Talking about disability on application forms

Having a disability can be difficult. Having a disability while trying to apply for job roles? It can be near impossible to properly declare it when a significant number of companies don’t have a page on their website dedicated to what they are able to provide for those with disabilities. I know first-hand how degrading and insignificant this lack of information makes one feel when looking at applying for a role. It makes you feel as though not having a disability would make the application process easier.

Nevertheless, having a disability is something that is normal and should be discussed more frequently with potential employers. So, how does one go about declaring a disability on an application form when you are essentially going in blind with no knowledge of the available practices? 

First, if you do not wish to disclose a disability to an employer then it is perfectly acceptable to do so. There is no legal obligation to disclose, but it could lead to problems in the future if something happens that requires you to need an employment tribunal. For example, if you have, say, an issue with your sight and you are required to read lengthy contracts, fail to disclose your condition and are subsequently fired, not having disclosed it to the employer will be a rather large thorn in your case’s side. Employers are not allowed to discriminate your disability by law (under the Equality Act 2010), so please keep this in mind.

The main crux of declaring a disability is to first understand the job role at hand. Does it require you to be on your feet for hours at a time? Are you required to deal with situations that could increase your anxiety or other mental health issues? 

Consider what triggers working in a high pressure environment may have on your disability, and what you have done in the past to accommodate a flare up of your condition. If you have had to take time out of your day in order to cope with your symptoms or have required alternative arrangements (such as visual assistance or a service animal), write it in the section.

By getting an idea of what you have to do and how long you will have to perform the role each day (or how long and frequent the shifts you undertake will be), it really allows you to get an idea of what you will be doing and the potential problems you may face when completing tasks.

A basic example of this is below:

I have [insert disability/mental health condition] which causes me to experience [briefly discuss your symptoms] when dealing with [brief explanation of the tasks or job requirements that could be affected].”

Here, the applicant can, having gone through the stage of researching the role and their condition/s prior, provide a simple yet thorough answer for the graduate recruitment team to give them a general idea of what the disability in question is.

When it comes to things such as the Watson Glaser or other psychometric/situational judgement tests, if you have a neurological condition such as autism, the employer must make alternatives available for you, such as being able to do a short narrative rather than the multiple choice answer, as conditions such as this put those affected at a disadvantage when completing the tests. The Government Legal Service v Ms T Brookes: UKEAT/0302/16/RN [2017] was an appeal that highlighted this very issue – that employers should review their recruitment assessments, specifically what reasonable adjustments could they make and the procedure to follow if a request is made for a reasonable adjustment. However, the ruling in this case does not require employers to dilute the tests for disabled applicants. This is due to the fact that by doing so, it will cause the tests to be unable to accurately filter out those who are right for the position and also lower the recruitment standards for disabled people.

If you are unsuccessful in a role and have put down your disability where asked, don’t automatically assume that it was because of your disability declaration! There are hundreds of reasons why a person may be rejected, and it shouldn’t discourage you from continuing to apply or reapplying for roles. Continuing to apply and declaring your disability during the process ensures that employers understand the different conditions that affect a significant portion of the population (including the vast range of symptoms and intensity of said symptoms), and gives them the ability to put the requirements you require into action for others who apply after you. 

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