How do you encourage disclosure and create inclusive service environments?

As your service program works to become more inclusive of members all abilities, consider what you can do to create an environment where service members with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities would be comfortable disclosing their disability and requesting reasonable accommodations if needed.

Hidden or non-apparent disabilities may include physical or mental health related conditions that are not readily visible to others. This may include, but are not limited to: specific learning disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy, low vision, hard of hearing, heart disease, and chronic illness.

    It may be difficult for some service members with disabilities to decide whether or not to disclose their disability. There may be risks and benefits to consider before he or she chooses to disclose.

    The risks of disclosing include: Possible discrimination, concerns about privacy, possible changes in supervisors’ or fellow service members’ perception of the service member and concerns related to stigma.

    The benefits of disclosing include: Access to accommodations, no need to ‘hide’ the disability, may increase awareness, accessibility and tolerance within the program or service site, and increased success in service when the proper reasonable accommodations are in place.

    It is most important to create an inclusive service environment for all members. How do you create an environment where a service member is comfortable disclosing?

    • Make sure that all interviews, trainings, programs and events are held in accessible
    • locations.
    • Inform all service members and post information that states “We are an equal opportunity service program. Reasonable accommodations and alternative formats are available upon request.”
    • You staff should be familiar with the most current Equal Opportunity Employment Guidelines, provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
    • If a member does disclose information about his or her disability, that information must be kept confidential. Any paperwork regarding a member’s disability and/or reasonable accommodations must be kept separate for HR files, with limited access. Information about disability and/or reasonable accommodations may only be shared with the service member’s permission.
    • How does your service program work to create an inclusive service environment where a member is comfortable disclosing his or her disability?

    Please share your experience so that we all can learn. Send responses to Sarah Kaplan at sarah.kaplan [at] umb.edu and they will be compiled for a future Inclusion Weekly. For more information about disclosure and reasonable accommodations, please visit:

    Providing reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities
    Determining appropriate accommodation options: a five step plan
    How to encourage disclosure of disability within the organization (Oct. 24, 2005)

    We always look forward to serving you! Please feel free to contact us with any disability inclusion questions and requests for information at NSIP [at] umb.edu or 888-491-0326 (V/TTY). Visit our website for a list of trainings offered by NSIP.

    The National Service Inclusion Project is a cooperative agreement (08TAHMA001) between the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston in collaboration with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Association on Higher Education and Disability, National Council on Independent LivingNational Down Syndrome Congress. Information contained in this email is for informational purposes only and does not imply endorsement from the National Service Inclusion Project or the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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    One thought on “How do you encourage disclosure and create inclusive service environments?

    1. Pingback: Monday’s News « ServeNext.org Blog

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