Should You Disclose A Disability On Your Resume?
After graduating from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer and Information Science, Julian was eager to land a job as a software engineer in one of the big tech companies in Silicon Valley. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree was no mean feat for Julian, who had been diagnosed with dyslexia from an early age.
With the same determination that had driven him through school, Julian started sending out dozens of applications to companies he was interested in working for.
Being an honest guy, Julian made sure to mention his condition in his resume and cover letter. Unfortunately, he never heard back from a single employer.
Still determined to get a job, Julian decided to change tact. He stopped disclosing his disability in his resume and cover letter, and funny enough, he started getting invitations to job interviews, and eventually managed to land his dream job.
This was proof that all along, Julian’s applications were getting dismissed based on nothing else but his disability.
U.S Census data shows that close to 57 million Americans, or just about one in every five Americans live with some kind of disability. On its own, this information is not really remarkable.
After all, disabilities are a normal part of life, and there are many people living with disabilities who have gone on to achieve notable things in life.
Here’s where things get surprising, however. Statistics show that the unemployment rate for people living with disabilities is way higher compared to the unemployment rate for able-bodied people. 60% of working age adults living with unemployment do not have a job, compared to just 21% of all working age adults.
Ordinarily, hunting for a job can be quite a challenging process.
However, the above statistics as well as Julian’s story show that job hunting is a lot more difficult for people living with disabilities.
On top of the normal challenges faced by every job seeker, job seekers with disabilities also have to contend with issues like discrimination due to their disability status.
Like Julian, many persons living with disabilities have discovered that their disabilities could be the reason they are not getting invites to job interviews, despite being qualified for the jobs they are applying for.
This has given rise to a very important question. As a person living with a disability, should you disclose your disability on your resume?
In this article, we are going to look at everything you need to know about disclosing your disability in your resume, including reasons for and against disclosure, when to disclose, and things to keep in mind should you decide to disclose.
REASONS WHY DISCLOSING YOUR DISABILITY MIGHT NOT BE A GOOD IDEA
Your disability status is a very personal issue, and sharing such personal information with strangers can be a daunting affair for most people.
On top of that, disclosing your disability status can also negatively affect your chances of getting the job. Below are some reasons why disclosing your disability status on your resume might not be a good idea.
Disclosing Could Result In Fewer Interview Invitations
Most of us would like to believe that we live in an ideal world where things like discrimination do not exist.
Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in, and as bad as it may sound, there is a chance that you might still get discriminated against on the basis of your disability, even in situations where your disability status has no bearing on your ability to do your job properly.
Like Julian, some employers might be wary about inviting you to job interviews owing to nothing else but your disability. This is because such employers might see a disability as a source of potential problems.
For instance, they might assume that having a disability means that they will have to make huge accommodations for you, which is a potential expense for them.
Others might assume that you will need lots of time off due to issues arising from your disability, thus making them reluctant to hire you.
Disclosing Could Distract The Employer From Your Qualifications
If you are applying for the job, I believe this is because you have the necessary qualifications and are confident that you can do the job.
You have already created a bullet-proof resume that sells your accomplishments and what you are potentially bringing to the table.
So far, your potential employer has already been sold on your skills and your ability to perform well in the role.
By choosing to disclose your disability status, you could actually distract the employer from your qualifications and have them wondering if your disability might compromise your ability to get your job done in any way.
Remember, the aim of your resume is to sell your skills and present yourself in the best possible light. Therefore, there is no point in including information that does not help increase your chances of getting the job.
If your disability does not affect your ability to do the job you are applying for, there is no need to disclose. In this case, not disclosing is not being dishonest. Instead, you are choosing not to share information that is not relevant to your application.
Think of it like mentioning your racial background in a job application. You never mention your race when applying for a job because it doesn’t affect your ability to get the job done.
Similarly, if your disability doesn’t affect your performance on the job, it is irrelevant to the application.
It Provides A Potential Reason For You To Be Eliminated
Sometimes, recruiters might throw a job candidate’s resume into the “reject” pile for the flimsiest reasons: a coffee stain on the document, a single typo, a resume design they do not like, and so on.
Disclosing your disability could give them another reason to discard your resume.
I know this amounts to discrimination and is totally wrong, but since you have no way of telling the actual reason why the recruiter chose to discard your resume, it is much better to eliminate all potential reasons that might get your resume discarded, and that means choosing not to disclose your disability.
