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.