Employment Resources for Individuals with Learning Disabilities

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, 1.7% of the United States population reports having a learning disability, which equates to about 4.6 million Americans. A learning disability may be referred to as a “specific learning disability

(SLD),” which is a disorder in one or more psychological processes that makes it hard for a person to understand spoken or written language. It may also commonly be referred to as a “specific learning disorder,” which offers a broader definition.

A specific learning disorder is defined as a learning disorder that makes reading, writing, mathematical reasoning, and arithmetic difficult for a person. It can be identified when a student in formal schooling can’t provide clear verbal or written responses to questions or can’t remember facts that were provided.

While learning disabilities are usually diagnosed when a child or young adult is attending formal schooling, these disabilities don’t simply go away upon graduation. A person with learning disabilities must eventually obtain employment when he or she becomes independent.

There are many jobs for people with learning disabilities. About 46% of adults with learning disabilities who are able to work are employed. There is a popular misconception that the jobs available for disabled people are limited by industry, profession, and skill level. However, there are many job opportunities in numerous fields available to adults with learning disabilities. No matter the type of learning disability, a disabled adult can find a job and an employer willing to provide reasonable accommodations so he or she can perform the job properly.

If you’re an adult with learning disabilities or have a loved one looking for suitable employment, it’s important to know more about the reasonable accommodations employers are required to offer disabled employees. Review the information provided below to find out more about careers for adults with learning disabilities and helpful resources.

Workplace Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or potential employees who have mental or physical disabilities. You are covered under the ADA if you have a substantial impairment that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity, such as:

  • Seeing.
  • Hearing.
  • Speaking.
  • Caring for yourself.
  • Learning.
  • Working.
  • Breathing.
  • Walking.
  • Performing manual tasks.

You can request reasonable accommodations from an employer or potential employer if you need them in order to complete the job screening process or perform your job tasks adequately. You’re not required to make a formal request and you can ask for a reasonable accommodation at any time during the job application process or during your employment. If there are changes to your work environment, job tasks, or disability status and severity, you can request your employer to reasonably accommodate you so you can continue performing your job. You may need to request that you:

  • Be assigned to a different vacant position.
  • Modify your work schedule.
  • Have your job restructured.
  • Use the services of a reader or interpreter.

An employer can only refuse your request if it would cause significant difficulty or expense to the company. For example, if you are asked to attend a job interview, you may request that the employer allow you to write down your answers, or provide you with significant time to respond to the interview questions.

Imagine you’re an employee with a learning disability and your job tasks have been broadened to include cashier responsibilities. You can make a reasonable accommodation request to your employer that a calculator is provided to you during your shift. Since your request doesn’t cause undue stress to your employer and is needed to perform your job, it should be easily granted.

Best Jobs for Individuals With Learning Disorders

Job opportunities for adults with learning disabilities are expansive and encompass many different industries. When analyzing an employment opportunity, it’s important to ensure you feel comfortable performing the job tasks that will be required of you. Consider the reasonable accommodations an employer may be willing to provide when choosing whether a position suits your skill level and abilities. Here are some of the best jobs for people with learning disabilities, including details on salary and growth outlook.

Culinary Arts

  • Benefits: With a job as a restaurant cook, baker, or chef, you can use your culinary creativity. Jobs in the culinary arts field allow you to hone your craft and develop a routine you can repeat each day. With many different tasks available in the kitchen, your responsibilities can easily be altered if needed.
  • Average Salary: Restaurant cooks earn an average of $27,580, bakers earn about $28,660 annually, and chefs or head cooks generally earn an annual salary of $52,160.
  • Education and Skills Required: Most restaurants don’t require you to obtain a college degree, but some may ask for a high school diploma. There are many entry-level positions that require no experience, but you must show you have kitchen experience to obtain a cook or head chef position.
  • Outlook: With restaurants abound, there are usually openings for entry-level positions in the kitchen. The growth outlook for head chef positions is expected to grow faster than average at 10%.

Design & Photography

  • Benefits: In a graphic design or photography position, you can use your creativity to take photos at special occasions or design fliers, websites, logos, and more. You may be working on different projects with different specifications.
  • Average Salary: Photographers earn a median salary of $34,000 while graphic designers generally earn $50,370
  • Education and Skills Required: You’re typically required to at least have a high school diploma to be hired as a photographer. In some cases, you may also be required to have experience in photography or a portfolio. To be hired as a graphic designer, you are generally required to have a bachelor’s degree in design. You may also need experience working with certain computer programs.
  • Outlook: The outlook for growth in the photography field is declining by 6% while the need for graphic designers is slowly increasing at 4%.