You Might Find Sharing Such Information With Strangers Uncomfortable
This is more of a personal reason than a professional one, but it still holds water.
When sending out job applications, you are basically giving out your information to strangers, and there is no guarantee that you will get a chance to work with (or for) them.
Therefore, you might feel uncomfortable sharing your disability status with people you do not know.
After all, it is none of their business. In addition, you might feel that sharing your disability status on your resume is not the perfect way to get the other person to accurately understand your disability.
In this case, you might find it much better to wait and let them know about your disability in person during the job interview.
You Are Under No Obligation To Disclose
One of the reasons why a lot of people living with disabilities choose to disclose their disabilities is because they feel that they are obligated to do so; that not disclosing is wrong.
However, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you are under no obligation to disclose your disability in your resume.
In addition, this law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against you on the basis of your disability, provided you are qualified for the job.
REASONS WHY YOU MIGHT CONSIDER DISCLOSING
While there are several reasons why disclosing your disability might not be a good idea, this is not to say that disclosing is always the wrong decision.
There are a couple reasons why you might consider disclosing your disability in your resume. These include:
Some Employers Might Give Preference To People With Disabilities
In a bid to support diversity programs within their organizations, some employers might actually be keen to hire people who have disabilities.
In this case, disclosing your disability in your resume could tip the scales in your favor. A good way to know if an employer is keen on employing disabled persons is to look for the “two ticks” disability symbol on the job post (for those in the UK).
The symbol means that an employer is committed to hiring people with disabilities, and it gives you a guarantee that you will get invited to the job interview provided you met the requirements for the position.
If you apply for such a job and do not get invited to the interview, but you feel that you meet all the organization’s requirements for that position, it might be a good idea to follow up with the organization.
You Want To Describe Your Disability Positively
Sometimes, experiences resulting from your disability might have equipped with skills that could be useful in the position you are applying for.
For instance, you could be hearing impaired, but then your hearing impairment might have given you strong concentration skills.
If concentration skills are a key requirement in the position you are applying for, it might be a good idea to mention your hearing impairment and how it has equipped you with stellar concentration skills.
Ideally, if your disability has made you learn certain skills that increase your chances of getting your job, it might be wise to mention your disability and describe it in a positive light.
Some Application Forms Will Ask About Your Disability Status
Sometimes, an employer might have an application form that asks about personal information such as your health or disability.
In such cases, providing false information would amount to dishonesty. In such cases, it might be advisable to disclose your disability.
TO DISCLOSE OR NOT TO DISCLOSE?
From the above information, it is clear that disclosing your disability status in your resume has its advantages and disadvantages. So, should you disclose or not?
Before answering this question, you need to ask yourself another question – can I do the job? If you can do your job perfectly, despite your disability, and if the disability doesn’t affect your ability to do the job, disclosing adds no value to your application. In this case, do not disclose.
On the other hand, if the disability affects your ability to do the job, if the employer has asked about your disability status in the application form, or if you feel that disclosing your disability could give you an added advantage, you can go ahead and mention your disability in your resume.
If you are considering mentioning your disability in your resume, either because of the above reasons, or because of any other reasons, it is advisable to first research the company and find its stand towards people with disabilities.
Does the company have a record of providing support to people living with disabilities? Has it employed disabled people before? Do they have a company policy that supports diversity and equality for all persons? Has the company been involved in any activities that show support to people with disabilities?
You can find a lot of this information simply by going through the employer’s website and checking employee photos to see if there employees with disabilities in the photos, language that that acknowledges or welcomes people with disabilities, and so on.
HOW TO HANDLE EMPLOYMENT GAPS RELATED TO YOUR DISABILITY
Sometimes, you might have some gaps in your employment caused by something related to your disability. For instance, you might have taken several months off to get some treatment for your disability.
Keeping in mind that most employers do not like employees with huge employment gaps in the resume, how should you handle this?
If you have such employment gaps, I do not recommend mentioning that your disability was the reason behind the gaps.
If you have lots of gaps that you attribute to your disability, a potential employer might assume that you will need to regularly take long periods off work due to your disability, and this might make them reluctant to hire you. Instead of attributing the gaps to your disability, it is advisable to have fillers for these gaps.
You can use fillers such as furthering your education, volunteering, professional development, and so on.
