Resume & Employment Guide for Persons with Disabilities

29 September
11 min read
Background Image

According to the Social Security Administration, there are more than 8 million disabled workers in the US alone. 

In addition to the usual challenges that workers face nowadays, disabled workers also have to deal with some unique hardships. Despite several legislations in place, disabled people still encounter discrimination, a lack of accommodations, and stereotyping in their professional lives. 

In turn, they may often feel unprepared to compete with other candidates and underqualified when it comes to applying for jobs. 

This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. With the right job-search resources, a well-crafted resume, and a strong cover letter, your application will help you stand out from other candidates and get a good chance at employment.  

To help you nail your resume and find all the right job-search resources for disabled persons, here’s what we’ll cover in this article: 

  • Resume Tips for Disabled Persons
  • Employment Resources for Disabled Job-Seekers
  • How to Deal With Workplace Discrimination

And more! Let’s dive in. 

Resume Tips for Disabled Persons 

Disability is an umbrella term that covers any mental or physical impairment, from chronic diseases to physical injuries to mental disorders. 

If you’re living with any disability, it’s normal to wonder whether your resume should mentiong the said disability, or if there are any best particular practices that it should follow. 

In this section, we’re going to give you our best tips on how to make a resume that stands out.

#1. Don’t Mention Your Disability

The first thing you should know is that you’re not legally obliged to mention your disability on your resume

At the start of your job hunt, your goal should be to stand out from other applicants and secure job interviews. So if your disability doesn't hinder your application in any way, there's no reason to disclose it on your resume. Not mentioning the disability ensures sure that the hiring manager isn’t subsciously biased against you as a candidate.

That said, we're not saying that you should lie about your disability - or anything else for that matter. Rather, you should choose the right time and place to talk about it. 

A good option is during your job interview. Once you know you have recruiters’ attention and interest, you should let them know about your disability and how it impacts your professional life. 

Alternatively, you can inform the hiring manager about your disability once you’ve scheduled the job interview - especially if you need certain accommodations (e.g. wheelchair accessibility).

#2. Explain Any Employment Gaps 

It often happens that disabled people have frequent or long employment gaps on their resumes.

Now, for recruiters, employment gaps often equal huge red flags most commonly relating to a candidate’s lack of dependability, professionalism, or work ethic. 

As such, you want to make sure you explain every employment gap recruiters may notice on your resume, so they don’t assume you’ll be an unreliable employee. 

Again, you don’t have to disclose your disability to explain your employment gaps if you don’t want to. Writing “illness and recovery” next to the dates of your employment gap is more than enough to show recruiters you had a valid reason not to be working. 

Alternatively, you can add a short description of what happened to you during the time and what you did to stay on track professionally, while not being at work. Here is how you’d go about that on your resume: 

Correct Example

09/2015 - 03/2017 

  • From October 2015 to January 2017 I was recovering from a back injury that required intense physiotherapy. During this time, I completed two online courses on on-site and off-site SEO and caught up with industry-related trends and readings. 

#3. Pay Attention to the Format

You may have all the right achievements and qualifications to make you the ideal candidate for the job and still miss out on recruiters’ attention due to poor resume formatting

Recruiters have limited time to review hundreds of resumes, and as such, they’re a lot more likely to read yours if it’s well formatted and easy to read.

If it’s a jumbled mess, though, they won’t even skim through it.

To make sure that’s the case, here are some resume layout elements you should pay attention to: 

  • Format. Out of all the resume formats out there, recruiters worldwide prefer the reverse-chronological format. It starts by listing your most recent work experience last and goes back in time from that point on. 
  • Font. Stick to fonts that won’t give recruiters an eyesore and that look good both on a computer screen and on paper. Think of Roboto, Ubuntu, and Overpass fonts as strong do-s and Comic Sans and Papyrus fonts as permanent don’t-s. 
  • Line spacing. Go for a 1.0-1.15 line space throughout the text. It will help you save space without making your resume look overcrowded. 
  • Bullets. You can use bullet points to sum up and organize important information in each section without it looking like a block of text. 
  • Length. The optimal resume length is one page. Recruiters are busy people who get thousands of resumes each month, so be respectful of their time and keep your resume within the recommended length. 

Unless specifically asked otherwise, always save your resume in PDF format. This way you can rest assured your fonts and layout will stay exactly as you intended it, no matter what device or OS recruiters use to view it. 

Want to avoid all the hassle of resume formatting and jump straight to filling in the contents? Pick one of our tried-and-tested resume templates for a gorgeous design and recruiter-friendly layout and save yourself time and effort. 

#4. Include All Essential Resume Sections

Once you get formatting out of the way, you can dive into the essentials of writing a resume. 

