Getting a job can be an intimidating process. There are a wide variety of disabilities that can impact an individual’s career opportunities, and many necessitate specific considerations and accommodations from employers. This can make finding work even more daunting.
In truth, everyone has certain requirements and expectations that employers must fulfill so that individuals can achieve professional growth. For those who are disabled, finding the perfect career means finding the one that accommodates their needs while giving them opportunities to advance.
Thankfully, there are resources to help those with disabilities find a job that works for them. Let’s take a look at employment among Americans with disabilities, as well as what you can do to find an employer who will accommodate your needs.
About 61 million Americans, or 25% of the U.S. population, have a disability that impacts their ability to take part in major life activities. Mobility issues are the most common type, with mental disabilities being the second most common.
Certain demographics are more likely to have a disability than others. Statistics show that:
Perhaps most relevant to employment, however, is the fact that the median income of people with disabilities ($21,572) is 70% of the national average for those without a disability diagnosis ($31,872). This discrepancy can be compounded by the costs of accommodations to complete day-to-day tasks, often leaving people with disabilities — and potentially their families — in tough financial situations.
This earnings discrepancy can be explained by taking a look at employment trends for Americans with disabilities. Despite the potential for growth in employment for people with disabilities due to advancing technology, employment growth for this demographic is very slow, and such individuals are substantially less likely to be employed than their peers without disabilities.
This problem is worse for minorities with disabilities. Among the population of people with disabilities, only 28.6% of African Americans and 38.6% of Hispanic Americans were employed in 2017. There are many resources available for people with disabilities who are seeking work, but these statistics indicate that there may be broad cultural issues to contend with in America when it comes to disability.
The ADA seeks to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities. Signed into law on July 26, 1990, the act prohibits private and public organizations from subjecting candidates and employees with disabilities to unfair treatment. There are five sections, or “titles,” in the ADA:
As Title I relates to employment rights, it’s important to take a close look at what rights it grants people with disabilities.
Title I requires that employers provide equal employment opportunities and reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
The act does not require an employer to provide accommodations that will cause undue financial or operational hardship on their business. If you have questions about specific accommodation requests, your local office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a great resource for preventing discrimination against employees with disabilities.
Note that, in order for an employee to receive accommodations, they must disclose their disability to the employer. First, remember that you do not have to disclose your disability if you do not want to receive accommodations. Weigh the benefits and costs of disclosing your disability. If you decide to not disclose, consider seeking out alternative resources (see below) for help.
Choosing to disclose a disability can be a sensitive topic, especially for qualified job applicants. A good rule of thumb is to disclose your disability if you believe it is (or will) affect your productivity at work. If you feel uncomfortable letting an employer know about it, do some research on the employer to determine how they’ve handled accommodation requests in the past.
Next, consider what specific accommodations you’ll need. When you disclose your disability, you should request a change that will help you take part in the job interview or perform your duties. For instance, if you use a wheelchair, the employer may be able to add wheelchair ramps or relocate an interview to an area on the first floor.
If you need help making the request or determining what kind of accommodation you require, know that you can ask your therapist or a mental health agency for assistance.
If you’re an adult with disabilities or special needs, finding a job might not be easy. For that reason, there are a number of resources and strategies to aid people with disabilities in finding a job that will work for them.
The nature of the job market has been transformed in the digital era. It can be difficult to navigate these changes, and doing so can be an even larger obstacle for people with disabilities. The following resources will help you through every step of the job-finding process:
Need some one-on-one guidance in your search? A mentor, peer support specialist, or coach can help you improve your skills and navigate the process of finding a job. Many can help you find a job that best suits your needs:
Where do your strengths lie? How about your weaknesses? Knowing your skills and limitations will help you understand which jobs are right or wrong for you. These guides can help you do so in an efficient and constructive manner:
After assessing your skills, search through job descriptions to find positions that match your strengths. Your greatest chances of success will be those opportunities that closely match your skillset.
