Encouraging and Fostering a Safe Environment for Disclosure
In 2019/2020, the 4 largest cohorts of people with disabilities who registered with the disability office were people with specific learning difficulties - like dyslexia, mental health difficulties, significant ongoing illnesses and Asperger’s/autism. With all of these disabilities, you wouldn’t know just by looking at someone that they had a disability – disabilities like this are called invisible disabilities. When someone has an invisible disability, they might choose to disclose their disability.
What is Disclosure?
Put simply, disclosure is someone telling you about their disability. However, it’s not as simple as someone just telling you their diagnosis. When someone discloses you should leave the conversation with:
- Better Understanding: You should gain more knowledge about how the person carries out activities or tasks.
- Ideas for Accommodations: You should learn about what supports or accommodations work best for this person and have an idea how to implement these.
- Positive Attitude: Learning more about how to support a person with a disability and understanding them a bit more will help you build a positive outlook about disability and diversity.
How to Encourage Disclosure?
Disclosing a disability can be a daunting task for people with disabilities, there is always a fear that you will be met with barriers and stigma rather than an open, safe and supportive environment. There are things you can do to make the decision to disclose easier for someone.
Increase Disability Visibility
- Make sunflower lanyards, JAM (Just A Minute) cards and/or "I have an invisible disability" badge available in your organisation.
- Represent disabled people in your media, especially around recruitment, with their permission.
- When talking about equality, diversity and inclusion in your organisation, mention disabled people as a marginalised group.
- Create and promote a disability working group.
Embed Accessible Practices into your Systems
- Have an accessibility contact in your organisation - frequently share their name and contact details, especially when promoting events.
- Regularly ask if people have accessibility requirements for attending your events or participating in your organisation. If you have a registration form for an event, include a question about reasonable accommodations there.
- Ensure your communication channels are accessible, if you are trying to reach new audience and the first post, they see from your organisation has no alt. text and hashtags in #likethis, rather than in #CamelCase, this will give an immediate impression that you are not cognisant of the members of your audience with disabilities.
Train Yourself and Your Team.
- AHEAD offer training to Student Unions across the country. We also have many resources on how to make your communications, events, and organisation more accessible.
- When you receive feedback from a member with a disability on your accessibility measures, please take their feedback on board for the future.