Finding Your Career When You Have a Disability

We’ve talked a lot about why employers should hire people with disabilities, but we have yet to discuss the other side of the coin.  Job hunting with a disability can seem like an uphill battle. Despite what we want to believe about ourselves, we do have limitations.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t find a career that we love and be successful in the workforce. For someone getting ready to join the workforce, this can seem intimidating. This is especially true if they don’t know exactly what they want to do, or what they’re able to do. Where do you start?  What are the resources available to those with disabilities? 

The specifics are going to be different for everyone. Different careers have different job requirements and different disabilities need different accommodations. Hopefully this article can give you a start on your path to employment.

Deciding What You Want To Do

If you could wake up tomorrow and have any job, regardless of your disability, what would it be?  Take that dream, and research it. Figure out why that job appeals to you. What are the job requirements?  Is there anything that you are unable to do? What can you do?  

As an example, let’s say that if I could be anything in the world, I’d want to be a firefighter.  Why do I want to be a firefighter? I want to help save lives, and I like the adrenaline rush. Now, I’m in a wheelchair.  Fighting fires isn’t in the top ten of accessible professions. However, being dispatch can give a similar adrenaline rush. You’re still helping to save lives, and the job is accessible to someone with a disability such as myself.

Find Others Who Are Doing What You Want To Do

The beautiful thing about the age we live in is that information is at your fingertips.  Facebook has groups for everything, and they’re a great font of information. A lot of times I have found there are even groups centered around disability and whatever topic I’m looking for.

These groups are a fantastic place to ask questions and gain first-hand accounts of what a particular job is like.  If you’re eyeing a creative profession like art or writing, these groups are great sources of inspiration as well as a place to find collaborators.  These groups only work, however, if you are active in them. Being a lurker and just reading the posts is all well and good, but the more you get your name and face out there the more you’ll benefit from the group.

Get the Required Certification(s)

This doesn’t always mean college, and college isn’t for everyone.  Maybe you have to take an online class for a certification, or maybe you need to do an internship.  Whatever the case may be, this time can be good for determining if this was the right career choice and if it’s actually something you can and want to do.  This is a time where you will hopefully get a taste of what it is you will be doing once employed, as will it help you get a feel for what it all entails.

Utilize Any Special Services

Here in the US we have Vocational Rehabilitation, which is a government agency that helps people with disabilities get job training and job placement.  There might even be local groups that can offer financial help for education or personal care services while you are job hunting. If you’re planning on attending college, get in touch with the office of disability services as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, because these services are usually local and vary from place to place, it’s hard for us to give you specific resources.

Look for Disability-Friendly Employers

Now that you have your certification, whatever that may entail, it’s time to look for a job.  Looking for employers who have a good track record with people with disabilities is a good place to start. This definitely isn’t a necessity, but it’s good to have this in the back of your head while job hunting.  When you do your research on the company (which you should do, regardless of disability), see if you can find any indication that they are willing to make the accommodations you might ask for. Again, a great resource for this can be those Facebook groups.  If the group is big enough, there might be someone in it that’s had experience with said company in one form or another.

It’s important to note, though, that just because you can’t find anything online about them being accommodating does not mean they aren’t.  With any kind of reviews, people usually only speak up when something goes wrong or they have a negative experience.

Finding a career that you both enjoy and are able to do is difficult.  But, hopefully this article can help you not only determine what career is right for you, but one that is also accessible.  It will take time, and possibly some missteps, but given enough time you can find the job that’s right for you.

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