As a person with a disability, you may think your job options are limited. However, with a little research and the use of assistive technology, opportunities appear all around you.
Nearly 80% of people with disabilities in the United States are not currently in the workforce. While there may be many personal and social barriers to your employment, there are several laws which ensure your right to work and prohibit discrimination based on your disability.
Benefits of Employment
- Increase income
- Contribute to your community
- Build relationships and friendships
- Feel accomplished
- Build skills
Choosing a Job
You may be wondering what type of job you should apply for. There are several steps you can take to decide what work environment is best suited to you.
- Step 1
List your skills. Your immediate thought may be skills from previous employment or educational experiences, but make sure you also include your transferable skills. These can be any skills or abilities you have in your regular daily life. List everything you excel at to get a complete picture of your skills. According to the Journal of Social Issues, it is not your disability that determines your employment, but your abilities1.
According to the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, your educational level can be a predictor for employment. A higher level of education achieved by yourself, along with a higher educational level achieved by your parents, is positively associated with employment2.
- Step 2
Identify your interests. What do you enjoy? Do you love animals? Try looking for a job at a nearby pet store, zoo, veterinarian’s office, or animal shelter. Do you love art? Try looking at a nearby museum or studio. Wherever your interests lie, there is likely a related job in your area. Your goal should be to find a position that enables you to focus on your interests, strengths, and attitudes3.
While you may think your options are limited, according to the Journal of Social Issues, factors of training, experience, personality, temperament, and other the other elements that make up the individual account for your success on the job1. This allows you to compete fairly with all other job applicants.
- Step 3
Think about when, where, and with whom you would like to work. Would you rather work in a group or individually? Would you rather work during the morning or evening? Would you rather work in walking distance from your home or somewhere with a commute? These are all important questions to consider.
- Step 4
Use your answers from the previous steps to locate job opportunities you might be interested and gather information on the positions. You can get help thinking of job ideas from family members or friends. These individuals can also help gather information and support you in your job search.
You can also use informational interviews to gain information about jobs. This involves asking people who are currently in a job field to provide information about the types of jobs available and skills necessary to get a job in the field.
If you need help finding and maintaining employment, you can hire an employment guide to assist in the process. This individual provides support, coaching, and mentorship to help you focus on your abilities, overcome limitations, and achieve your employment goals.
Don’t let your inability to drive or walk long distances stop you from getting the job you want. There are many options for transportation that you can take advantage of. If you live near a city, a public transportation system may be available to you. There may also be paratransit or private driver services you can use. If you live with or near a family member or friend, they may be willing to give you rides to your new job. Co-workers living nearby may also be willing to carpool to work.
Your new job may have a training system that doesn’t benefit you. In this situation, assistive and adaptive technology can be used to improve your experience. This can include any equipment or system that increases or improves your understanding and ability in the workplace.
Low technology assistive equipment can be as simple as providing a picture task board rather than a written list, or providing a digital watch rather than an analog one. High technology assistive equipment can include a digital device to record tasks, or a standing wheelchair to increase your reaching ability.
Throughout this process, you may come across personal barriers and obstacles. According to the Independent Living Journal, obstacles are an opportunity for seeking solutions and learning 3. In finding solutions and learning from obstacles, you will reinforce the belief in your own ability to succeed.
According to the Independent Living Journal, obstacles, barriers, rejections, missed opportunities, and mistakes are part of every job search and a part of life3. But these negatives must be faced and overcome in order to expand as an individual and experience true success.
If you’re interested in finding fulfilling employment, don’t let disability stop you from achieving your employment goals.
1Rusk, H., & Taylor, E. (2010). Employment for the disabled. Journal of Social Issues, 4(4), 101-106.
2Achterberg, T., Wind, H., de Boer, A., & Frings-Dresen, M. (2009). Factors that promote or hinder young disabled people in work participation: A systematic review. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 19(2), 129-141.
3Anthony, G. (1993). Opening doors to employment. Independent Living, 8(5), 19.