Sharing Disability Stories: Making an Inclusive Impact

image that says Disability Inclusion and Self ID: Building a More Inclusive Culture Stories with Impact

“I read the job notice and saw that disclosing my disability would not be seen by the hiring manager and would not affect the application process. Still, I checked the “choose not to disclose” box.”

This is a dilemma that faces job seekers with disabilities when they are considering applying for your jobs. Trust us: If this can be daunting for us, as people with a disability who also happen to be disability activists, it is certainly a daunting dilemma for everyone else.

Self-identification, or Self-ID, as a person with a disability is often not explained very well in the context of a work environment. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Self-ID is not disclosure and it is not required. In fact, Self-ID campaigns, are anonymous or confidential identification of people with disabilities within the workplace and are some of the most effective ways of increasing disability inclusivity.

Self-ID encourages a culture that includes people with disabilities and makes space for their voices, but does not require that they disclose their disability if they do not need accommodations at work. Self-ID is the start of a conversation within your workplace. If a culture of shame around disability exists, that conversation will never start.

Self-disclosure on the other hand is a voluntary communication about a disability to another person and may be seen as necessary for individuals if an accommodation is needed.

When employees with disabilities are comfortable sharing information about their disability, that can help create a more inclusive culture.

“I was approaching my first job application to Mayo Clinic, not knowing how the stigma of disability could affect my hiring process,” says Jennifer Koehler. “I was so excited when Mayo Clinic released a video that showed a swath of people identifying with a range of disabilities and chronic illnesses as well as sharing their humanity. Now as an employee of Mayo Clinic, I actively share my story with coworkers to encourage a culture where all people with disabilities can feel free to bring their humanity, including their disability, to the table.”

From the employer perspective, knowing how many people with disabilities you have within your workforce is key. The time is now to start sharing stories from your current employees who have disabilities, with their consent. This will allow you to have more people with disabilities apply to your company because witnessing representation of disability throughout your organization will foster a sense of belonging.

For more information on building a more inclusive culture at your organization, view our short video module on this topic.

And, for more help hiring people with disabilities, please contact one of our Vocational Rehabilitation Services Employment Specialists. We’re ready to connect you with great candidates!

Each week during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are featuring one module on a workplace disability inclusion topic. For a bite-size learning opportunity about disability and the ADA, and what it means for your business, please take about 20 minutes with our video for module three. It will be worth your time. And make sure to check out all the modules in the Disability Inclusion Bite-Sized Learning series.

For more information on hiring people with disabilities, please contact one of our Vocational Rehabilitation Services Employment Specialists. We’re ready to help connect you with great candidates! 

Return to the National Disability Employment Awareness Month blog page.

Jennifer Koehler is a Research Technologist at the Mayo Clinic

Dawn Kirchner is a Diversity Recruitment Specialist at the Mayo Clinic