Should you disclose your disability on your resume and application? Here's what to consider.
The fact is more than 61 million adults living in the U.S. have a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For context, that's 26 percent of the population. These disabilities can be invisible or visible, affecting anything from your mobility and cognition to your hearing and vision.
Searching for a job when you have a disability can be stressful, and you might find yourself wondering if you should disclose your disability on your resume or cover letter. After all, you want to be transparent and make sure a company has your back — but you also don't want to open yourself up to discrimination. While this is a personal decision, here are a few things to consider beforehand.
Should I disclose my disability on my resume?
You may feel compelled to disclose your disability on your resume; after all, you want to be transparent with a potential employer, right?
However, you're not obligated to, per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The act “prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment.” Additionally, employers are not legally allowed to ask about a candidate's disability before making a job offer.
So, legally, you are not required to disclose your disability on your resume — but should you?
Many career experts agree: You should not disclose your disability on your resume. If you are capable of doing the job and meet the requirements, then stating your disability on your resume is irrelevant and could distract from your qualifications, leading to workplace discrimination.
Addressing employment gaps on your resume due to your disability
Now, if you're worried about employment gaps on your resume due to your disability, there are ways to get around this. Most employers won't care about an employment gap that spans less than a year, but if you were out of employment longer, here are a few things you can do:
Highlight any unpaid experiences: Think certifications, volunteer work, online courses, and more.
Group freelance work together: If you did freelance work or side jobs, you can group those together on your resume.
Switch up your resume format: Instead of going with the standard chronological resume format, you could use a functional resume format.
If pressed about your employment gap in your job interview and don't want to disclose your disability, you can keep your explanation simple by explaining you were dealing with some personal matters.
If you feel as though you want to provide more information, make it clear you had to stop working due to your disability — not a lack of interest or ambition. You can then explain why you're fully prepared and committed to working again. Optimism and a positive attitude can go a long way!
When to disclose your disability in the job application process, if necessary
Experts largely agree you shouldn't mention your disability on your resume or cover letter, but should you disclose your disability at some point in the job application process?
That's entirely up to you, but here are two questions you can ask yourself when weighing your options:
Will I need accommodations?
Will failing to disclose my disability make the application process difficult?
If you'll need any accommodations to do the job, it may be worth mentioning this in your interview so you don't surprise your employer on the first day of your job. This might also help you relieve any anxiety around the matter.
You might also choose to disclose your disability if choosing not to could make the application process difficult. For instance, if you're deaf, you may need to get an interpreter for the interview, or if you use a wheelchair, you can make this known so the employer can properly accommodate you when you go in for an interview. You can address this by saying something along the lines of, “I use a wheelchair, so if we could meet in a room with a door wide enough to accommodate, that'd be great!”
Sometimes disclosing your disability before an interview, even if you don't need any accommodations, can help ease your anxiety. You never want to feel like you're hiding a secret, and sometimes just making this known upfront (after you secure an interview) may help.
Now, if you have a visible disability, this will be evident during a job interview. Under the ADA, employers should know not to ask you about your disability. If they do, however, you can explain you don't feel comfortable answering their question, or you can ask them why they're asking the question in the first place.
This could allow you to address any concerns they may have. Again, you're not legally required to answer any of their questions, so if you don't feel comfortable, simply say so.
Remember: No rule says you have to disclose your disability during the job-search process. In fact, you shouldn't feel any obligation whatsoever to include it on your resume or cover letter. From there, it's ultimately your decision. Once you weigh all your options, do whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
Want to ensure your resume is showing off your qualifications — and not your disability? Our professional resume writers can help!