Disability: disclose or not disclose?
This is a good one. A controversial one. I want to focus on dyslexia.
What do you do if you have it? Do you tell your course provider? Does it put you at a disadvantage as compared to 4000 other unaffected people? Do you tell your employer? Do you tell anybody? Why would they care? And should they?
I will answer those in no particular order.
Yes, they should care and yes, people should be told. Otherwise, it is unfair on everybody involved.
But equally I understand the temptation to hide it. It is relatively easy to hide. Especially when one is aware of how to practise reading and speaking on regular basis, so no one will ever know, unless specifically told of the condition. Those who don't have it, rarely understand it. Why create a situation where someone might judge or second guess one's intelligence. If someone cannot read properly or words they say do not come out quite like they should then, it makes them look... well... quite thick, doesn't it?
It therefore seems to be very tempting option to not disclose it. On the other hand, disclosing allegedly gives protection and support. At least less or none judging should come from the fact that person is affected by this condition. But what support is available in the legal profession or the Bar specifically?
In 2017 the Bar Council put together and released their Equality and Diversity Guide on the topic of Dyslexia:
"There is no requirement on someone to disclose their disability, including dyslexia. In employment situations, an employer only has a duty to make reasonable adjustments if s/he knows or reasonably could be expected to know of the employee’s disability. That situation will not apply to a pupil or tenant. "
The guide goes on to also say that:
- disclosure is a personal choice
- reasonable adjustments should be made
- another dyslexia assessment for pupillage purposes might be necessary
It is great that the Bar Council produced this guide document. But I am still not convinced that is all they can do in terms of reassuring that disclosure is welcome and also I do not think they really addressed that issue. After all, this profession is predominantly concerned with... well... words. Their pronunciation, their spelling, the accuracy of expressions, appropriateness and articulation in their use? The bar of England and Wales is obsessed with this idea of "formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech". That is what BPTC is for, it supposed to teach all these things, so when one is admitted to the Bar s/he has the necessary the ability to speak fluently and coherently.
What is crucial in understanding this condition is to know the difference between inability to read a quickly and intelligence. The guide does stress this distinction. As David Boies put it: "Reading has nothing to do with intelligence... It’s just one way of getting information. The important thing is how a person processes that information, the kind of person we are, the contributions we make, and the kind of utility we have for society."