By Nadine Vogel
President, Springboard Consulting LLC

What’s the number one “D” word being discussed among D&I professionals? If you’re thinking disability, you’re close, but actually, it’s disclosure—and it’s a discussion taking place around the world.

No matter the country, whether there’s disability legislation but no formal disability hiring quotas such as in the U.S. or the U.K., or in France, China, or Spain where there are hiring quotas, it is clear that employers are struggling with how to make employees feel comfortable in disclosing their disability. Specifically, employers are trying to understand if it’s their corporate culture, fear, or some other issue preventing such disclosure.

Most D&I and even HR professionals will tell you that often the lack of disclosure is due to fear, whether real or perceived. Some of the most common fears we hear are:

  • How the individual’s manager will respond.
  • The manager will share the information with the team and how the team will respond in return.
  • The fear that once they disclose, whenever they are out of the office, it will be assumed it is due to their disability. After all, disability is often equated, incorrectly, with illness.
  • Fear that any requirement relative to an accommodation will be viewed incorrectly as a performance management issue
  • The company culture is not in support of people with disabilities.

Interestingly enough, although fear may certainly be a component of one’s decision to disclose or not, we must keep in mind that job seekers and employees with disabilities are regularly faced with the decision of whether to disclose their disability and if they do, there is great uncertainty of when, how, to whom and for what purpose.

Remember, whether someone is born with a disability or acquires one due to an accident, sickness or aging, they’re not handed a handbook that tells them how to someday disclose to an employer.

At the end of the day it’s about employers providing guidance to assist these individuals in making such decisions with thought, care, and knowledge while helping recruiters, managers, and HR professionals respond in the same manner. In fact, it has become a corporate best practice to provide an electronic tool that does just that.

Whether you choose to utilize an existing tool or create your own, the critical items to address are:

  1. A decision tree that helps determine the need, decide when, and how.
  2. Consider consequences that include why I’m telling, whom I’m telling, what I’m telling and how much, and probably most importantly, why.
  3. Process decisions that include preparing for the meeting, other things to consider, and what exactly to include in the delivery.
  4. Beyond disclosure to the interactive process and workplace supports/productivity tools, i.e. reasonable accommodations, from the individual’s perspective.

In using such a tool you’ll need to decide if it will be housed on your company’s intranet site or on an external site that your employees have anonymous access to.

Keep in mind that disability disclosure is a personal decision and one that should not be taken lightly by anyone. Because it’s such an important decision and one that impacts both the individual and the employer, it is to everyone’s benefit to be armed with quality information and guidance, i.e., tools, to ensure the process and end result is straightforward, simple and successful.

Nadine Vogel

Nadine Vogel

Nadine Vogel is the CEO of Springboard Consulting LLC. Founded in 2005, Springboard is recognized as the expert in mainstreaming disability in the global workforce, workplace, and marketplace. Serving corporations and organizations throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia, Springboard has become a trusted partner in relation to disability issues and initiatives across virtually every business category. For more information, please contact Nadine Vogel at Springboard Consulting. Nadine is also the author of Dive In: Springboard into the Profitability, Productivity, and Potential of the Special Needs Workforce.