There are different types of skills to consider. These include soft skills and hard or occupational skills. The former, also called foundational skills, include communicating effectively, innovative thinking, and professionalism. Occupational skills are often acquired through hands-on experience from schools, internships, or past jobs.
Of course, finding an ideal job opportunity is only the start. Refining your resume for each position is the best course of action. To maximize your chances of success, you’ll need to hone your resume before applying; be sure to optimize the skills section for best results.
These sites will help you create, update, and refine your resume:
Once you’ve grabbed the attention of recruiters, you’ll need to follow up with a strong interview. There are many job interview tips you should review, but be sure to also take a look at some specific tips for people with disabilities in order to be best prepared.
It’s no secret that people with disabilities often face prejudice. However, know that questions about your disability are not permitted under ADA regulations. If you believe your disability may lead the interviewer to believe that your job performance will be affected, you may choose to discuss it. Should you do so, confidently address your disability and be sure to name the accommodations you’ll need. Remember that you are advocating for yourself — a positive, can-do attitude can make all the difference.
Practicing your interview performance with a mentor or peer can help you refine your approach, ultimately improving your chances of snagging the job. Take some time to review common interview questions and be ready to answer them. If you’d like to find a mentor to practice with, take a look at the mentorship resources listed above.
As you’ve seen in some of the resources above, the government offers many resources to help people with disabilities find work, thanks to efforts by advocates and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Let’s take a look at some key government resources you should explore:
For young people with disabilities, being prepared for what comes after public education is key to early career success. Transitional programs provide vocational rehabilitation, occupational therapy, and other services to help those with disabilities smoothly transition into the work world. Some examples include:
There are many resources online to help job seekers with disabilities locate and apply for work. Employment agencies and job sites can help users connect with many different opportunities.
Employment agencies are services that can connect individuals with employers and vice versa. Many are dedicated to helping people with mental or physical disabilities find work. Employers may use such services to widen their potential talent pool and improve workplace diversity. Examples of employment agencies include:
There are many job sites on the web that can help connect qualified applicants with disabilities with employers looking to improve their workforce diversity. Some of these sites are targeted towards job seekers with disabilities, while others are designed for inclusive employers.
If you are a veteran, a student, or have a specific type of disability, you can access many resources to help you enhance your employability, locate job opportunities, and maintain your job. Check below to learn more about organizations that may be able to provide assistance to you.
In addition to the hardships associated with reacclimating to civilian life, veterans often face additional challenges with finding gainful employment as a result of disabilities after service. While the ADA’s Title I mandate should grant veterans with disabilities the same employment opportunities as those without, certain conditions can preclude a veteran from qualifying for some jobs.
There are many resources for veterans looking for work, and many organizations are interested in helping those with disabilities. Some of these can be found below:
Graduates often struggle to find work after earning their degree. While this can be dispiriting, there are many programs that provide assistance for college students and recent graduates with disabilities:
Among the most common disabilities, ADHD and ADD affect many job seekers. About 4.4% of U.S. adults are diagnosed with ADHD, and this statistic continues to grow. Around 40% of these cases are considered severe. While less evident due to the lack of hyperactivity, ADD has an impact on many individuals as well.
Both of these disorders can make it difficult to achieve success with certain work duties or environments. Both can have negative effects on work performance, resulting in discriminatory treatment, an inability to advance in one’s career, or termination. As a result, many individuals with these disorders are unable to maintain steady employment. The resources below seek to help such people:
Similarly, statistics are not promising for people with ASD. As noted by Autism Speaks (see below), up to 90% of people with autism are unemployed or underemployed. Almost half of 25-year-olds with autism have never had a paying job.
There is proof, however, that job duties that require or encourage autonomy can improve an individual’s ability to live independently. While people with autism may need support in regards to social expectations or episodes of decompression, they can advance their careers with the right employment opportunities and accommodations. This is why many companies are hiring adults with autism.
The following organizations aim to provide resources and tools to help people with ASD find career success:
People with cognitive disabilities, such as memory disorders, Parkinson’s disease, Down syndrome, or brain injuries, are less likely to find and retain work. When they do, they are often underemployed. Given that 10.8% of U.S. adults have a cognitive disability according to the CDC, this is a major problem that must be addressed.
