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.