Talking to others about your disability

Whether or not to talk to others in the workplace about your disability is a personal decision, and one that should be made according to your individual circumstances.

Mentioning your disability can create trust and help foster an open relationship with your employer and co-workers. It allows you to talk about how you will perform your tasks to the necessary standards. It also allows you and your employer to discuss teamwork and changes to the workplace to help you do your job.

You should tell your employer about your disability if it is likely to affect how you can do your job. You should also mention your disability if it will affect your ability to work safely and ensure the safety of your co-workers.

If your disability has no effect on your ability to do the job or to work safely, you are not required to mention it.

What information to discuss

You only need to provide information about how your disability may affect your ability to do the job or to work safely. You should mention any medications you take that may affect your ability to work safely. You do not need to talk about other medical or personal issues.

Remember that, if you do mention your disability to someone at work, they cannot tell anyone else about it unless you give them permission to do so.

Tips for talking to others in the workplace about your disability

People in the workplace may be curious about your condition and how you manage it. It is up to you how much you want to say. Be as honest and open as you feel comfortable with.

If people do not respond well, remember that it is not your responsibility to change people’s attitudes to disability. Some colleagues may be more introverted or awkward, or they may just be too busy to talk.

If you work with someone has a disability, you could ask them how they talk to colleagues.

You could talk to co-workers about:

  • your condition
  • what tasks you find easier or harder to do
  • what you need to do your job
  • how you might cope and behave at certain times
  • what help you might need.

Help people understand the kind of situations you plan for and manage, such as: “I have a visual impairment called X. This means that day-to-day I might Y, and I may need you to Z.”

Starting conversations about your disability in the workplace

If you are concerned about how people act around you at work, speak to your reporting manager. There are various ways you could help your colleagues understand how they need to work with you. For example, you could:

  • write an email introducing yourself and mentioning what support you need to attend a meeting or do your work; or
  • offer to write a blog for the staff intranet or a newsletter.

What if someone asks you about your disability, but you don’t want to talk about it?

There is no legal obligation for you to share information about your condition unless it affects your ability to carry out the primary tasks of your job.

If an employer or co-worker asks a question, they need to clearly explain why they are asking the question. Reasons for asking might include:

  • implications for workplace safety,
  • the need for physical adjustments or assistive technology in the workplace; or 
  • when an employee requests flexible working hours or opportunities to work off-site.

Your employers or co-workers cannot ask personal questions about your lifestyle. They also cannot ask general questions about your health or disability, such as how you’ve acquired the disability.

Financial help with changing the workplace

If you and your employer agree to make changes to the workplace to help you do the job, you can tell your employer about the Employment Assistance Fund. This fund may pay for the costs of modifying the workplace or purchasing special equipment.

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