Life Development Institute (LDI) has spent the past 35 years working with high school and young adult students who have learning disabilities, non-verbal learning disabilities, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and other social and learning differences. While assisting students to transition to successful independent adult living, the topic of disclosure becomes a common area of concern.
As noted in the article below from LDI’s CEO Rob Crawford, dealing with disclosure can often times undercut someone’s ability to confidently express themselves and perform well in the work force. As such, Mr. Crawford seeks to wrestle with this issue while providing sound advice for real life scenarios.
Many people have a knee-jerk reaction to the term “disability” that causes them to shut down or recoil when in the presence of an actual person who discloses a non-visible condition or looks like they are disabled.
Getting the public past this reaction is a bit like teaching a cat to swim- it can be done- but is an area of life that most individuals whose personal worlds are not touched by or who have not lived with the experience of disability naturally avoid. What can we do that gets us closer to a “post-disabled” world?
Disclosure by a person who has disability (PwD) to a potential or existing employer is one of the greatest personal and professional risks that can be taken because of potentially adverse consequences, such as missing out on a job opening or earning additional merit-based responsibilities due to management doubts about the personal fitness of a PwD to perform at advanced levels. Too many choose to stay silent and become adept at doing what is necessary to blend in.
This barrier has taunted and perplexed PwD as well as otherwise-satisfied employers for decades. The lack of public disclosure and civil discourse concerning the experience of disability has maintained the unacceptable and “safe” status quo of general invisibility for PwD. However, this low profile has not really helped to advance the workplace or societal fortunes for two generations of US adults who benefitted from special education law created in 1975 with the passage of PL 94-142.
While they have learned how to deal with a life of constant adjustments or were helped by more services/supports making the educational part of life’s journey better, most working-age adults with disabilities still don’t disclose effectively or at all in the workplace.
The majority of businesses and corporations have not moved the ball forward either in substantially changing the company cultural environment enough to claim the higher ground on disability. For example, there is a lack of senior leadership who openly discloses disability, acts as mentors to up and coming staff with disability, or will/can alter the view of accommodations as more of an expense to be factored rather than an enhancement to company productivity.
Building this vision as a reality of appropriate support, recognition, and understanding is a shared responsibility to make life better in the places we live. It is past time to bring public, typical examples of successful PEOPLE with disabilities willing and proud to disclose their humanness.