Mahadeo Sukhai, a legally blind PhD student and medical researcher, began by sharing his perspective on disclosing one's disability. There is no easy answer, he said, but he emphasized the importance of having control of the revelation rather than being discovered. Non-disclosure can later cast doubt as to one's honesty.
He shared his experience of applying for graduate studies with honesty and openness. His interviewers initially expressed surprise upon learning of his disability, but then asked how they could help provide a safe and productive environment. He credited his parents for encouraging him to become a volunteer to help others, something that helped him make gains in self-confidence and self-esteem.
Sukhai emphasized that workers with disabilities have a right to know about any issues that can affect their job performance, especially in terms of safety, and to ask to have their accommodation needs met. Workers with disabilities need to look toward building a long-term commitment with the employer based on partnership, co-operation, and trust. A person with a disability has a condition, but he is not defined by his condition, Sukhai said. He needs help, but accepting help does not diminish him. Sukhai invited employers to look beyond disabilities and hire based on ability, competence, and achievements.
As a blind student pursuing a non-traditional career, Sukhai is aware of being regarded as a role model. As a student leader and volunteer, he has learnt many skills, including project planning, time management, conflict resolution, team-building, public speaking, and presenting, and he has helped create a voice and a support structure for students with disabilities on campus-skills and experiences that employers value.
People with disabilities have a responsibility to show their ability and potential to employers and to the world, individually and collectively, Sukhai said. He concluded by saying: "I can't let what I can't do interfere with what I can."