First and foremost, this means including these must-have sections for any resume: 

  • Contact information. In your contact information section, list your full name, a working phone number, a professional email address, and your location. You can optionally include your job title and links to your LinkedIn profile or professional website. 
  • Resume summary/objective. The resume summary comes right after the contact information and aims to grab recruiters’ interest from the get-go. It’s a 2 or 3-sentence-long summary of your career, including your years of experience, skills, qualifications, and 1-2 top achievements. Less experienced candidates (recent graduates or entry-level professionals), on the other hand, can use a resume objective, which should communicate your motivation for getting into a field, in addition to your skills and qualifications.  
  • Work experience. Arguably the most important part of your resume, the work experience section should reflect your achievements and responsibilities in your previous roles. For every work entry, make sure to include the title you held, the company name and location, the dates you were employed, and your accomplishments and responsibilities in bullet points. 
  • Education. Your education section should be brief and concise - especially if you have plenty of work experience to add to your resume. Make sure to include the program name and degree, the institution’s name, and the years attended. Optionally, you can include your CGPA and any Honors you received during your studies.  
  • Skills. The skills section is typically divided into soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills include communication skills, interpersonal skills, etc., whereas hard skills are job-specific (e.g. C++ for programmers, Adobe Illustrator for illustrators, etc.). Make sure to prioritize listing the skills that you’ll use for the job in a day-to-day setting, and if you have the extra space afterward, you can also list the less essential ones (e.g. soft skills).

#5. Highlight Your Qualifications 

Learning skills and getting qualified on the job is always an option, but showing that you’re already qualified for the position will give you a big competitive advantage compared to other applicants. 

So, go through the job description to see exactly what the requirements of the role are and highlight any qualifications you have that match them (e.g. software platforms, equipment knowledge, regulatory programs, etc). 

Here are the three sections you can best take advantage of to mention your qualifications: 

  • The skills section (under hard skills). 
  • The work experience section (you can mention, for example, how you acquired a specific qualification in bullet points under a past work entry). 
  • The resume summary (along with your key skills and 1-2 top achievements). 

And here's an example of how you can highlight your qualifications in your resume summary: 

Resume Summary Example
  • Responsible and dedicated office manager with 7+ years of experience. I have excellent interpersonal and computer skills and am highly proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. Selected and incorporated a new project management software in my last workplace that improved office productivity and helped us reach our department KPI-s 5 weeks faster.   

#6. Quantify Your Achievements

Claiming you've achieved something professionally is one thing; being able to back it up with numbers is another thing entirely. 

Quantifying your achievements can help recruiters put them into context and understand exactly how well you can drive results. 

An easy way to do this is to follow the Laszlo Bock formula, which goes like this: 

“Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z].”

Compare the two examples below and judge for yourself; which of the two candidates would you hire? 

Correct Example

Exceeded sales team KPI-s by 30%+ for 4 months straight by targeting customer expansion instead of customer acquisition. 

Wrong Example

Generated leads through cold-calling. 

If you ask us (and just about any hiring manager), #1 is the winner here!

#7. Take Advantage of Optional Resume Sections

If you've included all the essential resume sections and still have some space on your resume, you can add value by including some optional resume sections. 

These sections can help you stand out from other candidates with similar work experience and skills. 

Here are some optional sections you can pick from:

11 Employment Resources for Disabled Job-Seekers

We showed you exactly what you need to do to create the perfect resume. 

But that’s just one part of your job-search. You should also know how to take advantage of all the job-search resources at your disposal.

Below, you’ll find a list of the biggest job search resources for persons with disabilities (and not only):

  1. Centers for Independent Living - These facilities help people live independently and offer services such as job training and career coaching. 
  2. AbilityJobs - This is the largest job site for disabled workers. Every employer using this site is specifically looking for employees with disabilities, including prominent organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency, Deloitte, Amazon, and Wells Fargo.
  3. Disabled Person - This job board offers career opportunities in various industries, including accounting, architecture, marketing, and management. 
  4. Getting Hired - This is another job board with tens of thousands of available jobs from inclusive employers. Getting Hired also holds recruiting events and publishes guides on inclusivity-related topics.
  5. USA Jobs - USA Jobs is the federal government’s official job site. It allows you to search for competitive and non-competitive job opportunities. The latter can happen through the Schedule A program, which allows federal agencies to use their authority to hire disabled workers without requiring them to compete for the job. 
  6. Job Accommodation Network - The JAN provides free one-on-one expert consultations on job accommodation solutions, self-employment options, the ADA, etc. 
  7. Ticket to Work - Ticket to Work provides career development services to Social Security disability beneficiaries between the ages 18 to 64 and want to work, including counseling, training, and job placement. 
  8. AbilityOne - This federal agency generates work for people with disabilities; over 40,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities, including about 3,000 veterans, are employed through AbilityOne. 
  9. Veteran Readiness and Employment - The Department of Veterans’ Affairs offers employment and career building services, including job training, resume development, and career coaching. They can help you set up accommodations at your job as well.
  10. Workforce Recruitment Program - The Workforce Recruitment Program connects employers with college students and recent graduates who have disabilities and are ready to enter the workforce.
  11. National Collaborative on Workforce - This site provides a variety of helpful resources for people with disabilities who are new to the workforce. For example, the High Tech program helps disabled youth explore careers in math, science, and technology.

