[AI] Disclosure of disability in a job application: your personal views

Rahul Bajaj rahul.bajaj10038 at gmail.com
Sat Sep 15 00:44:30 EDT 2018


Hi Kartik and all,

Kartik, I think we are in substantial agreement here. Both of us would like to be assessed solely by our qualifications and ability to get the job done and not be given additional brownie points for having a disability, just as we would not like to be discriminated against based on our disability.

As one of the lawyers said in the meeting I referenced in the first post, we would like to be assessed solely by the content of our character, as Dr. King said. That is, however, not the case sometimes. This being so, the question then is not if your disability will play a role but what role it will play. I think a better answer to that question is that, by taking control of the situation by making a disclosure upfront, we can make that role positive. Your opinion is that its role can be addressed as and when it naturally comes up in the selection process.

Insofar as my assumption that people giving careful thought to this issue is concerned, that is based on my own experience. More specifically, for a couple of internships which I did and even in my job interview, since they knew I was blind beforehand, they were equipped to have a constructive conversation which they would have perhaps not been if they didn't know this beforehand. In my job interview, for example, I was asked how I would feel about being asked to shift to a different vertical in the firm owing to the constraints flowing from my disability. I don't think such a thoughtful question could have been formulated sans prior notice.

In the meeting I had, the folks espousing the  view that disclosure should not be made were saying that prior disclosure results in : (a) the employer trying to lay traps to not hire you due to objective factors and (b) making a palpable difference in how you are treated in the interview. Now, I personally have never faced such treatment. However, it is certainly conceivable. If a potential employer is biased against you in that way, I think the best approach is to make as strong and emphatic a case about: (a)  howyour disability will not come in the way; (b) some of their concerns are unfounded and (c) you can help the workforce become more diverse, bring to the table valuable problem-solving skills and grit which your sighted colleagues do not possess ( here I should mention that I am of the firm view that a blind person does possess these in a more substantial measure than their sighted counterparts because it is not as though they haven't acquired these skills through academic and other pursuits like their sighted colleagues. They have, and on top of that they have acquired the skills flowing from grappling with an objective impairment which their sighted colleagues have not, but perhaps those similarly disadvantaged, like people of colour or LGBT people have).

Again, I don't think you would disagree with these 3 points. Indeed, you embody them more fully than most disabled people. I am of the considered view that these 3 points can best be brought home by laying the foundation for them in their application. It appears that you already do this, as you say that you make indirect references to it in your resume. The lawyers in that meeting, however, were saying that such references should also be removed, to avoid the 2 consequences I outlined at para 4 above, which I wholly disagree with.

Finally, because you cannot predict which employers will try to be discriminatory and which not, one's best bet would be to make a disclosure, either wholly or in part but in my view wholly, to be able to make these 3 points, in every case.