WATCH OUT FOR UNINTENDED DISCLOSURE
It’s good to note that sometimes, you can easily disclose your disability status in your resume without meaning to do so.
For instance, it is common practice to include your personal and professional achievements in your resume in order to give yourself an edge over other candidates.
Some achievements, could unintentionally let your potential employer know about your disability.
For instance, if you won a gold medal in the Special Olympics, including this achievement in your resume would immediately tell the employer that you have a disability.
Therefore, you should be careful with the achievements and activities you choose to include in your resume.
Another reason why most people living with disabilities choose to mention their disability in their resumes is because they want to avoid surprises once they show up for the job interview, especially if the disability is visible.
But is this a good idea? Generally, it is advisable to keep your disability to yourself until you get an invitation to the job interview. Once you get to the interview, you can then address your disability early on to put the interviewers’ minds at ease, and give them the assurance that your disability is not an impediment to your ability to get your work done.
Sometimes, however, you might need some accommodations during the interview.
For instance, if you use a wheelchair, you might want the interview to be conducted in a space that is accessible to wheelchairs. If you have a hearing impairment, you might want a sign language interpreter at the interview.
So, in such instances, is it advisable to disclose your disability in your resume or cover letter?
Even in such cases, I would still advise that you keep your disability to yourself until you get invited to the job interview. During the pre-interview, you can then mention your disability and let them know about any special accommodations you might require during the interview.
This way, you will protect yourself from missing out on the job interview on the basis of your disability, while at the same ensuring that you actually get any accommodations you require once you get invited to the job interview.
If your disability is not visible, you can wait until you get the job offer before disclosing about your disability.
However, this is only necessary if you need some special accommodation in order to be able to perform your job.
If your disability is not visible, and if you can perform your job well without any special accommodations, then it is up to you to decide whether to disclose your disability or not.
If you disability is episodic, you have the option of disclosing the details of your disability after you get the job offer or after you have started working, or you can keep the information to yourself until the symptoms appear for the first time.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND IF YOU DECIDE TO DISCLOSE
If you decide to disclose your disability, either in your resume or during the pre-interview, there are some things that you should keep in mind to make the whole process smoother. These include:
Remember That The Decision Is Yours
Always keep in mind that the decision to disclose your disability or not ultimately lies with you. Do not feel like you are under any obligation to disclose your disability.
However, there are some exceptions to this, such as when a potential employer requires all applicants to fill in the details of their disability status in the application form, or when failure to disclose your disability could put you or your coworkers at risk.
Know What To Say And What To Leave Out
If you decide to disclose your disability, you don’t have to go into every detail. Simply provide the general information about your disability, briefly explain how your disability affects your ability to do the job, both positively and negatively, mention the types of accommodations you have been provided with in the past, and the types of accommodations you anticipate or would prefer. Don’t feel pressured to get into details about the cause of your disability.
Give Positive Examples Of How You Have Overcome Your Challenges
Remember, the purpose of your resume is to market yourself and sell your skills and qualifications.
Sometimes, however, mentioning your disability might lead to a negative perception about your ability to get your work done.
To avoid this, it is advisable to provide positive examples of situations where you have excelled, despite the challenges posed by your disability. This gives the prospective employer assurance that you won’t underperform as a result of your disability.
Talk About Skills You Have Gained As A Result Of Living With A Disability
Living with a disability might require you to gain some special skills, some of which are transferable to the workplace and can make you a better employee.
If you have any such skills, do not be afraid to mention them in your resume and show how these skills will allow you to perform better in the position you are applying for.
Prepare To Talk About Your Disability
Once you choose to disclose your disability in your resume, it is inevitable that once you are invited to the job interview, the interviewer will ask you about it.
Therefore, you should be prepared to answer any questions the interviewer might have about your disability.
For someone living with a disability, choosing whether or not to disclose your disability in your resume can be a difficult decision, especially considering that finding employment is a lot more difficult for people with disabilities.
Despite all the progress made in the world, cases of job candidates getting discriminated against on the basis of their disability are still rampant, and therefore, it is advisable to avoid disclosing your disability in your resume unless it is absolutely necessary that you do so.
However, if you decide to disclose, for whatever reason, you should simply acknowledge the issue and then focus on your ability to get the job done and what you are bringing to the table, despite your disability.
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