Employment for adults with disabilities provides more than just an income—it gives individuals the opportunity to grow skills, engage in socialization, and gain real-world experience in a safe environment. A job can also give people a sense of purpose, ultimately increasing their confidence and sense of self-worth.
The unfortunate truth is that society tends to underestimate individuals with disabilities. According to data from the 2022 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was about twice as high as the rate for people without disabilities. This may be due to a lack of information and resources for adults who are looking for a rewarding career, but do not know where to start.
In the midst of a job search? Keep reading to learn about the steps you may want to consider when looking for a career.
Step 1: Assess Your Skill Set
Everyone is different. Therefore, we all have differing strengths and abilities. The best place to start when looking for a job is to hone in on your skills and interests. Ask yourself these questions:
- What environment do you thrive in? For those who prefer organization and structure, careers in offices, foodservice, and grocery stores may be ideal.
- Do you prefer to work alone or with others? If you enjoy connecting with others, there are plenty of jobs that require ample social interaction. For example, store greeters, customer service representatives, and education assistants may be a great fit for you. For those who prefer to work alone, work-from-home job opportunities are becoming more prevalent than ever before. Remote jobs can be found in most industries, including writing, graphic design, web development, accounting, medical transcription, and more. Plus, thanks to new technology such as braille displays and voice commands, several of these jobs can be made accessible to people who have eyesight restraints or hearing loss.
- What areas are you particularly talented in? Perhaps you have a special skill, such as art or music. Artists around the world dedicate their lives to their talent—many of whom have disabilities. For example, despite living with autism and blindness, Kodi Lee is a famous singer and pianist, performing all around the globe. Douglas Jacksosn is a passionate painter who was born with cerebral palsy, but has been nationally recognized for his incredible works of art. But, talent doesn’t solely lie in the arts—other skills include working with numbers, cooking, typing, caring for animals, cleaning, and organizing. The possibilities are endless!
Step 2: Research
Once you establish your skills and interests, it’s time to research available jobs near you! This process can be overwhelming for everyone. Here are a few job training programs and resources to consider during your career search:
- Pathways of Wisconsin, Inc. partners with the Department of Workforce Development and Vocational Rehabilitation to facilitate positive collaborations between individuals with disabilities and employers.
- The National Telecommuting Institute, Inc. (N.T.I.) is a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities find remote jobs. Each year, 500 to 600 Americans with physical disabilities are placed as home-based call center agents in fields such as virtual customer service, technical support, survey work, quality-control monitoring, and business-to-business telemarketing.
- Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (D.V.R.) helps people with disabilities find a job, keep a job, or get a better job. They also help businesses recruit and retain employees, and are an important advocate for equity and employee rights in the workplace.
- USAJOBS lists thousands of job opportunities from hundreds of federal agencies. It helps individuals with disabilities connect with good job opportunities throughout the federal government, and offers information about the Schedule A Hiring Authority, which expedites the hiring process of individuals who have psychiatric, intellectual, or severe physical disabilities.
- Goodwill’s Supported Employment Program connects individuals with disabilities to employment opportunities and provides job coaching to ensure long-term success. Goodwill works with employers to create customized training programs and an inclusive environment.
- The Arc is dedicated to cultivating inclusive and sustainable work environments and is an advocate for hiring initiatives for individuals with disabilities. They audit workspaces, recruiting policies, social gatherings, and more to identify barriers in hiring candidates with disabilities.
Step 3: Know Your Rights
At Covey, a non-profit organization for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we are advocates for self-advocacy. In order to be a successful self-advocate, you must understand your rights and develop a plan to achieve the goals you desire.
We encourage all adults with disabilities to empower themselves and make their own decisions on employment. For more information on federal laws that protect employees with disabilities, read our blog entitled Disabilities in the Workplace: Know Your Employee Rights.
Covey: Creating Opportunities that Foster Personal Growth
Everyone deserves a career in which they feel safe, fulfilled, and respected.
Covey’s Community-Based Day Service Program works with individuals to establish goals and work toward achieving them. These goals can be related to gaining pre-requisite skills needed to become employment ready. Additionally, we offer many opportunities for volunteerism through our Community Engagement Program, where our participants are able to gain real-world work experience, develop social or technical skills, and maybe even spark a new passion for a potential career!
There’s nothing we love more than watching our participants thrive. Employment can be an incredibly rewarding way to do so.
Visit covey.org to learn more about our volunteer opportunities for adults with disabilities!