Disclosing a disability
It is usually not essential to disclose medical or personal information about your disability. The choice to disclose is yours.
The law relating to disability in Australia
The Federal Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) protects all people in Australia from discrimination in the workplace.
Employers must provide reasonable, work-related adjustments to enable people to perform the requirements of the job. An exception to this is when the adjustments would cause hardship to the employer, such as disproportionate cost.
Information about a disability is confidential and is protected by the DDA and state and federal information privacy acts. You must first consent to any information being shared and it must be kept confidential.
Reasons to disclose
There are various reasons why you may choose to disclose a disability. You need to consider your decision carefully.
Reasons for disclosing may include:
- the safety of you or your co-workers is affected by your disability
- you are unable to meet the basic requirements of the job
- you want adjustments to the application process or the workplace environment
- your employer has equal opportunity policies or disability statements and is keen to increase the diversity of their workforce
- you have a disability that is visible and will be obvious at interview; you may want to disclose the disability before the interview so you can explain positively in your application
- you want to explain your disability and be clear about your needs
- you may need to explain aspects of your resume, for example a gap in your educational or employment due to a rehabilitation period.
Reasons not to disclose
- Your disability has no affect on your ability to complete the application procedure or do the job.
- You feel uncomfortable discussing your disability with a stranger.
- You are concerned the employer may a have negative or pre-existing idea about disability.
How to disclose
Be clear about your desired outcome from disclosing. Negotiations work best when you have a clear goal in mind. Your disclosure should focus on both your abilities to do the work and strategies for minimising the issues relating to your disability.
When discussing the adjustments you require in the workplace, explain clearly how they can be set up. Think about suggesting vendors or service providers.
When to disclose
Consider who needs the information. At each stage of the application process, you will be dealing with different people, requiring different information, delivered in a different manner.
The written application
Application forms often ask direct questions about disability. You may feel that your disability has led to life experiences that increase your ability to do a job.
Example: I am very adept at picking up new software, as seen with my use of specialist voice-activated text input software that is useful given my carpal tunnel syndrome.
Cover letter or personal statement
You often need to provide a cover letter as a part of your application. You could mention your disability in a paragraph relating to a skills area that you have developed in relation to your disability.
Example: I am skilled in training people as evidenced by my regular training of personal assistants to help me with my personal care needs due to Multiple Sclerosis.
Some jobs have a medical questionnaire that may ask questions related to disability. If the medical form is compulsory you will have to answer honestly especially as the questions may relate to occupational health and safety issues. Your information must be treated confidentially and sensitively.
Example: To ensure my safety and the safety of others it is important that I can use my visual fire alarm device in the workplace as my hearing impairment affects my speed at responding to fire alarms.
Equal opportunity monitoring
Some employers have a separate equal opportunity monitoring form that all applicants must fill in. Forms such as these are used to ensure organisations are employing a diverse cross-section of individuals from society, as far as race, religion, gender, disability and other factors are concerned.. They are separate to your job application forms and usually remain within the Human Resources department.
Before going to interview
You may need adjustments made for the interview. Contact the appropriate person such as the human resources officer or the convener of the interview panel. Give them as much warning as possible, so they have time to implement the changes and to show how you can manage matters relating to your disability.
Example: I received notification of an interview and test on June 6 and I was just contacting you to inform you that I will require the text of the test to be in a size 18 font due to my visual impairment. Alternatively, if you do not have an electronic copy enlarging the test on a photocopier to 140% would also be fine.
At the interview
You might decide it easier and more natural to talk about your disability at the interview. If you have a visible disability, it may be useful to have something prepared to say.
Example: You have noticed that I use a walking aid; this is due to Congenital scoliosis. My requirements to support this only include a standard ergonomically correct office chair.
After the job offer or while you are at work
You might not need to disclose your disability until you actually receive a job offer, as you believe it will have limited impact on your work, but it might require some workplace adjustments. In this case, it is helpful to do this as soon as possible.
Example: I thought it might be useful for you to know that I was diagnosed as having dyslexia; this does not affect my written work, as you will have seen from my application and test. However, I require a laptop for all written notes.
Funding for assistive technology or non-medical helper
Government employment assistance funding may cover the cost of work-related modifications, adaptive equipment and communication devices. The funding may also cover the costs of services such as Auslan interpreting and training in disability awareness, deafness awareness and mental health first aid.
Find out more below.
- Job Access - Employment Assistance Fund
- National Disability Coordination Officer program
- Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training.
You can talk to someone about making this decision by contacting Disability Support Services.