Managing attitudes to disability at work
Normally you do not have to talk about your condition or impairment at work. It’s your choice who you tell and how much you tell them. Talking about your condition may help in some situations, but not others.
Here are some tactics that disabled people have used to make working life more comfortable.
Talking about your condition
People may be curious about your condition and how you manage it. It's 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’s 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 who is disabled, you could ask them how they talk to colleagues. You could also ask someone with similar experiences to you in Scope’s online community.
Talking to your colleagues
You could talk 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.”
You could try writing a ‘one-page profile’ about how you like to work and how people can support you.
One-page profiles (Helen Sanderson Associates)
If you are concerned that a meeting might not be accessible to you, say:
"By the way, I've got a speech impairment so just ask me to repeat myself if you do not understand me."
"Just so you know, I'm visually impaired so I may not be able to read your presentation. Please can you email the slides to me ahead of time? Also, do not be surprised if you see me using my monocular."
Talking about your condition can help you to feel more in control. It may also help to put your colleagues at ease. But you do not have to answer questions you’re not comfortable with.
Talking to your manager
If you are concerned about how people act around you at work, speak to your manager. There are various ways you could help your colleagues understand how they need to work with you. You could:
- write an email introducing yourself and mentioning what support you need to attend a meeting or do your work
- offer to write a blog for the staff intranet or a newsletter
Ask your manager if you need support to do your work. This could mean getting what the law calls reasonable adjustments.
If you have specific concerns about how you are being treated, discuss this with your manager.
Reasonable adjustments at work
If your manager is awkward with you
Some people are more awkward with disabled people than others. If your manager's attitude to you affects your work, talk to the next level of management or the HR department.
If things are still awkward...
Some people may react negatively to you, even when you try hard to make them feel comfortable. Remember that it’s not your responsibility to change everybody's attitudes towards disability. But if you feel that relationships at work are becoming hostile or you’re being bullied, read What is disability discrimination?
Last reviewed by Scope on: 10/04/2018