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Breaking the disability taboo: Encouraging openness from the off


Tuesday 17th July; 9.30am – 12.00pm


Hosted by Slaughter and May; Central London

How to encourage individuals to be open about their disability is one of the most commonly asked questions from employers; the other being how to attract disabled applicants. And judging from the turnout at this workshop, it is still a hot topic, with MyPlus having the biggest turnout at an event ever!

As always the workshop was led by Helen Cooke, Director of MyPlus, and was aimed at building the delegates’ knowledge about openness, often referred to as disclosure; including the benefits of being open, the concerns that individuals have and how to encourage individuals to be open from the start. The interactive style of the event encouraged interesting discussions, observations and questions.

Delegates were first asked what they perceived the benefits of being open to be, for both the employer and the individual. As Helen said, it’s far too common for employers to only think about it from their point of view however, unless employers think about what the benefits are to the individual, it is unlikely they will encourage an open and honest relationship. Benefits for the employer were numerous including being able to provide adjustments and measuring ROI, whilst the list for the individual was equally long including gaining the support they required, drawing on their disability to demonstrate required competencies and having an honest relationship from the off.

Helen then moved on to ask the delegates why they thought individuals were so reluctant to be open not least that unless employers understand this, they can’t address the concerns and encourage openness going forward. The list included concerns such as discrimination, being seen as a nuisance, being treated differently to others, not knowing how the information will be used or with whom it will be shared and asking for adjustments that cost money.

The subject was really brought to life by 4 undergraduates who talked from personal experience about their concerns and what they thought employers could do to encourage them to be open. Their concerns included being seen as in some way ‘lesser’ than those who don’t have a disability and how their disability is perceived by employers. Lois also talked about her parents advising her not to be open and finding it hard to push back against this. In terms of what employers could do to encourage openness from the off, it was simple: provide details of who to talk to on your website or your MyPlus Students’ Club profile and also provide space on the application form where you can detail support required.

During the final part of the workshops, delegates considered how they could address the concerns they had highlighted and encourage individuals to be open. There is no single thing; employers instead need to do a number of things including providing information on their website about:

·      The importance of disability to them as an organisation

·      The benefits of being open, and the consequences of not

·      How the information will be used

·      Confidentiality of information provided

Helen also emphasised the importance of providing role models / case studies to really highlight the benefits of being open and the support that can be provided as a consequence.


“The event provided me with a new perspective and approach to disability”

I liked the informative honest conversations with like minded firms and individuals
The student speakers were inspirational!
Plenty of food for thought around how to make it known we encourage applications from all candidates
It was an opportunity to openly discuss how employers can improve and a make a difference


Our thanks go to Slaughter and May for hosting this event, and for their generous hospitality.

Our next MyPlus Recruiters’ Club event on the 12th September is a Disability Café which will focus on Mental Health. For more information on this event and other forthcoming Recruiters’ Club events have a look at our events page