Entrepreneur

  • Benefits: As an entrepreneur, you establish your own business. In this field, you’re your own employer and can run your business how you see fit.
  • Average Salary: Your average salary as an entrepreneur depends on the field you enter. After becoming established, an entrepreneur generally earns between $58,000 and $68,000.
  • Education and Skills Required: Since you’re your own boss, there are no specific education and skill requirements to become an entrepreneur. However, to be successful, you must be able to offer a product or service that consumers want.
  • Outlook: The growth outlook you may experience as an entrepreneur depends on the field you enter and the need for your product or service. Entrepreneurship is generally growing at a rate of 7.9%.

Vocational Counselor

  • Benefits: A vocational counselor assists students or unemployed individuals with career choices and paths. With a learning disability, you can assist other disabled persons in learning more about job opportunities that suit them.
  • Average Salary: $56,310 per year.
  • Education and Skills Required: To become a career counselor, you generally need to earn your master’s degree in vocational counseling. However, there are usually no additional skills required to begin counseling.
  • Outlook: The vocational counseling field is growing at 13%, which is faster than average.

Job Search Tips for Individuals with Learning Disabilities

The job search itself requires focus and motivation. It’s important to thoroughly understand the job searching and application process and to dedicate time and work to find the right position for you. When you begin to look for a career, you will need to:

  • Identify Your Job Interests. Analyze your interests and what you enjoy doing or learning about. Create a list of your hobbies and the subjects that interest you and take your time to research jobs that involve the things you enjoy.
  • Identify Your Abilities. Not only is it important to understand your interests, but you should also identify what you’re good at doing. Make a list of what comes naturally to you or the skills you’ve mastered. Also, write down how you’ve developed your specific skills and why you think your traits and abilities would be useful to an employer.
  • Market Your Abilities. Now that you’ve identified your interests and abilities, develop a strategy to market these abilities. While employers are looking for job candidates that have skills, they’ll never understand your abilities if you’re not able to explain them adequately. Before attempting to apply to jobs that interest you, video yourself talking about your abilities, skills, and interests. Watch the video to better understand which skills you explain well and how you can improve when marketing yourself.

Interview and Resume Tips for Individuals with Learning Disabilities

A job interview can be intimidating and stressful, so it’s important to feel prepared and know what to expect. You can practice job interviews with friends or family members who can offer you feedback on your answers and how well you’re marketing your abilities and displaying confidence. By performing several mock job interviews, you’re more likely to feel prepared and confident when you’re face-to-face with a potential employer.

It’s also important to do your research on proper job interview etiquette, as well as the company, before attending a job interview. Dress properly for the job you’re interviewing for and make sure you give yourself enough time so you won’t be late for the interview. Know an overview of the history of the company, the services or products it provides, and the job requirements and description before attending the interview.

Most interviews end with the interviewer asking if you have any questions about the position or company. Through your research on the potential employer, prepare one or two questions you can ask to learn more about the work environment or company culture.

If you feel you’ll need reasonable accommodations for your disability during the interview, you should disclose this information before attending. If you don’t need accommodations, you are not required to disclose your disability. However, if you feel you’ll need accommodations to perform your job, you should provide information on your disability and the accommodations you may need.

Organizations for Individuals with Learning Disabilities

  • Learning Disabilities Association of America. Offers insight on workplace issues and your rights, post-secondary educational options, and mental health issues.
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Provides information on academic programs and professionals who can assist with language and speech.
  • The Advocacy Institute. Focuses on developing products and providing services and assistance to help improve the lives of disabled individuals.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities. Empowers adults and children with learning disabilities by providing information and resources, while advocating for legislation in schools and the workplace.
  • Job Accommodation Network. Assists with inquiries about work accommodation rights and guidelines.
  • ABILITYJobs. Includes a large job search network and resources for adults with disabilities, allowing them to connect with employers open to hiring disabled persons.
  • ADA National Network. Provides guidance on interpreting the ADA and better understanding your rights under this legislation.