Best,
Rahul
 

Sent from my iPhone

> On Sep 14, 2018, at 10:15 PM, Kartik Sawhney <sawhney.kartik at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Hi Rahul,
> 
> Your points are interesting but I still maintain what I said before.
> Let's say I am applying for a software engineering position. do I want
> the employer to be impressed by all that I have done despite my
> disability, or be impressed by my academic or professional
> accomplishments alone? Now, again, this is very personal, but I prefer
> the latter. I don't think that my disability should play any role in
> they selecting me as an engineer because that is not going to play any
> role when at job either. it might have helped me develop problem
> solving skills, but so have other academic and professional
> opportunities like anyone else, and I'd rather highlight them, not
> because I have any fear of they descriminating against me, but just
> because that is what I prefer. Indirect references to disability
> through leadership opportunities also highlight this, so I don't feel
> the need to explicitly highlight my disability. I might have done some
> crazy stuff despite my disability, but if I don't have the
> qualifications or experience they are looking for, then I shouldn't
> get that job just like anyone else.
> 
> To your point about disclosing giving them enough time to think about
> constructive questions for the interview, I think you're making a big
> assumption there that the HR and your interviewers have all the time
> to research about your disability and carefully think about it. In
> most cases, this will not be true. A resume, on an average, receives
> no more than 30 s, and during that time, it is primarily going to be
> past knowledge and biases that will determine the outcome. I have
> disclosed on numerous occasions but most of the times, this was not
> even communicated to the interviewers. But, was the interview bad just
> because they did not know about my disability? No. I think it's up to
> you to make them comfortable and demonstrate during that process how
> you will be successful. Also, remember that in most of the cases, your
> resume is not even reviewed by the hiring manager before the
> interview, so by disclosing, you're only telling the HR who is not
> going to be involved in the interview. I'll admit all of this is true
> for tech, but I'm not sure how other industries work.
> 
> I agree with your third point. The point is not about whether you
> should disclose, but it's more about when, to whom and how. We need to
> understand that just as how we might not understand other
> disabilities, the world does not understand us as well and that's
> fine. to expect them to do their research and somehow overcome their
> biases isn't fair either. It's really on us to help them understand us
> and our disabilities, which is exactly why I prefer disclosing at
> interviews or having conversations after one is shortlisted.
> 
> There is no right or wrong answer here. It's a function of various
> things, including how you'd like the world to know you, whether there
> will be significant changes in how you do your work because of your
> disability and so on.
> 
> Best,
> -Kartik
> 
>> On 9/14/18, Rahul Bajaj <rahul.bajaj10038 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Kartik, it is certainly a personal decision, but I definitely believe that
>> there is great value to be gained by making a case, in your job application,
>> for the proposition that you have achieved a significant amount of success,
>> assuming you have, despite your disability. In this way, you are able to
>> arrogate to yourself the power to shape your narrative, insofar as it
>> concerns your disability. To illustrate, I used to mention in my cover
>> letter that the battle to thrive in a world designed essentially for the
>> sighted has endowed me with a unique set of problem-solving skills which
>> sets me apart. I think that you can present your disability as an asset if
>> you do this.
>> 
>> Second, to your point about potential employers discerning the fact that you
>> are disabled when they see you for the interview, I think that approach
>> deprives them of the opportunity to give careful thought to how your
>> disability might impact your work and to frame constructive questions on
>> that basis. Whatever questions they ask you in such a scenario would be off
>> the cuff and so you may not be able to get a chance to address all their
>> inhibitions.
>> 
>> Third, I think it may not be a good idea to operate on the premise that, for
>> a person with a disability, the employment decision will wholly be based on
>> your qualifications and your disability will play no part in the process. I
>> think it certainly plays a part, even though it is true that you can later,
>> by dint of your talents and abilities neutralize its role completely. This
>> being so, it's best, in my view, to exhibit the willingness to discuss it
>> upfront, as opposed to letting things unfold in their own way.
>> 
>> Finally, I think it is also true that there are disabled people and then
>> there are disabled people. Not everyone may have an academic record or work
>> experience that can make you so much better qualified than others that you
>> clearly have an upper hand, if the disability is taken out of the calculus.
>> In that event, trying to downplay its impact may be the best idea.
>> 
>> Best,
>> Rahul
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Sent from my iPhone
>> 
>>> On Sep 14, 2018, at 11:13 AM, Kartik Sawhney <sawhney.kartik at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>> 
>>> Hi,
>>> 
>>> This is a very personal decision in my opinion. A resume is meant to
>>> highlight some of the most important things you'd like to tell about
>>> yourself to a potential employer. If you decide that disability is one
>>> of those things, then sure, it should be included. However, if you
>>> think that disability is not as key from a resume perspective, and
>>> you'd only like to include it to give a heads-up to the employer, then
>>> I don't think that's necessary, especially for a visible disability.
>>> In any case, during the interview, the interviewers would know that
>>> you are a person with a disability. But at that time, you will have an
>>> opportunity to explain how you can accomplish your job well using
>>> assistive technology and how you have not let your disability be an
>>> impediment in the past. In India and the US both, there continues to
>>> be a lack of awareness, but it is not always the case that people
>>> don't want to understand. Your resume may be reviewed by people who
>>> genuinely don't think you can do the task because they really don't
>>> know anything about disability, but the same people might be the most
>>> supportive once you demonstrate how you do your work. Of course, you
>>> might need to disclose even before interview but after you have been
>>> shortlisted for one to get reasonable accommodations. Personally, I
>>> disclose disability indirectly on my resume through my work in the
>>> field and awards etc.
>>> 
>>> Best,
>>> -Kartik
>>> 
>>>> On 9/13/18, Rahul Bajaj <rahul.bajaj10038 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> Hi All,
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> I hope this message finds you well.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> I was actually wondering what you thought about something that flows
>>>>>> from
>>>>>> a conversation that I had with some blind lawyers in the US in a
>>>>>> meeting
>>>>>> aimed at guiding some fresh law school graduates with disabilities who
>>>>>> are finding great difficulty getting employed.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> One line of argument was that a disabled lawyer should not disclose
>>>>>> their
>>>>>> disability in their job application/cv, given that this wouldgive an
>>>>>> employer a potential reason to discriminate and to find strategic ways
>>>>>> to
>>>>>> disguise that discrimination in such a subtle way as to ensure that it
>>>>>> does not appear legally suspect (principally by citing reasons not
>>>>>> related to a person's disability for not giving an interview call or
>>>>>> the
>>>>>> like, when the actual reason is disability). Proponents of this view
>>>>>> believe that the interview process is solely aimed at ascertaining
>>>>>> whether an applicant is qualified for the job concerned and that a
>>>>>> disability has no bearing on that determination. By bringing the
>>>>>> disability into the picture, you often end up colouring a potential
>>>>>> employer's views about you in a negative way. They argue that the
>>>>>> disability can be discussed once a decision to hire you has been made,
>>>>>> for discussing reasonable accommodations.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> On the other hand, I am of the view that it is important to proceed on
>>>>>> the premise that people do not have a discriminatory intent and to
>>>>>> disclose the fact of your disability upfront while also making clear
>>>>>> that
>>>>>> your disability has not held you back from realizing your full
>>>>>> potential,
>>>>>> as opposed to brushing this issue under the carpet and thereby
>>>>>> squandering the opportunity to disabuse a potential employer of false
>>>>>> notions and stereotypes about a disabled person's competence. My view
>>>>>> is
>>>>>> that concealing the fact of one's disability at the time of applying
>>>>>> prevents a potential employer from reflecting on the modus operandi
>>>>>> that
>>>>>> a disabled employee is likely to adopt to perform their functions and
>>>>>> consequently from asking questions about the disability in the
>>>>>> interview
>>>>>> which can enable them to form a more informed view about the
>>>>>> applicant's
>>>>>> suitability.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> I'd be grateful if you could share your personal view about this,
>>>>>> whenever convenient, based on your own experience and conversations
>>>>>> you
>>>>>> may have had with folks with disabilities. Some of them were
>>>>>> suggesting
>>>>>> that my views may be based on some unique features of Indian society
>>>>>> which merit closer scrutiny.  Thank you.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Best,
>>>>>> Rahul
>>>>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
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>>> 
>>> 
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