Disclosing Disability on a Resume
In the modern workforce, there are anti-discrimination laws and codes to support jobseekers during recruitment processes to ensure their applications are assessed fairly on the grounds of professional capability. These policies are in place to ensure equal opportunity to any person seeking work.
Even so, according to the 2018 Australian Bureau of Statistics census data, only 53.4 per cent of people living with a disability were employed in the labour force compared with 84.1 per cent of people without a disability. Furthermore, 45.2 per cent of people with disability as part of this census data reported experiences of discrimination or unfair treatment in relation to their disability.
Statistics like these can make people with disabilities rightly concerned about how they may or may not disclose details of their disability during the recruitment process.
In light of this, do you need to disclose that you have a disability on your resume?
There are a lot of arguments for and against this practice concerning discriminatory factors, though it is important to note that you are not legally required to disclose any information regarding a disability on a resume.
It ultimately is a personal preference with what you, as a candidate and potential employee, feel comfortable disclosing during the recruitment process. You might decide not to disclose your disability until the interview stage where you can provide further context to your circumstances.
What might be a reason to disclose
Perhaps you have a visual or hearing impairment that requires some basic assistive technologies for support, or maybe a physical disability that makes moving between office spaces more difficult. Depending on the severity of your disability, you might not need to disclose that you have a disability.
However, if your disability has the potential to impact how you might go about managing daily responsibilities – such as drafting reports with dyslexia, fielding over-the-phone enquiries with a hearing impairment, or operating heavy machinery with muscular dystrophy – it may be in your best interests to prepare in advance to determine when and how you might disclose your disability.
When you might disclose
There are several opportunities you could take to disclose a disability, and your choice may well be dependent on how confident you are in the company’s diversity and inclusivity policies, the severity of your disability, or your overall comfort in disclosing such information.
Before you disclose anything however, it is important to know what your rights are. The Australian Human Rights Commission has summary guides on legislation, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and your rights for employment opportunities, which you can view here but you can also access the act itself through the Federal Register of Legislation.
1. On Your Resume
It is not typically a ‘standard procedure’ to disclose your disability during this phase, with the exception that you may have a disability that would directly impact how you might work with the business. In this case, disclosing your disability on your resume needs to be in direct correlation to the role you are applying for.
When disclosing your disability at this stage, you should highlight any existing solutions or tools you use to work effectively to abate any immediate concerns about your ability to perform your duties just as anyone else might.
Perhaps your disability has provided you with new ways of working, or a creative process for solving problems and achieving outcomes. If you have had success in the past where your disability has been an asset, you could loosely frame it within your resume under responsibilities and achievements where appropriate.
2. During the Application Process
If you are applying for a job with the Australian Public Service (APS), you may see sections in the application form to disclose a disability. Again, you are not legally required to disclose that information unless you feel it might impact your approach to the role.
If you are unsure if you should disclose at this stage, you should consider if you would require reasonable adjustments – which by law, businesses are required to provide – during future recruitment phases to support you through the process.
The Australian Network on Disability has a range of resources to provide support regarding what reasonable adjustments are, including factsheets on support information and funding opportunities through JobAccess which can be viewed here.
3. During the interview process
If you proceed to the interview stage and feel it is appropriate, you have the benefit of some time to prepare how you might disclose your disability.
Understanding your rights as an employee is vital and researching relevant legislation or contacting support networks can support you in shaping a plan for communicating your disability at this stage.
If you will not require reasonable adjustments during the interview process itself, such as assistive tools for reading documents or access to the building, you can safely wait until you have secured the interview to disclose.
When disclosing at this stage, you should prepare to alleviate any concerns or obstacles that the recruiting panel might ask; address any reasonable adjustments you might need for daily work; and discuss the business’ disability policies and culture.
4. When Offered the Position
If you have progressed to this stage and have not disclosed your disability, now is the opportune time to comfortably discuss and negotiate any outstanding matters before you commence in the new role.
When disclosing at this stage, you might outline what your disability is, why you are disclosing now, and how your disability will positively impact your work. You can also take this opportunity to discuss any reasonable adjustments you might need.
It is important however to make sure you disclose your disability to the right person, who will most likely be in human resources or a representative on an anti-discrimination or diversity and inclusivity committee.
You might also disclose a disability as part of a health questionnaire or health assessment if the position requires it as well.
5. Whilst Employed
It may be that while employed, you notice that some parts of your position may need reasonable adjustments or that changes in the workplace don’t account for people with disabilities.
In this case, as before, it is important to discuss your disability with an appropriate party to ensure that these discussions are handled professionally. You should also aim to keep these discussions as proactive and positive as possible, looking at areas to improve or create more welcoming cultures as opposed to highlighting problems.
The main reason you might disclose at this stage should be to alert leadership teams about potential issues for employees with disabilities with the goal of improving outcomes for the business overall whilst supporting personnel.
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