businesses and organisations is an opportunity to remove prejudice and raise the awareness of being enabled by being disabled. So I guess the message is if work or picking up a career is an option for you then be brave and courageous. Show how talented you are regardless of how others may see you. You have a lot to offer and perhaps owe it to yourself. Therefore it may just be the spectre of disclosure or not is the only thing that is holding you back in the end.