Job hunting is tough for everyone, there’s no questioning that. But if we’re being honest here, it can be especially daunting for people with disabilities. If you’re coming to this post as a person with a disability looking for great jobs that are suited to your ability level, we respectfully ask you to reconsider your thought process. We, and really no one for that matter, can provide an accurate, comprehensive list of “great jobs for people with disabilities.”
“But why?” you ask.
Because the truth is this:
Jobs specifically designed for people with disabilities don’t exist. Sure there are certain jobs that are generally easier to secure or more accessible for people with limited mobility, and you can even read about them here. But remember, “disability” should not be the determining factor for where and why you apply for a job. Your disability does not define you. You define yourself.
In fact, here’s the most important thing you need to know:
You are capable of doing more than you’re told. Society might say you can’t do x, y, or z, but we’re here to say you can. Your disability does not have to be a barrier.
But there is one thing you need to change —
You need to change the minds of anyone who thinks you’re incapable of doing the work you want. The good news is it’s not impossible; it’s just a process.
Pv Jantz is a rehabilitation counselor for people with disabilities with the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration under the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Though Jantz is deaf, it hasn’t stopped him from pursuing a career in a field he says he’s deeply passionate about.
“People typically say it’s their disability (that prohibits their employability), but I disagree with that,” Jantz said. “Both professional experience plus my own personal experiences tells me that the biggest barrier is other people’s attitudes related to disabilities.”
Jantz was told he wouldn’t graduate high school, and he was labeled intellectually disabled; yet today, he has two bachelor’s degrees from Portland State University, a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Western Oregon University, and is nationally certified through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.
We spoke with an interpreter present; he is just one example of rejecting the notion that being disabled means having limited career options. Here’s some of what he had to say about job hunting as a person with a disability.
Step 1: It Begins with Confidence. Value Yourself and Know Your Worth
Jantz says when he rejects his clients’ notions of being undesirable employees, for many of them, it’s the first time an outside source has ever told them they’re capable. It’s the first time somebody else looks beyond their disability and sees them as whole human beings. As a deaf man, Jantz emphasizes how important it is to understand your disability and how it has affected your life.
Before you go job hunting, take some time for internal reflection:
- How does your disability make you feel?
- Has it kept you from taking risks?
- Has it empowered you?
- How do other with similar situations embrace their disabilities?
Some people find they live more content and wholehearted lives after developing a disability because they discover what’s important to them.
But if your disability has done the opposite, and you feel overpowered and scared to put yourself out there, ask yourself:
- What am I willing to do about it?
- What steps will I take to build my confidence?
- What steps will I take to manage my fears?
Once you know your innate worth, your confidence and self-purpose will shine through every aspect of your life. The quality of your daily conversations, résumé, job interviews and more will all improve. And if you doubt the power of confidence?
Job Seeker A is able bodied but has no confidence. Job Seeker B is disabled and blooming with confidence. Who looks more attractive to an employer? (Job Seeker B, of course!) And if both seekers A and B have confidence and qualifications, chances are Seeker B will still look more confident because they’ve overcome the challenging circumstances a disability brings.
Step 2: Identify Key Interests
We already told you that jobs for people with disabilities don’t really exist. Here’s why: if disability isn’t your defining factor (although maybe it’s a contributing factor), then what is? Your interests. Your interests are what will drive your work ethic and ability to persevere and improve. If you don’t work in a field you care about, chances are you’ll quit after a short period of time or live unhappily. You owe it to yourself to discover your interests and secure a career in alignment.
Step 3: Identify Skills and Capabilities
Now that you know your interests, what skills do you possess? Better yet, what skills could you possess? (Perhaps you discover you want to go back to school. Be willing to do what it takes.) Skills can be as technical as having experience with graphic design or helicopter aviation, or it can be more general, like being a quick learner. Don’t underestimate any skill you possess; it all comes down to how you master the next step.
Step 4: Learn to Market Yourself
Having skills and interests are great, but if you can’t figure out how to make those strengths look appealing, then they’re useless. Look at your skills and interests and find which ones go well together, and consider how that combination will make you an attractive future employee. This step in the process is about how you can make yourself look better than the competition.
Wondering if you should list your disability on your résumé? The answer is only if that job gives priority to people with disabilities. Even then, it’s not necessary to list details. Simply including that you live with a disability will suffice. Otherwise, it’s irrelevant.
Disability does not determine your eligibility for a job. Your skills and interests do.
Step 5: Network
We all understand who you know plays a huge role in securing a job. Research the companies you’re interested in applying for and try to determine:
- Who does the hiring? Is there a way to befriend them on social channels like LinkedIn?
- How did others in similar positions get the job?
- What were their previous experiences?
From there, find a way to meet them or meet someone who knows them. If they don’t live near you, then politely message them online with a few questions. In some cases, you might want to skip to step seven to be able to better network. In this step, you might find that others who have the job have very specific certifications. You might have to go back to step three and do more preparation before applying. Don’t get discouraged. Setbacks like this are extremely common. Keep working.
Step 6: Figure Out How You Will Do the Job
This step requires thinking critically and outside of the box. If your disability at-first-glance seems to prohibit you from carrying out the work required, then think again. You have to be willing to put in the time and effort to research other ways to get a job done.
Of course, there are certain jobs that are medically impossible or unsafe for certain disabilities. As with any job hunt, the realm of possibilities has to stay within reason. The key is to make sure you don’t give up easily. Anytime you think you can’t do a job, question it. Think again and think hard before you categorize it as “impossible.” After that, ask a rehabilitation counselor.
Jantz’s example: Because he’s deaf, does that mean he can’t have a job that requires phone conversations? There’s no way for him to hear, and chances are many places won’t hire a costly interpreter to help him. His solution? He found a free video relay service that makes it possible for him to communicate.
The point is:
Don’t settle, and don’t assume. Giving up before you receive a definitive no will only hold you back from rewarding life experiences.
Step 7: Befriend Your Community Resources
You’re almost ready. You have the confidence, passion, skill, and “how” figured out. You also know how to speak about yourself in a way that promotes all your strengths and positive aspects from step four. But before you send in résumés and get called in for the interview, familiarize yourself with community resources.
Find organizations and advocacy groups that specialize in disability. These resources can provide you with specific tips and tricks to getting hired and perhaps get you in contact with someone at the company you’re interested in. (Remember Step 5)
Plus, they can provide you with legal information. It’s important to know your rights as a disabled worker; it can help you spot prejudice in the workplace or in an interview and help you avoid situations where you might get taken advantage of. There is no downside to having experts on your side.
Step 8: Get Out There and Apply
At this point, you’ve gone above and beyond to prove that you are the right candidate for the job. Get out there and apply.
Setbacks will happen. Even with the utmost effort, you won’t always get the job. Keep applying, keep marketing yourself and keep working toward what you want.
And of course, let us know how it goes!