Dealing With Workplace Discrimination Against Disabilities

Although there are laws in place to protect disabled people from workplace discrimination, unfortunately, discrimination still happens from time to time. 

If you are discriminated against, it’s important to know your rights and how you can best deal with the situation at hand. 

Here is what you can do to tackle such cases: 

#1. Know Your Rights 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the most popular, but not the only piece of legislation protecting people with disabilities from discrimination and ensuring they get fair treatment. 

Let’s break down how some of the major laws regarding people with disabilities work and what they guarantee: 

  • ADA. The ADA protects people with disabilities from discrimination. Title I and Title II of the ADA deal with employment issues such as hiring practices, salaries, promotions, benefits, and firing practices. The ADA covers private businesses as well as state and government entities and requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to both employees and job seekers. 
  • Rehabilitation Act. The Rehabilitation Act covers federal government entities. Specifically, it prohibits private employers and organizations that receive over $10,000 annually through federal assistance from discriminating against qualified applicants with disabilities.  
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). With a general aim to provide training and career services to all job seekers, there are several parts of the WIOA that concern disabled persons specifically. For example, it requires US Job Centers to upkeep physical and programmatic accessibility for people with disabilities and provides pre-employment transition services for students with disabilities.
  • Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). The VEVRAA covers federal contracts and subcontracts of $100,000 and more. These contractors are legally required to provide equal access to employment activities to disabled veterans.

The laws outlined above are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, not all organizations are covered by the laws the EEOC enforces. 

Federal government entities, for example, are bound by these laws regardless of their size. Private businesses, on the other hand, as well as state and local government entities with less than 15 employees, are not legally required to follow all of them. 

#2. Understand Harassment and Protection from Retaliation 

Harassment in the workplace consists of any unwelcomed conduct, including offensive jokes, insults, the display of offensive objects or pictures, and physical assault or threats. 

Harassment becomes illegal when it creates a hostile work environment or an employee gets fired for refusing to put up with it. Acting against workers who try to utilize any given anti-discrimination law is also illegal - this is called protection from retaliation. 

Specifically, employers cannot act against employees for talking to a supervisor about workplace discrimination, for refusing to follow directions that would result in discrimination, for filing an employment discrimination complaint, or for assisting an EEOC investigation. 

#3. File an Employment Discrimination Complaint 

Filing an employment discrimination complaint might seem a bit confusing, especially if you’ve never done it before. 

This, however, should in no way be a reason not to exercise your rights. 

All you need to know is that the EEOC has divided its national jurisdiction into 15 districts, each with its own field office. To file an employment discrimination complaint, you should find and contact the EEOC field office with jurisdiction in your area. 

You should get all the information regarding the process, documents, and deadlines from the field office. 

#4. File a Lawsuit 

If the EEOC field office decides the complaint consists of an ADA violation on the employer's side, they can move forward with litigation. If they don't, you still have the right to sue them in civil court. 

The amount of money an employment lawyer can win you in such lawsuits depends on whether the employer is found to have violated the ADA before. The maximum penalty is $75,000 for the first offense and $150,000 for subsequent violations. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you still have some questions on the topic, check out our answers to the most frequently asked questions below:

Q — 

#1. Should I disclose my disability during the job application process and if so, when?

Although you are not legally obliged to disclose your disability, lying about it isn't the best option either. 

Instead, you should find the right moment to mention your disability. Usually, that's before or during your job interview.

Q — 

#2. Am I more likely to get hired if I have a disability?

Having a disability shouldn't make you more or less likely to get hired. 

The hiring process happens on a merit basis, which means the most qualified candidate gets offered the position. That is regardless of whether they have a disability or not.

Q — 

#3. Do I need a cover letter?

Yes, a cover letter is a must for every job you apply to.

Our guides on how to write a cover letter, the most beneficial cover letter tips, and the most common cover letter mistakes should help you craft a cover letter that’s on par with your resume. 

Key Takeaways

And that’s a wrap! We hope this article has given you the right tools to create a perfect resume and look for jobs that accommodate your disability in the best way possible. 

Before you start applying our tips in practice, here are the main points we covered: 

  • Disability is an umbrella term that covers any mental or physical impairment, from chronic diseases to physical injuries to mental disorders. 
  • You’re not legally obliged to mention your disability on your resume. If your disability isn't visible or if it doesn't hinder your application in any way, there's no reason to disclose it on your resume.
  • Make sure you explain every employment gap recruiters may notice on your resume so they don’t assume you’ll be an unreliable employee.
  • For a great resume, choose the right format (reverse chronological format), highlight your qualifications, and quantify your achievements. 
  • Include all the essential resume sections first and then add value by adding some of the optional ones. 
  • Some of the laws that protect people with disabilities are the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act.
  • To deal with workplace discrimination, you show be aware of the laws that protect you, you should understand what constitutes harassment, how you’re protected from retaliation, and how you can file an employment complaint or even a lawsuit.