People with disabilities are willing and able to work but often face barriers to employment. Despite legislation that protects people with disabilities from employment discrimination, many struggle to access the employment opportunities and fair wages they need for personal and financial growth. According to a 2015 report from the National Conference of State Legislators, only 20 percent of people with disabilities are in the workforce, compared with 69.1 percent of the non-disabled population. And many people with disabilities work for subminimum wages.
Legislative changes are on the horizon. In the meantime, people with disabilities are finding new opportunities for work in a changing economy.
These are some of the leading employment opportunities and resources for people with disabilities today.
State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies are the leading source of job-seeker services for people with disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation works with individuals to create individualized plans for employment (IPE) and assists with career counseling, skill training, job placement, and job coaching, among other services. Nonprofit Centers for Independent Living may also offer employment support. Find links to local CIL offices at ILRU.
The Ticket to Work program connects SSI and SSDI recipients to employment support through Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Networks. The Ticket to Work program is aimed at reducing reliance on cash benefits for beneficiaries who are interested and able to work.
Online resources allow many people with disabilities to find career guidance from the comfort of home. In addition to online education opportunities, individuals can find advice on getting started in various career fields, interviewing, professional development, and more.
Resume advice is especially valuable for inexperienced job-seekers. While the basics of writing a resume have stayed largely consistent over the years, expectations for resume appearance have changed dramatically. Online resume builders help job seekers create attractive, professional resumes that match the modern job market and make a strong first impression on potential employers.
People with significant disabilities benefit from supported employment. Supported employment programs provide job placement, ongoing skills training, and job coaching, and other vocational services to allow individuals with severe disabilities to find and maintain employment in integrated work environments. Supported employment grants are administered through Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and typically target people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, although people with serious mental illness can also receive services.
The growing prevalence of home-based jobs is a boon for people who have professional skills but face physical limitations that make traditional work environments difficult.
Some employers offer remote work to benefitted employees, but the greatest growth has been in companies that hire independent contractors for work such as bookkeeping, customer service, and web marketing. Contracting has its downsides — namely that 1099 positions lack employment benefits. However, the perks of flexible remote work outweigh the drawbacks for many.
There are several job boards that cater specifically to people with disabilities. These job boards feature employers who are specifically looking to increase representation of people with disabilities in their workforce.
Working for a company that recruits people with disabilities is beneficial for individuals worried about disclosing a disability in the workplace. When they work for an inclusive organization, employees with disabilities are more willing to request the accommodation they need to perform the job fully.
A disability shouldn’t stop anyone from finding purpose and financial security through work. Unfortunately, it often does. While people with disabilities continue to face challenges in employment, shifting legislation and increasingly flexible, inclusive workplaces suggest the tides are turning. With time and advocacy, disability in the workplace may become the norm instead of the exception.