Should You List your Disability on your Cover Letter or Resume?

Should You List your Disability on your Cover Letter or Resume?

by Roselle Pendergast, Head Editor, INALJ Minnesota


As a person who does not feel disabled despite being deafened in one ear and wearing a cochlear implant in the other, I’ve never listed my disability in the cover letter or on my resume. Regardless, I worry about ‘deceiving’ my interviewer by not saying something or making it clear that my disability does not inhibit me from performing my job to the fullest.  That got me thinking about the pros and cons for people with disabilities and resumes.

Monster Resume Expert, Kim Isaacs made a great point in her article, Should You Disclose a Disability on Your Resume?, “[the] first thing job seekers need to ask themselves is, ‘Can I do the job?’ […] If the answer is yes and the disability doesn’t affect job performance then don’t mention it.”

She listed three top reasons why you should avoid disclosing a disability:

  • Fewer interview invitations: Not securing an interview is one of the major potential pitfalls of revealing a disability on a resume.

  • A reason to eliminate you: Your resume is a marketing document. Show that you have the requirements the employer is seeking, and eliminate anything that might move you to the ‘reject pile’, whether that’s typos, coffee stains on your document or having a disability.

  • The law is on your side: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you don’t have to say anything.

Isaacs does go on to say “[people] with visible disabilities (e.g., noticeable impairments to speech, hearing, sight or mobility) might want to disclose the disability so there are no surprises at the interview”.  Another person disagreed entirely and strongly urges to let your resume do the talking in order to get you in the door. “[If] the disability is visible, put their minds at ease early on in the process, assuring employers that you have the skills to do the job”.

My personal advice is to use your best judgment.  How much does your ability affect your everyday life?  What accommodations would you require in order to perform your job to the fullest?  Having answers to those questions will make your decision much easier.  Like I said, I leave out my disability on my cover letters and resume BUT I do make it clear when communicating with my potential employer via email that I have a difficulty understanding people on the phone.  I often offer other solutions for different modes of communication if not face-to-face.

Your disability doesn’t need to be on the cover letter or resume but when communications open up between you and your potential employer while wrangling a date for an interview, make a casual mention about your disability so your interviewer is not caught by a surprise.  I think of it as polite courtesy.


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


  3 comments for “Should You List your Disability on your Cover Letter or Resume?

  1. Holly
    December 9, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I have a visual impairment and wear a cochlear implant (soon to be two) also. I think it is good to let interviewers know the best way to communicate effectively, especially if it is via phone or a large group of people.

    Having a disability can be an asset. It makes people consider new methods for information access and can lead to new, innovative technologies.

  2. December 6, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Like you, I don’t disclose my disabilities in my cover letter/resume (though my resume does mention ASL). However, I always open with a brief explanation when doing a first-round interview, followed by an invitation for questions from the committee if they’ve never used interpreters before. I feel that being open and honest about this has two pluses – I feel better or more confident about myself, and the committee members may be more likely to view me in a positive way because of my openness and honesty. Very, very rarely have questions been asked about my ability to do any part of the job, thank goodness.

  3. Jeannine
    December 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

    While I don’t have a “visible” disability, I feel as though some employers make the assumption that everyone has a driver’s license and they are (medically) cleared to drive. While I receive ongoing treatment for my “disability”, I still believe some employers wouldn’t be too eager to hire someone with my disability. All I will say on the matter is that, while University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill was still hired by the University knowing that he has epilepsy, I don’t know if other employers (still) would be receptive to hiring someone with such a disability (I think the fact that, while the Twin Cities Metro Area has a better public transportation system than a lot of other metro areas, I don’t drive has been a hindrance to my finding employment, especially in librarianship, and even in library positions where there isn’t a travel requirement).

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