Employers that focus on fostering inclusive environments are more likely to attract job candidates with disabilities. In this final installment of our series on “Understanding the Candidate Experience for Job Seekers with Disabilities,” we’re exploring self-ID/self-disclosure, and ways to build an inclusive work environment that encourages both.
What’s the difference between Self-ID and Self-disclosure?
Self-Identification or “self-ID” is the act of checking a box on a disability disclosure form. It is required by federal contractors through the voluntary self-identification form for Section 503 requirements.
Self-disclosure is the act of personally communicating a disability to another person. It is a personal decision and can occur at any time and be shared with anyone. An individual is only required to disclose when requesting an accommodation.
Unlike a self-ID campaign that uses a form to ask employees if they have a disability, self-disclosure can occur in various ways, including:
In a conversation between two colleagues
More formally between an employee and their manager
With human resources or the benefits or accommodations team
In an employee resource group (ERG) or business resource group (BRG) for employees with disabilities
Why don’t individuals self-ID?
People choose not to self-ID for various reasons, including the following:
Concern for confidentiality
Fear that they will be looked at or treated differently
Lack of understanding around the definition of disability or lack of realization that they have one
Unclear about the individual benefits of self-ID
Unaware of the Section 503 requirement
Why don’t individuals self-disclose?
Many people with disabilities report having felt discriminated against during the employment process because of a disability. These experiences often discourage them from self-disclosing at work. Here are other reasons why people don’t self-disclose:
Fear of being treated differently, or being known for their disability
No need for accommodations or unaware of company’s accommodation process
Don’t understand the definition of disability and/or that they have one
Company’s workplace environment and workforce don’t feel inclusive or encourage self-disclosure
How can you increase self-ID/disclosure?
To increase self-ID/disclosure, employers should focus on creating a culture and environment of inclusion. Here are some tips to help:
Provide regular communication (quarterly at least) to all employees about the importance of inclusion and diversity to the company. Ideally, the message should come from executive leadership.
Offer resources like disability etiquette and awareness trainings to all employees.
Communicate the company’s accommodation statement, process, and benefits (including flexible work schedules, options for paid time off, etc.), as this may help an employee feel more comfortable.
Recognize and celebrate disability awareness months and days both internally and externally on social media channels. Examples include National Disability Awareness Month (NDEAM), which occurs every October.
Talk about it. It can all start with you. Bring up any of these best practices to your team or manager, or share your personal story if you identify as having a disability, are a caregiver, or are passionate about inclusion, and feel comfortable disclosing the information.
Additionally, your organization can create a self-ID campaign to encourage current employees to identify has having a disability. In this case, employers should:
Provide an explanation to employees about why the company is interested in gaining this information and how it will be used.
Offer a choice to either remain anonymous or disclose a name on the self-ID surveys.
Keep self-ID surveys separate from other employee engagement surveys, especially from benefits communication.
Include the definition of disability and examples, especially non-apparent disabilities