Disclosure of disability status
Information on the importance of disability disclosure for both staff and students
Improving levels of staff disclosure of disability status should be seen as a priority for all institutions in the higher education sector. Disclosure:
- contributes to the development of more accurate monitoring of the recruitment and retention of disabled staff and enrolment of disabled students
- supports the collection of statistical information required both for the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA) and as part of institutions’ Disability Equality Schemes
- is an indicator of the impact of policies and practices on an institution’s disabled community
- will reap additional benefits both for staff and students and for the organisation as a whole, for example through more effective communication and better provision of adjustments.
Factors that influence disclosure
Research by ECU and disability organisations has highlighted factors that can influence an individual’s decision on disclosure, including the following.
- Identification with the term ‘disabled’, which, for a number of reasons, may not be a term adopted by all those with disabilities.
- Confusion regarding what constitutes a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act.
- Disabled individuals may feel their disability is not relevant to their job or studies, so may consider there is no reason to disclose it.
- Concerns relating to discrimination and culture in the institution.
- Lack of opportunities for individuals to disclose throughout their career or student life, not just when they join an institution.
- Poor design of equality monitoring forms used to invite disclosure of disability status – these may fail to provide a clear definition of disability, explain what support mechanisms are available, or use social model terminology.
ECU has produced the following reports and guidance:
- Disclosure and support issues for disabled staff in higher education – Survey findings 2007
- Staff disclosure project
- How do we ask about health and disability on applications?
Institutions may also wish to consult the following publications:
- Rose, C. (2005) Do you have a disability – yes or no? or is there a better way of asking? – Guidance on disability disclosure and respecting confidentiality. Learning and Skills Council, London.
- Commission for Disabled Staff in Lifelong Learning (2008) From compliance to culture change - disabled staff working in lifelong learning, Final Report.
- Skill (2005) Disclosing your disability. Skill - National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, London.