Disclosure can be a stressful part of being Deaf or Hard of Hearing. The responsibilities that come with the new and different experience as an adult in college or university education can also be stressful, so it’s important to understand the way that the body responds to stress in order to manage it. Module 8 will focus on Managing Your Well Being, including dealing with stress.
As an independent learner, it is important that you are able to express your needs in a positive way. By gaining a greater understanding of your own needs and practicing ways to communicate that, you will build your confidence and recognize more of your own abilities. Disclosure is one part of a complete set of tools you need in the educational environment. By learning to set realistic goals, develop study strategies, time management skills, and confidently self-advocating will ensure that you have the best chance to make the most of your educational experience. The power is in your hands. People believe in you and now is the time to believe in yourself
Below you will find various assessments, activities and tools to help you build your confidence with disclosing your academic and communication needs.
Think of a specific situation or context (e.g. school, practical placement, future workplace) where you would need to decide whether or not to disclose a disability. There are no right and wrong answers as this activity is meant to help you practice part of the decision-making process. You can refer to the document below to help guide you through the process. Please write your reflection on your notes.
Here are some of the ideas we came up with. This list is not exhaustive but may provide some additional points to consider.
- Has the potential to promote openness and trust
- Facilitates accommodation
- Educates the instructor about accommodation and disability
- Sets out an expectation of fair treatment
- Acting in good faith
- Eligibility for opportunities (e.g. scholarships)
- When asking for accommodation when trouble or need arises, you leave yourself vulnerable (risking not getting the accommodation, either due to lack of needed time to apply accommodations, or questioning your needs)
- Risk of discrimination
- Might not be necessary (work might not require accommodations)
- Risk of stigma
- Loss of privacy
- Loss of control of personal information
- Lack of personal knowledge or understanding of own disability and/or needs
- Safer to request accommodation later, when needs become apparent and employment is secure
- Release personal information only when/if needed
- Take a chance and try tasks without accommodation
Table 2: Disclosure Matrix Answers
Reference: This disclosure decision matrix was adapted from Dr. Terry Krupa, OT, Queen’s University School of Rehabilitation Medicine, for use in helping clients decide how they felt about disclosing a disability or accommodation needs. It has been adapted and modified in use by Barbara Roberts, M.Sc. (OT), Ph.D. (Candidate), and is a useful tool for exploring how a student feels about disclosing to an employer, or anyone else, for that matter.
A few additional considerations include the following benefits:
Instructors may be able to help see potential problems with material or workload and be able to either adjust some of their instruction or provide additional support to help you succeed.
Instructors may also not be aware of accessibility needs and accommodations and this will help them to better understand your situation and be in a better position to support your learning.
In addition to the question of whether or not to disclose, there are other important questions an individual may also need to consider. Some of these may include:
- When (and how) should I disclose?
- What (and how much) should I disclose?
- To whom should I disclose? (Irvine, 2011)
- What are my rights and responsibilities regarding disclosure?
Tips for Disclosing:
You are not required to disclose your diagnosis to anyone except to your advisor at Accessibility Services. It is your choice though, if you feel comfortable doing so.
- It’s okay to say “it’s a personal matter and I don’t feel comfortable disclosing my disability” to a professor, preceptor or classmate, and to refer your professor to your Accessibility Advisor.
- Try using simple (non-medical) language.
- Be sure to consider the timing of when you disclose.
- E.g. If your disability is visible, it may be helpful to mention it in a cover letter or during a first interview; however, you may not feel the need to disclose non-visible disabilities until or unless there is a need for accommodations.
- Be cautious about oversharing. It is also important to consider the implications of undersharing. If you are Hard of Hearing for example, people may misunderstand you and assume you are rudely ignoring them if they are not aware of your hearing loss.
- Focus on your strengths and how these may have been developed as a result of your disability.
- E.g. “Because I’ve struggled with chronic pain for so many years, I’ve had to become very good with creatively managing my pain symptoms. I also know that my experiences with pain will help me to be empathetic and better at relating to my clients and the struggles they are going through.”
- Some strength-based descriptors (recall your strengths assessment from Module 1) you may include when disclosing are:
- Original thinker
- Team player
- Systematic thinker
- Big Picture thinker
- Detail-oriented thinker
- Problem solver (Cardiff University, 2009)
- Give some specific examples of accommodations approved by Accessibility Services that were helpful for you in the past when disclosing. (See Module 3: Managing Accommodations)
- E.g. “One thing that was approved by Accessibility Services and has been really effective for managing my anxiety is having a quiet workspace.”
- Be aware of your body language.
- Use a metaphor or analogy to help make your experience resonate with the person to whom you’re disclosing.
- Be aware of attitudinal barriers.
- Practice disclosing with your teacher, counsellor, family and peers.
- For additional tips on effective verbal communication, please see the link.
Take away Message:
The goal is to be confident in presenting yourself as competent and professional, highlighting your strengths and problem-solving abilities. Think about the message that you want to convey to your instructor, practicum, advisor, or even your future employer and practice reciting it. Be honest about the accommodations that you need, as people want to support you!