Many employers do so by offering supported employment opportunities. In these positions, service provisions grant individuals with cognitive disabilities support in order to complete work duties. Accommodations may include limited work duties, fewer hours, and assistive technology, though hirees are paid wages, just as with competitive employment.
In order to find supported employment in your area, look up your state’s department of workforce development, health and welfare, or developmental services for more information.
The resources below offer information to assist people with cognitive disabilities in pursuing a fulfilling career:
About 14% of American adults ages 20 to 69 report some level of hearing loss, and this statistic worsens as people get older. In addition to having an impact on daily living, a hearing condition can inhibit work performance and limit job opportunities. Collaborating with coworkers and responding promptly to auditory cues can be problematic for people with hearing impairments.
Supportive employers are seeking out people with such impairments in order to embrace more diverse workforces. Some positions can be particularly fruitful for people with hearing impairments. Further, accommodations like assistive technology can help people who are deaf or hearing impaired perform work duties. To learn more about resources and job opportunities for people with deafness or hearing impairments, check out the following links:
One in 10 people have a learning disability. Having such a condition can have a dramatic impact on an individual’s employability. In addition to affecting an individual’s ability to perform job duties involving recalling, reading, communicating, and reasoning, there are many stigmas associated with learning disabilities that can lead to unfair treatment.
As a result, people with learning disabilities are too often under- or unemployed. While 71% of adults without a learning disability report being employed, only 46% of those with learning disabilities are employed. Of those employed, only 5% have workplace accommodations.
On a positive note, many employers looking for a more neurodiverse workforce are seeking out candidates with learning disabilities. Furthermore, there are many jobs suited to people with specific conditions of this type. More information on resources for job seekers with learning disabilities can be found at these sites:
According to the CDC, physical mobility impairments are the most common type of disability, impacting 13.7% of American adults. Such disabilities can impact work performance or limit job opportunities.
Depending on the specific disability, individuals with mobile impairments may be unable to perform specific work duties. Workplaces with insufficient accessibility in terms of design may also present obstacles to people who use assistive technology, such as wheelchairs.
Universal design has fortunately become standard in the modern workplace, but many employers still do not design workspaces with accessibility in mind. Some companies have begun to embrace flexible work options, such as flexible hours and remote work opportunities, to alleviate some of these concerns. These sites provide more information for employees and job seekers with mobility impairments:
Mental illness impacts the lives of almost 20% of the U.S. population, with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder being the most common conditions. Mental illness and psychiatric disabilities can make it hard to find and keep a job. Negative stereotypes surrounding mental illness can lead to unfair treatment, necessitating protection against discrimination.
This often results in people with such disabilities experiencing homelessness and worsened mental health. With these dire consequences, it’s clear that assistance must be offered to people who have been diagnosed with such conditions. Further, workplace accommodations may be made to improve career outcomes. The following resources provide information and tools for job seekers with mental illness or psychiatric disabilities:
About 7.5 million people in America have speech or language impairments. Some of the most common conditions are apraxia of speech, stuttering, lisping, dysarthria, and mutism. These disabilities can impact an individual’s ability to communicate in the workplace, impairing their ability to perform specific tasks or exposing them to unfair treatment.
Certain careers are conducive to success for people with speech and language impairments. Assistive technology can also improve work productivity for people with such conditions. The following organizations provide more information about job opportunities and accommodations for people with these impairments:
About 2.4% of U.S. adults have a visual impairment, a number that is expected to double over the next 30 years. Visual impairments or blindness can preclude individuals from performing certain tasks at work, and they can present challenges when it comes to nonverbal communication or visual cues.
Accommodations like modified training, accessible web design, guide dogs, and assistive technology can help. With accommodations, individuals with visual disabilities can be just as productive as their nondisabled counterparts. Further, there are resources to help people with such conditions find and maintain work. Here are some useful sources of information: