A Career and Employment Guide for Adults with Speech Disabilities

FT Contributor
An image of a woman gesturing sign language for the word "help" with the word written behind her in chalk.

Adults with speech-related disabilities face a unique set of challenges when pursuing a career or seeking employment. With the right approach, job seekers with speaking, communication, or language comprehension issues can overcome these barriers and obstacles that they may encounter. While people with speaking limitations can develop skills and coping strategies to succeed in any career, they can also pursue positions that are ideal for people with speech problems, because they do not present significant barriers or challenges.

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What You Should Know About Jobs for People with Speech Problems

Adults with speech and language disabilities may feel limited in their employment options and may sometimes face exclusion, discrimination, and isolation once they begin a job

Job choice can play a crucial role in overcoming these obstacles. Certain jobs won’t require as much spoken communication as other professions, and in some careers, employers can more easily provide accommodations for people with speech impediments. In such positions, the impact of a speech disability is not severe, and communication problems may not be a challenge to career advancement.

Every employee with a speech disability has a unique set of needs. Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict how employers and coworkers will respond to someone with a disability. Aside from choosing a job or career with limited barriers, you also need to understand what rights you have as a worker with a disability. Finally, you need to consider how to approach the job search.

Luckily, people with speech impairments are not alone in this challenge. More than 20 million employment-age Americans have at least one disability. Because of this, there are strategies and approaches for finding employment, undertaking professional development, handling the interview process, and limiting the impact that your disability has on your career.

ADA Accommodations for Individuals With Speech and Language Impairments

All disabled job seekers need to understand their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA guarantees rights for individuals with disabilities in all parts of public life. Title 1 of the ADA focuses on employment. Title 1 says that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities so that they can perform their job. Also, companies cannot discriminate during hiring, on the job, or when it comes to career advancement opportunities and benefits. You can get information about the ADA from the U.S. Department of Justice website. The DoJ also provides information about filing a claim if you feel that you have suffered discrimination during your job search or while on the job.

What Do Employers Have to Do and What Do You Have to Do?

To abide by the law, employers need to provide reasonable accommodations to people with speech disabilities so that they can perform their primary job functions. The rules are clear, but when and how to disclose a disability can be confusing.

The ADA says that employers cannot ask specific questions about disabilities during the hiring process. At the same time, however, they need to know about a disability to provide any special accommodations. Title 1 states that employers need to provide these accommodations for “known” disabilities. In other words, if you fail to notify your company, they do not have to provide special accommodations.

The point at which you disclose your disability depends on the accommodations that you need. If you need to use an alternate form of communication during your job interview, you need to communicate this to the employer before your interview appointment. If you do not need special accommodations at that time, you can wait until you get a job. After hiring, you can tell the human resources department or your supervisor about your needs. You should know that Title 1 covers interviews and hiring. A company cannot cancel an interview or rescind a job offer after learning of your disability

What Is a Reasonable Accommodation?

What exactly are “reasonable accommodations?” A reasonable accommodation could be a piece of equipment or process change (or any other support) that you need to perform the essential functions of your job.

A simplified example might be that a company has an established practice of data entry workers reporting problems orally to their supervisor. If your speech disability makes this challenging, your employer can change this policy for you to allow you to submit your report in writing. Another example in an office setting could be to enable you to make reports or presentations with a PowerPoint slideshow rather than speaking. In addition to changes to their processes and practices, the company would purchase any necessary software to allow you to do this.

Reasonable accommodations could extend to training and career development opportunities, and it could also include providing you with time off to attend speech therapy.

Reasonable Accommodations Are Not Specific Requests

When a company offers jobs for adults with disabilities, they need to provide accommodations, but they do not necessarily need to meet your specific requests. You can request changes or special support, but you may have to negotiate with the employer to define “reasonable accommodation.” The law requires them to provide support to help you perform essential job functions. This does not necessarily mean that they have to get the specific equipment or make the process changes that you request. They only need to satisfy the reasonable accommodations requirement.

When Title 1 Does Not Apply

Title 1 does not apply to companies with fewer than 15 employees, and any reasonable accommodations cannot cause “undue hardship” to the employer. This means that if they can prove that offering support to an employee with disabilities causes an excessive financial burden, they may not need to make changes required by Title 1.

Another thing to remember is that the ADA protections are for people who have the credentials, experience, and other assets for a job. Employers do not have to give people with speech disabilities special treatment, but they do have to treat them equally to other employees and job applicants. Therefore, the ADA does not guarantee employment.

