Question: A board member has asked about knowing who/how many on the board have a disability.  The want to poll the board members and find out. I have always been told that it is “optional” to disclose this information.  I have often wondered how we know we are 51% compliant (many people in he world have “hidden” disabilities) but again, I was told from the beginning that one applying for the board or to be an employee did not have to  disclose.  We let all know we are to be 51%  disabled in our applications but are not supposed to come out and “ask”. Can you clarify for me please?

Reply: This is not a simple policy matter but a deeply philosophical matter as well.

Literally the center must be able to show that 51% of board members have a significant disability. Note the term “significant”. It can’t be “you wear glasses so you count”. But while having that question on the application and counting up the yeses technically meets the requirement it misses the point.Fifty-one percent of staff must state that they have a disability.

And I can’t tell you how it saddens me when centers have a non-disclosure piece in their policies. Note this is an individual decision. Nothing in federal law mentions that the disability doesn’t have to be disclosed or must be disclosed to the public, either way.

The point is that people who are loud and proud to be part of the disability community are the ones who started and run centers. When you have a lot of invisible disability (sometimes because someone doesn’t want to say) among staff and board, the impact of consumer control can be and too often has been lost.

I know that some folks are not ready to publicly disclose, for example, a mental health disability, and may ask you not to publish their disability because of the impact on their work or business life. They have that right-but the fact that they have that fear means we have much work to do in order to have full inclusion in our world.

Does that answer your board question?

The staff question is more complicated but the law allows you to ask if they will disclose when hired so you can take affirmative action. After hire I truly hope they will speak up and represent their disability to the community.

Disclosure of disability for board and staff…

3 thoughts on “Disclosure of disability for board and staff…

  • August 12, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    Every publicly-funded CIL should be able to demonstrate compliance to the public. Suggestion: ask for *volunteers* to publicly self-identify. If 51% can’t be reached, a plan to increase consumer control should be developed ASAP.

  • August 15, 2022 at 9:54 am

    First of all, I want to say again how much I appreciate your knowledge and how you share it with the IL community.

    I wanted to share that I was advised by an attorney (but not in writing), that I could say when posting staff positions and when starting an interview, that I (we) could share that our staff needed to be made up of at least 51% people with disabilities. That creates an environment from the get-go that having a disability is considered an advantage in our organization.

    This is contrast to when I worked at another disability advocacy network. Sadly, I did not feel safe and so did not disclose my mental illness until I was forced to after a melt down at the job.

    I love being part of the IL network. I am sorry about the loss of your beloved companion. Have a better weekend.

  • August 15, 2022 at 10:36 am

    I had a similar circumstance….so I keep a Board Matrix. I know which Board Member corresponds to a number on the grid….I share this form with the members to show the composition of our organization’s Board in a clear manner, but maintains privacy.

    It is a great tool to assess our strengths but also our deficits. Our latest Matrix showed that our Board isn’t as diverse as we would like and two-thirds of the members are over 65 years of age. Because of this tool, our recruitment efforts are to target younger and more diverse members.
    If anyone is interested in this tool, please email me and I can send the template to you.


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