Many people with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users struggle with issues of employment. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabiltieis is at least 50% higher than for able-bodied people.
As the economy worsens and employers have greater selection of unemployed people to choose from, people with disabilties are likely to find it increasingly difficult to find work. This article provides some suggestions of jobs for people with disabilties. This article is not and may never be complete. As we discover more ideas of jobs for people with disabilities we will be adding them to this article.
1. Turn Your Disability Into An Asset.
For some companies or organizations your disability may be an asset. If you can combine your other skills with a product set you know extremely well, you may be uniquely qualified and be very attractive for a company. As an example, one area where wheelchair users have unique experience, is with wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories. If you are a wheelchair user and have a sales background consider contacting companies which sell wheelchairs. Examples of such companies include Sunrise, Invacare, Drive, Pride, etc. Also, consider companies which produce wheelchair accessories such as Roho and Supracor, the makers of Stimulite cushion. Other possibilities include companies which resell products. Some of these companies maybe "brick and mortar" establishments such as your local DME supplier. Others may be online sellers such as Spinlife, Allegro, or SportAid. If you are deaf or blind and use assistive technology consider contacting one of the companies which manufacturers the products you use. If you like the products, you will probably be a very good representative for the company. If you don't consider yourself a sales person, but you do have a technical background, contact manufacturers (Invacare, Sunrise, etc). They may be looking for people who can help to develop new products and your unique experience set may make you a prime candidate.
Some companies may have an interest in improving their position with disabled customers and you may be able to obtain the skills or knowledge to help them. As an example, some local hotels may be seeking an individual who can advise them on how to improve accessibility. One disabled person, Magnus Berglund, created a position for himself when he contacted the CEO of Scandic Hotels and proposed such an idea, as you will see in the video below.
Accessibility is not only about physical access. The accessibility industry is growing in many areas including technical accessibility. According to Trish Robichaud, a disability awareness coach and self-employed accessibility advisor: "There are work from home jobs in the accessibility industry such as document formatting, transcription, captioning, described video services and plain language conversion"
If you are disabled, you are probably already sensitized to the many issues surrounding access for people with disabilities. Your disability will give you credibility to market your services to potential employers. There are websites which will provide further information or training and help you to get started, for example The DBTAC National Network of ADA Centers offers training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the DBTAC launched a hospitality and disability initiative to promote accessibility specifically in the hotel industry. In the area of access to information technology and design, get started with Accessible Tech, Even Grounds, ADA Course and Access Board.
Another possibility is to get a degree which will enable you to mentor, teach or give therapy to disabled people. As a wheelchair user with a degree in rehabilitation counseling, for example, you would be a prime candidate for a position as a counselor to newly injured patients in a rehab clinic.
You do not have to limit yourself to disability related jobs. But nevertheless, consider areas where your disability would make you a more attractive candidate and give you an obvious advantage over able-bodied candidates. Instead of your disability being your weak point, your disability could be one of your best selling points.
2. Hire Yourself
Your disability may make it difficult for you to hold a full-time position. In that case, consider becoming self-employed. Many companies look for so called "independent reps" or manufacturers reps. An independent rep often works for several different companies and develops business with dealers in their local territory. Independent reps are usually paid on a commission only basis. However, the plus side is that as an independent rep, you can work when you want and when you are able. With no real boss to answer to, you have more flexibility if your disability makes you unable to work for sometime. Start by getting more information from discussion forums or networks which specialize in this topic, or visit some manufacturers repindustry websites.
3. Collaborate with a Foreign Partner
Many small foreign companies would like to penetrate the US market but may find it difficult to do so. You may be able to obtain rights for their products and launch them regionally or nationally. You may not be successful in obtaining rights easily from a large company. But with the right business plan and the right approach, you may be successful in obtaining rights to products from a smaller company. Representing a foreign company will help you to develop business skills and a sales network. With that in place, once you have successfully launched those products you can either find new products to represent, or begin to develop some of your own. How do you find a foreign partner? There are two ways:
* Contact a partner company directly: Search the Internet or disability discussion forums for products available in foreign markets that are not available in your market. Contact the company and ask if they are interested in having you represent them. Be prepared to answer questions about how you plan to market their products. Having a solid business plan in place will have you prepared for the questions.
* Find help contacting partners: Most embassies offer their businesses help in finding partner companies or representatives, very often at no charge to either party. Pick a target country (or countries) which is/are attractive to you. Perhaps you speak a foreign language or you travel frequently to that country. Contact their local embassy and ask how you can register with their trade department. As an example, if you are a US business person who wants to to find a business partner in the UK and would like to register with the UK trade office send them an email to:
TradeUSA @ fco.gov.uk
The UKTI US Network is divided into eight different posts (Boston, Chicago, Houston, LA, Miami,NY, SF, Washington DC). In addition, their teams within these offices are divided by sector (e.g., ICT, Clean Technology, Biopharma). They will refer you to the appropriate officer in their team depending on both your location and sector focus. In addition, you can request that the opportunity to work with you be included in their UKTI website.
The US Government offers business information for entrepreneurs who are:
4. Get a Government (or government subsidized) Job
Are you interested in a government job? The governments of many countries reserve jobs for people with disabilties. For example, US government jobs are listed in two ways. First, there are competitive government job listings which are open to all applicants, able-bodied and disabled. In addition, there are non-competitive job offerings open only to People with Mental Retardation, Severe Physical Disabilities, or Psychiatric Disabilities and have documentation from a licensed medical professional. Briefly put, if you get a certification that you are disabled and you are ready to work you will receive a special consideration for a government job. How do you get more information? Most US government agencies have a special recruiter for disabled people. For information about job availability in a particular agency, you can find the recruiter via a directory called the Selective Placement Program Coordinator Directory. For information about becoming certified, speak to your medical professional, vocational rehabilitation specialist or office that provides disability benefits.
You may also find jobs for people with disabilties via government sponsored or subsidized programs. For example:
* If you are an American receiving social security benefits, you may be eligible to apply for a Ticket to Work. This is a government funded program to provide jobs for people with disabilties either within the government or in a private setting. The program is coordinated by Maximus a contractor to the US government. To receive a more comprehensive understanding of the Ticket Program and to have specific questions answered, contact MAXIMUS Ticket to Work at 1-866-968-7842 (TDD 1-866-833-2967).
* Are you blind or severely disabled? AbilityOne is the largest single provider of jobs for people with disabilties in the United States. What is AbilityOne? Basically, community based non-profit organizations hire disabled people to offer products and services to the US government.
* Are you in the UK? Contact Remploy. Remploy is the UK's largest provider of jobs for people with disabilties, with more than 3,000 employees across 54 locations. While Remploy is a private organizations, the company's operations are partly funded by Government.
Contact your government or your vocational advisor and ask if there are jobs for people with disabilties for your level and of disability.