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Ticking the disability box

Liam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,101 Pioneering

It’s happened a few times before. There’s a pen in my hand, an application form on the table in front of me, and a question: do you have a disability?

Even now, I hesitate writing about it. The answer? It’s complicated. When I took my first baby steps out into the big world of work, I remember asking my parents for the answer - as if it was up to other people to determine if I had an impairment or not. Now, having had two jobs under my belt, I’m getting closer to finding out what exactly that box on a job application means for me.

But first, a little backstory. Ever since I was around 13 years old (I think - the exact details are still hazy now) I’ve worn hearing aids – first in one ear and then bilaterally a short while later. I don’t know what exactly caused my mild deafness and tinnitus, and whether it was something I was born with or acquired, but the idea that I was an immature seven-year-old who shoved his ear too close to a speaker at a disco ‘just for fun’ springs to mind for some weird reason.

Yet whilst I can call myself an idiot for doing such a thing over a decade later (if, indeed, I did), I’m still reluctant to call myself disabled. I can still do everything anyone else can, just with the odd adjustment here and there. As bad and inaccurate as it sounds, I fear that ticking the box will create a stereotype in my potential boss’ mind before they even meet me, but that’s far from the truth. Even if they did, UK equality laws prevent employers from acting upon their own prejudice.

However, my most recent job, right here at Scope, offered something different on my paperwork: the option to tick a box which said I was disabled because of society’s attitudes and the way certain things were run. I had heard of this idea – the social model of disability – before and this definitely felt like the right way to describe myself, so I ticked the box.

After all, I remember occasions at the cinema where the lack of subtitles mean I can’t hear what Optimus Prime is saying in the latest Transformers movie (I’m no longer a fan of the franchise now, anyway), and certain restaurant environments mean I can’t hear the people next to me. There’s plenty more to be done, and I’m certainly ‘disabled’ in this sense.

Although, it doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself disabled under the social model, or in any other way. As with any label we assign to ourselves - or society assigns to us - we can choose to own that label and define it in our own special way. Words change over time (Scope was previously called The Spastics Society before the phrase became a term of abuse) and whatever feels right, we can use to help others understand us. In my case, it’s the phrases ‘mildly deaf’ and ‘hard of hearing’ – whichever one I feel helps people appreciate my impairment better.

Anyway, to revert back to the topic of jobs though, I suppose there’s now an interesting question to ask: should job applications now ask if you’re disabled under the social model?



  • Topkitten
    Topkitten Community member Posts: 1,285 Pioneering
    I don't know the difference with this 'social model' stuff but I always tick the box as it's an accurate description. Fortunately I never had to tick it when I was working because I can see how it could cause issues. When I had to employ people I did take on a young lad with vision impairment but did discuss it with him carefully as best I could. He had applied for the post of programmer and obviously if he could no longer see he couldn't work there. I guess I was lucky that his vision outlasted my time as his manager and I didn't have to deal with that.

    I too have tinnitus in addition to my other issues and it does affect how well I can hear people. I back it up by reading lips but that only helps if they are facing me. In a work environment I guess there could be problems due to it.

    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 740 Listener
    edited October 2017
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  • Markmywords
    Markmywords Community member Posts: 419 Pioneering

    I fear that ticking the box will create a stereotype in my potential boss’ mind before they event meet me, but that’s far from the truth. Even if they did, UK equality laws prevent employers from acting upon their own prejudice.

    Unfortunately my experience has been the complete opposite.

    In fact I was once handed an application form demanding to know what prescription medication I was taking !

    It would be very unwise to believe the law prevents prejudiced employers from being abusive. Discrimination law is neither policed nor enforced.

    An applicant's only recourse is to attempt to prove it to an Employment Tribunal. Even if a person was never selected, the Tribunal can still adjudicate.

    The statistics of successfully won cases are not pleasant to read though. If a person did win they would get virtually no compensation, still have no job and have a court fee to pay.

    An application form that demands to know "Are you disabled?" should be a cause of grave concern, as would one asking about gender, race or age.
    At a large organisation, a separate and optional form saying "confidential, for equality checking only" should be treated with discretion. I would be too suspicious to fill one out though.
  • foxuk
    foxuk Community member Posts: 103 Pioneering
    Isn't it time we put the Social Model away and started working with an Enablement Model.
    The grouping of Disabled People with other minorities is stark staring bonkers.
    With all other discriminated against groups the Law is sufficient to prevent abuse.
    By being disabled we have impairments that cannot be overcome by Law, if not we are not disabled.
    By concentrating on Society and Environment we have come to the situation in which we now find ourselves.
    We are individuals and have individual needs for enablement that should be met for each person rather than attempting to change the environmet.
    With adequate Individual Enablement there would be no need for a disability box.
  • Markmywords
    Markmywords Community member Posts: 419 Pioneering
    While I believe that the Social Model is a philosophy based on bitterness, resentment and blame towards the non-disabled, I don't want any alternative to be pushed at me either.

    I'll think for myself and I don't need Socialist agendas like these nor any other kind.

    I've said it before; who gets punished for discriminating against the disabled?

    In the news is outrage about the male Nobel winners. Also there was the "White Oscars," but who is bothered by the exclusion of the disabled?
  • the_velvet_girl
    the_velvet_girl Community member Posts: 108 Courageous
    I don't think job application forms should ask if you are disabled at all. I like to get interviews based on my qualifications and experience not because I have a disability. 
    I do worry about not ticking the box to disclose my disability in case I get in to trouble for lying on the application form. 
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