Knowing when, or if, to share information about your disability with potential or current employers is a tricky topic.
You don't have to share information about your disability to potential or current employers, unless it is likely to affect your performance or ability to meet the requirements of the job
It can be helpful to be open about your disability if you need practical adjustments made to your workplace to help you perform your job
Employers in Australia have an obligation to provide adjustments if someone with disability requests them
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), written by the Australian Human Rights Commission, provides legal protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. The DDA prohibits discrimination against people with disability throughout all stages of the employment process, from advertising and recruitment to training as well as terminations.
As stated in the DDA, there is no legal obligation for a person with a disability to disclose information about their disability unless it is likely to have an effect on:
their ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job
their ability to work safely
the safety of co-workers.
Sharing information at different stages of recruitment
In your letter of application or resumé
While it is generally not necessary to share disability information at this point, you may choose to if:
It is relevant to the industry or position
You need adjustments to be made in the selection process
You know the organisation is demonstrably supportive and encouraging of employing people with disability
If you do choose to share information at this point, Australian Network on Disability Program Manager Isabel Heiner recommends also including details about past achievements or personal attributes.
“There’s nothing wrong with sharing disability information in your application if you want to be as upfront as possible,” Ms Heiner says.
“You can actually use the skills you’ve developed from your disability in your application. For example, problem solving, resilience, being adaptable, or being empathetic, which are all qualities employers are looking for.”
If you are seeking adjustments at part of the selection process, Australian Network on Disability recommends you:
Be as specific and constructive as possible about suggested adjustments
Offer your assistance in coordinating these adjustments
Identify, in general terms, the types of workplace adjustmentsyou would seek if you got the job
On being offered an interview
If you have a physical disability, need adjustments to be made to the interview process or don't want to worry about bringing it up during an interview, you may decide to share information about your disability at this stage.
If you decide to share information at this point:
Plan ahead what to say
Promote your disability as a positive quality
Be as specific and constructive as possible about suggested adjustments for the interview
Offer to help coordinate these adjustments
Identify the general types of workplace adjustments you would seek if you got the job
Ms Heiner says employers in Australia have an obligation to provide adjustments if someone with disability requests them.
“While you don’t need to share specifics about your disability or personal information, it can be helpful to be open about what kind of practical adjustments you need for you to put your best foot forward,” she says.
“Or, for example if you have low vision or severe anxiety and are asked to complete a timed psychometric test, it would be valuable to say you need an adjustment at this stage of the recruitment process.”
Asking for more information about who’s going to be in the room during the interview and what sort of questions you should prepare for can help alleviate a lot of stress and help you feel more prepared.
During an interview
You may decide to share information about your disability at this stage because you’d like to:
Address any misconceptions about your apparent disability and ability to the job
Highlight the knowledge, strengths, skills, and personal attributes you have gained from living with disability
Identify any workplace adjustments you would request if you got the job
Get an idea of the employer’s attitude towards your disability
“During the interview you may want to ask questions to gauge whether it’s the right organisation for you, such as asking about the company’s adjustment policy or if they have a disability employee reference group,” says Ms Heiner.
If you are feeling anxious or worried about sharing information about your disability or adjustments you need, Ms Heiner recommends sticking with practical and work-related information.
For example, “I need to work part time in order to be as productive as possible”, or “I need to wear headphones in the office so I can work at my highest capacity”.
There are many ways to prepare for a job interview; we’ve listed some here along with questions to ask during an interview.
In the job
If you are successful in being offered the role, but believe a workplace adjustment would benefit you in the job, you could make these requests after the job offer or during your early onboarding processes within the organisation.
Ms Heiner says it’s important to gauge how confident the organisation is with managing disability, and consider this when deciding if and when it is best to share disability-related information.
“It’s important to understand that all organisations, and the individuals within those organisations, are at different stages of their journey to disability confidence and awareness,” Ms Heiner says.
You could decide to share disability-related information at this stage because:
You’d like to seek workplace adjustments such as flexible working arrangements
You may discover that you need adjustments that you were not aware of before starting the job
After getting to know the workplace you are more confident that you can safely share your information about your disability
You may be struggling to perform the job and need some assistance
Do what’s best for you
“Most employers want people to be open about their disability and adjustments they need,” Ms Heiner says.
“Explaining what you need, whether that be adjustments for an interview or in the workplace, in a professional, clear and concise way will actually help a lot of hiring managers better understand accessibility in the workplace.”
“At the end of the day, managers just want a productive employee.”
Ms Heiner says it’s important to remember that you are the expert in what works for you.
“If you ask for an adjustment or share some disability information and it doesn’t go down well or you don’t receive the support you need, that’s probably not the kind of organisation you want to work for,” she says.
“Most people don’t want to work for an organisation that won’t allow them to be their full self.”
At what point do you feel comfortable sharing information about your disability during the recruitment process? Tell us in the comments below.