Encouraging Self Disclosure in National Service
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Encouraging Self Disclosure in National Service

August 26, 2010

We will begin shortly!

Please feel free to say hello by typing in the text box.

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Toll-free hotline: 888-491-0326 (voice/TTY)

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Communicating During the Webinar

To contribute to the discussion and/or ask questions, you may:

  • Type in the chat window of the current page

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  • Call us at 617-287-4329 to leave comment

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Encouraging Self Disclosure in National Service


Chad Gobert

Joseph Tierney

Hillary Vargas

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Self-disclosure refers to your communicating information about yourself and may involve:

  • Your values, beliefs, and desires

  • Your behavior

  • Your self-qualities or characteristics

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Reasons Individuals Self-Disclose

  • Catharsis

  • Self-clarification, self-validation

  • Reciprocity and impression management

  • Relationship maintenance and enhancement

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Benefits of disclosure in service

  • Benefits in service

    • Individual service performance

    • Serving with others

  • Comfort in asking for reasonable accommodations

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How Willing to Self-Disclose Are You?

5 = would definitely self-disclose

4 = would probably self-disclose

3 = don’t know

2 = would probably not self-disclose

1 = would definitely not self-disclose

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Johari Window

The Johari window is a way of showing how much information

you and others know about yourself.

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True or False?

In a typical relationship, the sooner an individual engages in self-disclosure, the better the relationship will be.

FALSE- why?

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Why not simply disclose?

  • Culture of program environment

    • “Gossipy”

    • Excessively competitive

    • Racially insensitive

  • Fear of potential reactions

  • Refusal by others to share equipment

  • Not relevant

  • Stigma associated with disability

  • Need to disclose to other people outside of service program first

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The Law Does NOT Permit Programs to Inquire into Disability, BUT…

  • Pursuant to Section 503 of the Rehab. Act, a program may invite applicants to voluntarily self-identify as an individual with a disability for affirmative action purposes, so long as this information is kept private and confidential.

  • Voluntary Disclosure

    • An individual with a disability may voluntarily disclose to anyone she or he chooses

    • Voluntary Disclosure ≠ waiver of confidentiality

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When Service Members Should Disclose

  • Reasonable Accommodations

    • If a service member/applicant with a non-apparent disability requests a reasonable accommodation, the program may ask the individual for reasonable documentation about his/her disability or functional limitations, and the member must provide such documentation in order to receive accommodations.

  • Post Offer Medical Exams

    • A program may condition offers on applicants satisfactorily completing post-offer medical examinations, which may yield disability-related information.

    • Note: programs can only condition offers on such medical exams if they require that all prospective members take such exams

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Impact of non-disclosure

  • Social isolation

    • Did not get close to people for fear of personal questions

  • Feel compelled to misrepresent

    • Explained medical appointments by saying she was part of a nutritional study

    • One individual told others she had a different diagnosis

  • Unable to request accommodations

  • Report less support than people who did disclose

  • Stress of keeping the secret

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  • Why/when do you choose to disclose/not disclose?

  • In times when you did/did not disclose, how comfortable or uncomfortable did you feel?

    • What contributed to feeling more or less comfortable after disclosing?

    • Upon reflection, did you agree with your concerns after the disclosure was/was not made?

  • What advice would you have for those who may decide to disclose their disability?

  • What advice would you have for supervisors to encourage disclosure?

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Member Stories

Hillary Vargas,

Teacher Partner for

The Learning Community and AmeriCorps Alumni

Calling from Providence, RI

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Promoting disclosure in your program

  • Availability of reasonable accommodations is openly posted and publicized

  • Individuals are asked about their experience and satisfaction

  • Individuals with disabilities are full participants in program and service activities

  • Making sure expectations for individuals with disabilities are the same as for others

  • Display of statements, such as “Qualified individuals with disabilities and those from diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. We provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals and conduct all activities in fully accessible settings.”

  • Questions and solutions naturally arise about accessibility when planning activities

  • Products and interior decorations portray images of people with disabilities

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Guidelines for Responding to Self-Disclosure

  • Practice the skills of effective and active listening

  • Support and reinforce the discloser

  • Keep the disclosures confidential

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Things to Remember about Disclosure

  • It is up to the individual to disclose a disability

  • The amount of information provided about a disability is up to the individual

  • If an individual discloses a disability, that information must be maintained confidentially and cannot be disclosed to others

  • May share information regarding disabilities if member provides approval in writing or alternative verifiable method

  • • Human Resource personnel and supervisors are trained/informed in the confidentiality of medical, disability and accommodation-related information

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