By Emma Bullen, LLB Law Student at The London School of Economics and Political Science
Stammering has been a massive part of my life since the age of 10, but it took a lot of practice to become comfortable sharing information about my disability
Should I be open about my disability?
From applying for my first part-time job to applying for law firm applications for first-year events, the word ‘disability’ has always loomed in my mind. I have a stammer, which affects me on a daily basis, and has been a barrier when applying for jobs and work experience. When filling out applications, I was never sure whether to inform the employer about my stammer or to keep it a secret and attempt to cover it up as much as possible. At the beginning, I hid my stammer as best as a could, but it would always become apparent in interviews when the time came. I was worried that it would impact my chance of being selected for the role, particularly if speaking was a part of it. Interviews were always a struggle, as I did not want the employer to think that my stammer was the result of me being exceptionally nervous.
As years have gone on, I have had various forms of employment, and have applied for numerous positions. I am now more accepting of my stammer and am open about it on every application that I make, which has been positive in a number of ways.
I have found that there is no use in hiding your disability from an employer, as they need to understand how to accommodate your needs in the best way that they can. By telling employers about my stammer, I was given extra time in interviews and generally felt significantly less pressure as employers were aware that I may struggle, particularly with the added nerves, and did not let this impact my application.
It is clear that sharing information about your disability, whether it be a stammer or any other form of disability, is definitely the way forward when filling out an application. Don’t allow your worries about what the employer may think about your disability to impact your decision to tick the box on your application. Let the employer look past your disability and see the abilities that you can bring to their firm.
I have found that having a disability can, in many ways, strengthen your application. When asked questions about challenges I have had and how I have overcome them, using relating to my stammer has always gone down well with employers. Being open with employers about your disability and giving examples of how you manage it, enables you to demonstrate the positive attributes you have developed as a result of your condition. Showing that you don’t let it affect the way that you live your life presents you as a determined person; allowing the employer to find out more about you as a person.
Top Tip- Get to know the application process!
All applications are different, differing between each career path, and even between each firm that you apply to. Getting to know the process that you will be going through will be a huge advantage to you. Find out if there will be a telephone interview, a face-to-face interview or an assessment day; it is important that you think of the requirements that you will need at each stage of your application.
By informing the employer about your disability, the recruitment team will be able to assist you in whatever way they can, to ensure that the application process runs as smoothly as possible. Some may find it difficult to complete some parts of their application, and may think that there is no way in which their struggles could be helped; never assume that there is nothing a firm can do for you. Always get in contact with their recruitment team, and explain your circumstances. If they can assist you in any way, they will do so. Recruiters are used to providing support and adjustments to candidates with disabilities. If you don’t share relevant information about your disability you will be putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Never let your concerns about your disability put you off applying for a position that you want. Disabilities can feel like a barrier to many and at times, even now, it still feels like a barrier to me. However, through completing application after application, and interview after interview, I have gained confidence in myself, and have found it easier to disclose my disability.
My advice is to practise your ‘openness statement’– find a way of communicating all the necessary details of your disability in 1 or 2 sentences. Use this statement on application forms and in interviews if necessary. The more you use your statement, the less pressure and concern you will feel about sharing information about your disability.
So when completing your next application, just remember that
Having a disability is nothing to be ashamed of
Let the employer assist you as much as possible
Use the positive attributes acquired from managing your disability to your advantage!
Never let your disability prevent you from reaching your goals.
I am a stammerer, and I am not afraid to be open about it.