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WHY to disclose in social settings

Social and community environments have barriers that sometimes prevent people with disabilities from spending time outside their home, socializing and going out with friends, and participating in community or civic events. Speaking about your disability in social settings can be hard and sometimes frustrating, because many of the barriers you will face in social settings are people’s attitudes, beliefs, and inexperience. It is important to understand how your disability and disability-related needs can influence your participation in your community and other social activities (such as recreation, leisure, civic, religious, and political activities).

It may be necessary for you to disclose your disability to friends or community members and in social situations in order to participate fully in everything your community has to offer. It will be important for you to be able to explain your disability in several different ways, and to change the way you talk about yourself in different situations. For example, talking about your disability to your soccer coach or Scout leader is very different from talking about yourself at a party or to someone you may want to date. The self-determination skills and informed decision-making skills discussed earlier in this workbook are important skills to have when deciding whether to disclose or not.

Again, this is where informed decision-making comes into play. You will need to understand your own feelings, and balance them out with the information you have about the specific situation you are in at the time. The more questions you ask, the more you will know that the decisions you make are right for you.

Some examples of why you may choose to disclose in a social or community setting include (but are not limited to) the following. You may wish to

• start new relationships with honesty;

• discuss specific needs in order to identify needed accommodations in the community; or

• receive any necessary assistance that may be needed while participating in community or social activities.

Remember that it is not essential to divulge specific personal information about your disability. What is most important and helpful is to provide information about how your disability affects your capacity to participate in social and community activities, and the supports that are needed to allow you to participate fully.

WHEN to disclose in social settings

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