I am a former LSE student who was diagnosed with a disability (ADHD) at the age of 14. It took me a long time to accept the fact that I had different needs than my peers and to overcome the stigma of having a disability. By the time I was in university, I embraced my disability as a benefit rather than a burden, and utilised the accommodations provided to meet my needs as a student. This enabled me to fulfill my potential and achieve great academic accomplishments, such getting accepted into LSE and graduating with merit from my MSc programme there. Overcoming the stigma of having a disability, embracing it as a gift rather than a curse, and taking advantage of the adjustments available to meet your needs can be applied when searching for prospective careers and applying to jobs.
Benefits of disclosing your disability
When I went to LSE Careers to ask about whether I should disclose my disability in job applications I was informed that it was completely up to me (the applicant) whether or not I want to disclose this information. It became apparent that it will most likely be in your benefit to disclose your disability. I can think of three reasons (although there are plenty more) why it is in your benefit to disclose your disability, namely, accommodation in assessments, diversity in the workplace, and acceptance of the self.
Accommodation is an obvious benefit when applying for jobs, because someone with a disability is just as capable as someone without one but may need extra time or other reasonable adjustments to be able to reveal their full potential. It is not unfair or special treatment given to applicants with disabilities, but essentially a mechanism put in place to enable the applicant to show their best possible work. The applicant still needs to prove that they are competent and a right match for the role they are applying for, but receiving accommodation such as extra time or use of a computer during written exercises may help relieve stress and enable them to prove their capability. Also disclosing your disabilities is not only useful for when applying for jobs, but when you are working you can receive workplace adjustments to best meet your needs for achieving optimal performance at work. If you do not disclose your disability then the opportunity for adjustments to meet your needs will be unavailable.
Disclosing your disability can help bring diversity which is beneficial to you and the workplace. Having a diverse workforce of employees is something that is highly valued at the workplace, whether it be the workplace of private-sector, public-sector, or third-sector (non-profits organisations and charities) organisation. People with disabilities represent a demographic of a wider population and a workplace should be inclusive of everyone within the society it is meant to serve. Working somewhere which embraces diversity and inclusion helps curtail the stigma surrounding disabilities within the workplace and champions the importance of a workforce representative of the society it serves.
Social acceptance of disabilities is becoming more apparent with employers’ transparency in providing workplace adjustments and through the implementation of laws like the Equality Act 2010. That being said, acceptance begins with the individual and it is important for people with disabilities to be accepting of the fact they have been diagnosed with one. Accepting and embracing the fact that you have a disability does not mean to be self-loathing and consider yourself inferior to others, but to take advantage of the opportunities provided to fulfill your potential through adjustments that meet your specific needs and recognise that everyone is different in their own way but you are just as capable (if not more capable) as anyone else.
Remember that YOU have ownership of your disability
Being diagnosed with a disability can be a difficult thing to accept and embrace, but it should be considered in your benefit as opposed to a burden. Remember that you have ownership of your disability, and it is completely up to you whether or not you would like to disclose it to your employer. That being said, if you are fearful of being stigmatised by your employer for disclosing a disability then you should be asking yourself whether this is the place you want to work. When applying for jobs you should assess them as much as they are assessing you; you want to make sure that they are a right fit for you as much as they want to make sure that you are a right fit for them. Whether or not you disclose your disability is completely up to you, but there are significant benefits to doing so as it will: provide accommodation to meet your specific needs to do the best possible job, contribute to creating a more inclusive and diverse working environment, and helps influence not only social acceptance of disabilities within the workplace, but the individual acceptance of disabilities in general.