Best Jobs For People With Speech and Language Impairments

Some career paths and jobs have fewer barriers for people with speech or language impairments. While you can pursue any career if you have the qualifications and understand your rights under the ADA, these careers are particularly accessible to people with speech and language impairments. Here are some examples of ideal types of jobs for people with speaking disabilities; unless otherwise noted, all statistical information came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Freight Stocker

  • Benefits: A freight stocker receives goods and places them in a warehouse or on retail shelves. This job does not necessarily require communicating with customers, even if you work for a retail store.
  • Average Salary: $24,158
  • Education and Skills Required: High school diploma and physical ability to lift items.
  • Outlook: The BLS categorizes stock jobs with order filling jobs. Overall, the demand for these positions is expected to rise in the coming decade.


  • Benefits: Accountants perform most of their tasks on a computer using accounting software such as QuickBooks. You work with numbers and financial data. Though you may need to communicate with clients, you may often do so in writing.
  • Average Salary: $70,000
  • Education and Skills Required: Varies. Most jobs require a bachelor’s degree in accounting, mathematical skills, knowledge of accounting software, and professional certification. Some bookkeeping positions require an associate’s degree.
  • Outlook: Accounting jobs are expected to grow slightly more than average (10%) in the coming years. There will likely be a demand for qualified accountants who have a bachelor’s degree.

Food Preparation

  • Benefits: Food preparation jobs involve working under chefs or cooks. While you need to take direction in this job, you usually do not need to speak often. Also, food prep professionals can advance to cook, chef, or catering positions after gaining job experience.
  • Average Salary: $23,730
  • Education and Skills Required: Entry-level food prep workers need a high school diploma, and they learn their trade through on-the-job training. You can also pursue an education at a culinary school for career advancement.
  • Outlook: The BLS expects demand for food prep specialists to grow as fast as average (about 8% growth per year). Turnover is high in this industry, so employers are often seeking new employees.


  • Benefits: You can work in an outdoor environment with a limited need to speak. You can also gain experience for related careers such as horticulture or landscape design.
  • Average Salary: $26,601
  • Education and Skills Required: You need a high school diploma and the physical ability to perform manual labor outdoors. Most employers provide on-the-job training, but you may need safety training if you apply pesticides or certain fertilizers.
  • Outlook: Overall, the demand for ground maintenance workers should increase by 11%, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Data Entry

  • Benefits: This career focuses on computer work, making it a great potential job for people with disabilities related to speech. You may be able to work from a remote location, and you often communicate with employers and other team members via email or chat applications.
  • Average Salary: $31,585
  • Education and Skills Required: A high school diploma and computer skills are sufficient for entry-level jobs, though you can also pursue a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree for specialized positions that involve medical, financial, or legal data.
  • Outlook: Overall, data entry job demand is expected to fall in the coming decade, though the BLS predicts a rise in demand for specialized data jobs in healthcare.

Software Developer

  • Benefits: Software developers work with computer code, and they use documentation methods and project management software to track progress and communicate with team members. These processes and practices limit the need for spoken communication.
  • Average Salary: $105,000 or $50 per hour
  • Education and Skills Required: A degree in computer science or equivalent experience.
  • Outlook: Demand for software developers may increase by as much as 25% in the coming decade.

Job Search Tips

  • Choose jobs for which you are qualified. You want to approach your job search from a place of confidence. You can get this assuredness from education or experience or because you have a real interest in or passion for a certain type of work.
  • Research companies. During a job search, it is best to explore all opportunities and avenues. However, you may want to focus on companies that have a positive work culture. Some may even have a track record of providing jobs for people with disabilities. Look for online employment reviews and check out the company site. Is the company inclusive? Do they have a statement about non-discrimination? Answers to these questions can offer some clues about a company’s approach to giving jobs to disabled adults.
  • Interact with the company and employees on social media. Social media provides a more informal setting for interacting with a company or employees. You do not need to ask specific questions about accommodations for people with speaking difficulties to get a feel for the company culture.

Resume and Interview Tips

On your resume, focus on experience, education, skills, and other qualifications that would make you an asset to the employer. Concentrating on your most marketable attributes can help you approach interviews from a place of confidence. During the meeting, focus on the same qualifications and assets.

If you have severe speech or communication impediments, you may need to disclose them before your interview so that the interviewer can make reasonable accommodations as required by the ADA. If you have to do this, you should still spend the interview focusing on your skills and qualifications instead of your disability.

You should understand that you do not disqualify yourself from requesting reasonable accommodations later if you do not disclose your disability during the interview process.

Organizations For People With Speech and Language Impairments

Different organizations provide resources for people with speech and language impairments.

General Organizations:

For Job Seekers:

  • Job Accommodation Network provides resources and advice for job seekers with a wide range of disabilities, including speech and language impairments.

If you have knowledge of your rights and an understanding of how to communicate your needs with your employer, a speech or language disability does not have to be a barrier to employment or career advancement.

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