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Supporting disabled students

Being open about a disability

Telling employers about your disability should be seen positively because the help, support and adjustments that can be put in place can ensure that you have the best chance of getting the job and thriving once you start. City Disabilities has produced a helpful brochure to help you perform well at job interviews while discussing your disability.

Many people worry that the information about their disability will not be kept confidential or that they will be treated less favourably. The law including the Data Protection and Equality Acts is on your side.

You are under no obligation to be open about your disability and, if you choose to discuss it, you should only cover those aspects that might affect your performance in the application stage or during the job. If an employer asks you to complete a medical you must complete this truthfully and accurately but the employer must keep these details confidential.

Knowing when to tell the employer about your disability can be confusing; do you bring it up when you first apply or wait until you have been offered the job? There is no single answer to this question and it depends on the employer and the nature of your disability. As a rule it is probably best to mention your disability at the application stage if the form asks or enables you to do so. Many graduate recruiters use different methods to sift applications prior to interview or assessment centre and having this information helps to ensure that they deal with your application fairly. An example of this is the online ability tests that many graduate recruiters use; candidates who have a specific disability might be given extra time to complete the tests and some may not have to take them at all.

If there is nowhere to indicate that you have a disability at the application stage, you should decide whether you feel that the method for initial application has been made more difficult because of your disability. If it is, we recommend that you bring this to the recruiter's attention in the application form or in your covering letter if applying using a CV. The most common time to tell an employer about a disability is when you are invited for interview: you can then discuss reasonable adjustments you need to be able to attend the interview and have the same chance of succeeding as the other candidates.

The term reasonable adjustments can seem a little ambiguous but it means that an employer must do everything possible to ensure that you have the same chance as the other candidates without prejudicing their chances. The term reasonable is used because it might vary depending on the employer and the situation. For example some buildings cannot be made as wheelchair accessible as others due to legal planning constraints. Adjustments that you can expect at an interview or assessment centre could include lip-reading considerations, providing materials in alternative format, more time to complete an assessment or answer interview questions, or take into account difficulty with travel arrangements or access. Remember employers cannot directly prejudice the other candidates so doing things like sending the questions in advance are unlikely but the employer must justify what they can and cannot offer. If you feel they have not made reasonable adjustments and this affected your success in the application stage, you can take legal advice and take them to an Employment Tribunal if you feel they have acted improperly.

Once you start the job there are more adjustments that can and should be made and more information on this can be found on our responding to job offers webpage.