Along with the many supports offered by the Disability Service in Trinity, we frequently hold events and workshops to give more hands-on strategies and advice to service users. Our Disclosure and Reasonable Accommodation Workshop helped students reaching the end of their time with us.
This workshop was overseen by Kieran Lewis, one of many Occupational Therapists who provide regular service to students on campus. Largely paired with the careers service, this workshop format has existed for the past four years and is designed to inform students about transitioning out of college and into employment. Scheduled straight after exams, the event is held annually for any student thinking about career opportunities. Such a large-scale change is often disorientating for students on the spectrum and the Disability Service is committed to help students chart their path through this difficult process. This workshop specifically focused on the disclosure of disability and access to reasonable accommodation in the workplace. The event is typically attended by students in their penultimate or final year.
Kieran gave a thorough briefing on Ireland’s current stance on disclosure of disability. Grounded in the Equality Act, there is no specific obligation on the applicant to disclose their disability provided said disability will not cause harm in the workplace. However, the choice to disclose or not can have enormous influence on your work experience and the panel discussed the pros and cons of this choice. Participants raised the important point that it’s not always easy to determine the right time to disclose, especially if the option to do so is not provided in the initial job application. Confidentiality was a paramount concern and great efforts were made to stress how carefully most companies process such highly sensitive data.
How could this affect me?
Learning from previous years, the workshop is now heavily structured around feedback and participants were encouraged to share their experiences. Stigma was a common fear throughout the room, and many feared potential exclusion in the workplace as a result of disclosure. However, Kieran then raised the interesting possibility that disclosure can be turned into a strength to emphasising your resilience, self-awareness and ability to negotiate. He stressed the importance of educating yourself on your rights as an employee to ensure that disclosure, should it be necessary, happens on your terms and yours alone. Knowledge of your rights was also encouraged on the subject of discrimination from employers. Under the Employment Equality Acts a candidate with a disability is entitled to equal opportunities provided they have the aptitude for the job and meet the appropriate criteria. Knowledge of these acts was encouraged so that graduating students would have the best possible chance in the search for employment.
What to do next?
Do your homework on the employer. Know your rights.
The workshop then moved on to the subject of reasonable accommodations available should our students choose to disclose their disability or disabilities. As many students pointed out, diversity and inclusion are not the same thing. A company may commit to a diverse workforce without considering the practicalities of supporting their unique needs. Reasonable accommodations ensure this support in the workplace. Some of these accommodations can be focused on physical accessibility such as wheelchair ramps and lifts. Others enable a user friendly workplace such as adjustable desks, screen readers and adapted keyboards. Numerous grants for the interpreters, personal readers and specialised workplace equipment are available to ensure an inclusive work environment. Kieran followed this explanation with a list of grants available to help fund these accommodations in the workplace.
The workshop closed with an open discussion about the variety of accommodations each student would need once they entered the workplace. Individual feedback was encouraged and the availability of the DS to answer any further questions was stressed. Events such of these are incredibly useful for educational purposes, sharing your experiences and making valuable points of contact for your life after university.
Questions to think about
Before entering employment consider the following
What supports will I need?
When should I make my disclosure?
Who do I disclose to?
How do I ensure this disclosure is restricted to only necessary parties?
Additional information and links
For more information on the Disability Service’s role in career planning please check our page at https://www.tcd.ie/disability/services/career/