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  • Accessibility Services

    Logo der ZAB, bunte Kreise mit Schriftzug Zentrale Anlaufstelle Barrierefrei
    Office situation two staff, people in consultation
    © ZAB - Bielefeld University

Disclose disability?

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Advice and support

Finding an individually suitable strategy for communicating or not communicating one's disability or illness can be part of a counseling session with the representative for severely disabled persons or the counseling center for managers and employees.

Graduates of Bielefeld University can also contact the Career Service for support in preparing application documents.

I say it

The website Sag ich's offers a free self-test for (future) employees. The test can help to collect arguments for and against openly dealing with one's own disability or illness at the workplace and to initiate reflection processes. Information on the rights and obligations of the disabled or chronically ill employee to disclose in the professional context and to prepare for relevant discussions completes the website.

Bielefeld University supports a respectful culture of interaction and communication that values diversity and its potential. Nevertheless, the question of whether a disability or chronic illness should be addressed in the workplace is a central and, under certain circumstances, very personal matter for many affected employees. It is difficult to make general recommendations at this point. Depending on the situation, however, the following tips can support the individual decision.

- in the application?

Office situation two staff, people in consultation
© ZAB - Bielefeld University

In principle, Bielefeld University encourages its applicants to indicate a severe disability or equality in the application or to contact the representative for severely disabled persons in advance of the application.

Whether applicants wish to comply with this recommendation depends on various factors. In addition to the personal handling of one's own disability or illness, legal aspects and the degree of disability play an important role:

As a public service employer in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the university is obliged to invite applicants with a severe disability or equal status to an interview if they are professionally suitable and to give them preference in hiring if they are equally qualified as non-disabled applicants. Severely disabled women or women with equal rights are to be given special consideration.

Suitable severely disabled applicants or applicants with equal status should also be hired over and above the statutory minimum quota.

Disclosing a disability can therefore have a positive effect on the chances of being hired. However, it is not sufficient to simply mention a disability in the application documents. Disadvantage compensation in the application procedure can only be claimed if the applicant has a severely disabled person's ID or a proven GdB plus a notice of equality. For applicants in science, technology and administration, proof of their legal disability status in the application documents is usually sufficient.

If an applicant requires disability-related modifications during the application interview, e.g. an inductive hearing system, the university should of course be informed in advance so that the interview situation can be individually designed to be barrier-free.

Applicants who are chronically ill without an established GdB, who have a GdB of 10 to 20, or a GdB of 30 to 40 without equalization, cannot be given preferential consideration in application procedures. Whether they address their disability or chronic illness in their application is usually a purely personal decision.

Applicants and employees are not per se obligated to disclose personal health information such as a chronic illness or (severe) disability to the university as employer. However, there are important exceptions to this rule:

If applicants or employees are only partially able to perform their assigned tasks or are unable to perform them at all due to their illness or disability, the university must be informed of this prior to the conclusion of the contract. The same applies if a disability or illness has safety-relevant effects in the performance of the intended activity. The latter also applies to new onset illnesses during employment.

Example 1: A staff, people cannot climb ladders due to a chronic knee condition. If this person now applies for a job that involves regular and frequent ladder climbing, he or she would not be able to perform this task. In such a case, the employer must be informed of the knee condition.

Example 2: An academic co-worker develops epilepsy. When working with chemicals, a sudden seizure can endanger the safety of the employee and colleagues. The university must therefore be informed immediately in order to take the necessary safety precautions and fulfill its duty of care, e.g. by (temporarily) assigning other tasks.

Example 3: As a result of an accident, an employee in administration can only perform his or her office duties for a limited number of hours per day. Here, too, the employer must be informed promptly in order to make appropriate arrangements such as specific workplace equipment or temporary part-time employment.

- when you start your job?

Office situation two staff, people in consultation
© ZAB - Bielefeld University

Employees and trainees who wish to make use of their special disability-related rights vis-à-vis the university must compulsorily declare their legal status (threatened by disability, disabled, equal, severely disabled) vis-à-vis the university. The employer can and must only fulfill its Obligations if it is aware of an entitlement.

If this has not already been done, the superior must be informed of the disability or illness in order to be able to fulfill his/her duty of care. Supervisors are subject to the duty of confidentiality. Employees themselves decide whether and how much personal information, e.g. on diagnoses or symptoms, they wish to disclose.

If necessary, those affected may have already stated that they have an equal status or a severe disability when they submitted their application, so that their supervisor is already informed. If not, disability-related claims and Disadvantage compensation can still be discussed with the supervisor during or after the hiring process.

Contrary to the application procedure, trainees and employees who are at risk of disability or who are seriously chronically ill can now also claim support services and Disadvantage compensation to a certain extent.

In addition, after six months, the employer may ask employees and trainees about a disability in a personal approach. Employees or trainees must answer this question truthfully to the employer.

The extent to which employees or trainees with disabilities disclose themselves to their work colleagues is a purely personal decision.

Inclusion and Diversity at Bielefeld University

Bielefeld University sees diversity as a strength, heterogeneity as a potential, and difference as an asset - as stated in the university's aspiration profile (PDF). The Diversity Policy serves as the basis for action in dealing positively with diversity.

In 2020, ZAB developed the Diversity Action Plan for a diversity-sensitive and barrier-free Bielefeld University as part of the diversity audit "Shaping Diversity". The action plan is a strategic program of action with which initiatives and offers are continuously developed in order to realize equal opportunities and to eliminate pigeonholing. It is dedicated to the maxim of appreciating all people who work, train, study, teach or research at the university and to sustainably promote their different abilities, talents and competencies.

The ZAB is in charge of the area of active participation and inclusion of people with disabilities and illnesses. A number of successes have already been achieved in this area. Initiatives to implement Accessibility in the respective working areas of the university have already been received and implemented with interest and motivation in many places on campus.

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