While the anti-discrimination laws put in place in the 1990s should have made it easier for individuals with disabilities to get and keep jobs, the sad fact is that finding jobs for disabled individuals is hard. Individuals with disabilities have lower rates of employment than those in the general population. According to data from 2002, 56% percent of individuals between the ages of 21 and 64 who had some form of disability were employed. Of those between the ages of 21 and 64 who didn't have some form of disability, that number was 88%.
Acknowledging that there aren't many jobs for disabled individuals doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to unemployment; there is work for disabled individuals available. What it does mean is that you will need to work harder and smarter to get the great job you deserve. Here are some ways that you can overcome the statistics:
Know your Rights
The first thing you need to do is study The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This sounds daunting but there are a few essential pieces of information you need to know. First, this legislation requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants with disabilities, unless these accommodations impose an "undue hardship" on the business. It's your responsibility to request accommodations, if needed, during the application process so don't wait for the hiring manager to do it. Be certain to make these requests to get your prospective employers to treat you fairly.
Even if you don't need accommodations during the application process, you are not required to disclose your disability. You can wait until you have received a job offer before requesting accommodations, but this doesn’t mean you should conceal your disability. Not informing your employer of your disability could be grounds for termination.
Once you have made a request for accommodations, have a speech ready to explain how your disability won't limit your ability to perform the essential tasks associated with your position.
Equal Opportunities Employers
Look for businesses and organizations that actively recruit individuals with disabilities. Often they will include a "Positive About Disabled People" icon in their advertisement. Remember that no business is allowed to discriminate against you because of your disability, but businesses that include this icon on a job listing are more likely to be receptive to disabled applicants.
In addition, there are websites that list disability-friendly employers. The most comprehensive of this is the U.S. Business Leadership Network site. Consult these and see if there are any businesses listed in your area.
Disability-friendly Job Sites
Start your job search by using websites that list jobs for disabled individuals. Other than disability.careercast.com, there are actually a lot of websites that cater to disabled individuals, such as www.abilitylinks.org, www.jobaccess.org, www.disaboomjobs.com.
Know your Skills and Limitations
Before you start job searching you should make a list of the tasks you can do that your disability doesn't interfere with. Make another list of potential jobs by matching this first list with your interests. This will narrow the jobs available to you to include only those that you can do and those that you want to do.
Jobs for disabled individuals are hard to come by. We all know that jobs and disability are negatively correlated. But if you use the strategies described above and are tenacious and hard working, there is no reason why you can't find a rewarding job that's right for you.