Now I understand the theory of why employers need to know this, and that it is beneficial to all parties to declare it, but I really wasn't sure whether I was 'disabled enough' to qualify. I suspected that people I would normally turn to to chew over an issue like this might come back with a 'don't be so silly, of course you're not' response, so I decided to ask the people with first hand experience and posted a question to the #rheum and #spoonie communities on Twitter:
'A question for UK #spoonie #rheum folk - at what stage did/would you regard your #arthritis as a disability under the terms of the DDA?'
And as usual, Twitter came through for me. In the space of that golden first hour, I had received some excellent and very sound advice from a number of experienced people, and it completely turned my mindset around. I'd like to share some of the advice I received:
'You need to declare it, because it's in your interest. They [the employer] need to supply reasonable adjustments... '
'Talk to Access to Work at job centre, or @arthritis_care They should be able to give you advice on working with arthritis, and suggest adjustments that could help.'
'You won't get any medals for "struggling on" but will do a good job with the support you need'
'Look at it not as disabled rather differently abled. Just means you need to find ways around things...'
'the various aids (plus colleagues knowing I needed help) kept me at work for longer'
'Very worth while getting an AtoW [Access to Work] assessment, they will tell you things you never noticed before'
'Have you tried using our [Arthritis Care's] forum? There's a section on working with arthritis bit.ly/n5iLnB'I also found some typically sound and clear advice from Arthritis Care on Applying for Jobs.
It became clear to me as I digested and responded to all this advice, that the part of me that was saying 'but I'm not *that* disabled' was motivated by an unholy combination of pride and reserve. I reasoned that as I have already overcome my self-consciousness enough to use a stick when I need to, I should be able to make the further leap required here and overcome the urge to say 'I'm fine, I can manage' when I could be making life a lot easier for myself (and others). I saw that there was no point in trying to second guess how my disease might progress over the next year, or what effect a new working arrangement might have on me over time. The fact of the matter is that I have an ongoing, fluctuating condition. My day-to-day functioning is compromised in a number of ways, and is likely to continue to be so to a greater or lesser extent. That is what the Guidance Relating to the Definition of Disability (available to download from Direct Gov) describes, and that is all that matters in this scenario. In fact, the guidance has some good examples relating specifically to Rheumatoid Arthritis, and ongoing pain and fatigue.
So in the space of about an hour, my attitude was transformed. It became very clear to me that I should be ticking that box. I am actually quite excited by the prospect of 'coming out' as disabled, and I look forward to seeing what Access to Work have to offer!
* I realise this text is out of date now the Equality Act 2010 is in force, and I'll mention it to them