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Things to Consider About Disclosing Your Disability
It can be difficult to know what the experience of disclosing a disability will be until it is time to make that decision, but the research project highlighted some considerations that may be helpful when that time comes.
- Disclosing disability is a different experience for each student. For some, the decision may not be straightforward. Each student should weigh the benefits and risks of disclosing their disability to a professor or placement supervisor.
- Disclosure may involve several people in placement (e.g., placement supervisor, placement coordinator, office administrator, director, and/or principal) who will need to be informed about a student’s accommodations. It is a good idea to think about how to disclose to each person.
- The accessibility services office at one’s home institution (e.g., SAS at York University) will recommend appropriate academic accommodations for students who disclose their needs. These recommendations may not be tailored to an experiential-education or placement context, and follow-up consultations with accessibility services may be helpful.
- Some students may not immediately register with accessibility services; rather, they might first see how their courses are before taking the extra step towards seeking accommodation.
- Students who wait until the middle of their placement to register with their university and access their right to accommodation may encounter difficulties, as the registration process has several steps and takes time to complete.
- Some students may register with an accessibility services office but never use their accommodations.
- This “wait and see” approach may be used by students who are in the process of determining their accommodation needs in the placement environment.
- Accommodations are not designed to give students an advantage. Academic accommodations aim to provide a level playing field by removing barriers to access, which can impede a student’s ability to succeed.
Benefits for Students of Disclosing Disability
- Disclosing allows instructors to determine if their curriculum design should be altered to benefit all students and not just students with disabilities.
- Instructors may be able to provide additional support to students to enable them to complete certain tasks or training (e.g., extended timelines for completion of assignments, introduction to a mentor with lived experience who could offer students with disabilities guidance on navigating the professional context with their disability).
- Instructors and supervisors may modify portions of their teaching or lessons towards the different learning styles of students with disabilities (e.g., including more visual aids in lesson material, providing closed captions for videos and audio lectures, providing more demonstrations, templates, or memory aids).
- Disclosing can help raise awareness of disability in placement, and sharing one’s experience can help to reduce stigma.
Risks for Students of Disclosing Disability or Using Accommodations in Experiential Education/Placement
- Students may be uncomfortable discussing their disability. This may result in them feeling different from other students or being subjected to discrimination (Luckowski 2016).
- Students may feel that disclosing their disability or using accommodations may impact their future employment opportunities.
- Some instructors/supervisors may be unwilling to accommodate or may dismiss the legitimacy of their student’s disability.
- Accommodations not outlined in a letter from an accessibility services office may not be granted by course directors/supervisors.
- If a student has a hidden disability, such as chronic illness or a learning disability, faculty may not be aware of the student’s needs and be unable to properly support them (Luckowski 2016).
- Instructors and supervisors, even if well intentioned, may lack training. They may be uncertain about how to respond to the student’s needs or identify appropriate inclusion strategies.
Luckowski, A. (2016). The Lived Experience in the Clinical Setting of Nursing Students with Disabilities. Nursing Education Perspectives (Wolters Kluwer Health), 37(5), 256–261. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000063