29 Jobs for People with Disabilities
Everyone has the right to a career. We all have something to contribute.
That's why it's important to understand that good jobs for people with disabilities are possible to find. No matter what type of disability you might have, you deserve a chance to discover the satisfaction that often comes from realizing—and using—your true abilities.
Besides, more and more organizations are now actively creating jobs for disabled people. In fact, appealing opportunities can be found within nearly every industry. The government, healthcare, technology, and financial sectors, in particular, are increasingly becoming more welcoming to those who live with physical or mental challenges.
Helpful Laws and Resources
Did you know that a new section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is now generating even more employment possibilities? It requires all American government agencies—as well as all companies who get money from the federal government—to work toward building workforces consisting of at least seven percent disabled adults.
And don't forget this: The Americans with Disabilities Act also includes a lot of protections from employment discrimination. The law is designed to ensure that everyone is able to be involved in their communities, and that includes those who envision working while disabled.
Many resources even exist to help employers understand what accommodations can be made for workers with various types of limitations. For instance, the Job Accommodation Network publishes a comprehensive alphabetical listing of that information. With this kind of resource at your fingertips, you can be more open about your impairments.
How to Begin Your Vocational Future
Here's the bottom line: America is home to more than 20 million working-age individuals who live with at least one disability.* If you're one of them, then understand that you are absolutely capable of achieving your career ambitions. You just need to find the people and organizations who will support your enthusiasm and self-determination. And you need to know how to conduct an effective job search.
Your potential is, quite simply, ready to shine. So as you explore what your future might hold, take some time to look into the many career options you may not have considered before.
The following ideas are intended to help you begin that journey. But they are just ideas based on what other people with disabilities have been able to accomplish. You are a unique individual with your own interests and talents. Try not to limit yourself. If you can imagine a career you want, then you may be able to make it happen.
Use this list as a starting point. And keep in mind that some of the ideas in each disability category may also work for people who fall under one or more of the other categories.
Yearly wage and salary estimates are based on nationwide data from May 2015.**
Career Areas for People Who Are Physically Disabled
In America, more than 10.3 million adults live with mobility problems or other physical limitations.* But having such a disability doesn't always have to mean giving up a career. Regardless of whether your impairment is a result of a congenital defect, accidental injury, or something like a neuromuscular disease, it may be possible for you to build a satisfying vocational life. Here are some of the occupational areas you might want to explore:
You don't usually need to be very mobile to work in a medical office or hospital department. And many employers in this industry value having people on staff who understand what some of their patients might be going through. Plus, areas like medical billing and coding often provide opportunities for telecommuting.
- Medical office assistants—$34,330
- Medical records and health information technicians—$40,430
- Medical and health services managers—$106,070
Handling financial matters as an accounting or bookkeeping specialist can be a great way to keep your mind engaged. And it's something you can do from a desk customized just for you.
- Bookkeeping and accounting clerks—$38,990
- Accountants and auditors—$75,280
In recent years, many pharmacies have become more open to providing jobs for disabled adults. So it's possible to have a career as a pharmacy technician or assistant. Plus, some pharmaceutical companies also offer opportunities in sales to outgoing people who have disabilities and experience taking certain medications.
- Pharmacy aides—$27,460
- Pharmacy technicians—$31,680
- Sales representatives for drug companies—$90,500
4. Marketing and Market Research
If you live with a disability, then you have the potential to offer a lot of useful insights to companies and other organizations that want their brands, products, and services to connect with people like you. The marketing industry is full of ways to use your creativity or analytical abilities.
- Marketing specialists and research analysts—$70,030
- Marketing managers—$140,660
5. Vocational Counseling
Why not help others who are trying to transcend their disabilities and find the right career? With the wisdom drawn from your own experiences, you can do a world of good as an occupational guidance counselor to disabled students and adults.
- Average salary—$56,490
6. Almost Any Career That Lets You Work from Home
You might be in a situation where the less you have to go out, the better. In that case, working at home can be a terrific option. Example careers that can provide such an opportunity include areas like computer support, medical transcription, graphic design, writing, and web development.
- Medical transcriptionists—$35,720
- Graphic designers—$51,640
- Computer support specialists—$52,430
- Writers and authors—$69,130
- Web developers—$70,660
Careers for People That Have Intellectual Disabilities
More than 8.6 million American adults have some kind of cognitive disability.* And hundreds of causes exist for intellectual disabilities that result in conceptual, social, or practical-living impairments. As a result, people within this category display a very wide array of possible talents. So not all of these career ideas are appropriate for everyone. But they do represent some very interesting jobs for the disabled among us who deal with conditions like Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorders. Consider these examples:
Commercial kitchens offer opportunities that are well-suited to both those who need routine as well as those who have a lot of inherent creativity.
Average yearly wages:
- Restaurant cooks—$24,430
- Chefs and head cooks—$45,920
2. Design, Illustration, or Photography
Many people who have an intellectual disability are very artistic by nature. Maybe you're one of them. If so, you can turn your unique way of seeing the world into a fun career in the visual arts.
Average yearly wages:
- Graphic artists—$51,640
- Painters, sculptors, and illustrators—$54,170
- Interior designers—$55,510
- Multimedia artists and animators—$70,300
- Fashion designers—$73,180
Some people have shown that they can thrive by working behind the scenes at a television studio or radio station.
Average yearly wages:
- Broadcast technicians—$44,050
- Camera operators—$59,360
- Sound engineering technicians—$63,340
Imagine the sense of freedom you might get from being out on the open road. Learning to drive a semi-truck may be totally possible for you.
Average yearly wages:
- Light truck or delivery services drivers—$34,080
- Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers—$42,500
Trucks aren't the only large pieces of mobile machinery that need people to operate them. Some intellectually disabled adults have had success learning to work equipment like bulldozers and backhoes.
- Average yearly wage—$49,110
There's something about working with animals that can really draw out the very best in a person. So if you love dogs, cats, and other critters, then this might be an excellent option for you.
- Average yearly wage—$25,940
People with conditions such as Asperger syndrome can flourish in a career that utilizes their ability for focused and intelligent problem solving—without having to be around too many other people. Maybe you fit that profile and will go on to become something like a video game programmer or mobile software developer.
Average yearly wages:
- Computer programmers—$84,360
- Applications software developers—$102,160
- Systems software developers—$108,760
Careers for the Visually Impaired
Over 3.8 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 have some type of vision disability.* But assistive technologies that allow them to work and contribute continue to get more sophisticated. Braille computer displays and voice-command technology are just two examples. So visually impaired professionals can be found in almost every vocation. That said, here are a few particularly compelling options:
Young people are curious and always looking for new sources of inspiration. As a person who is blind or has impaired vision, you can bring your distinctive insights to the classroom or playground, which can challenge students' imaginations and inspire them to grow.
- Childcare workers—$22,310
- Teacher assistants—$26,550
- Elementary school teachers—$57,730
Law firms may be able to use your unique perspective on issues. Plus, you may find your niche in providing legal assistance to clients who live with a disability and want a professional they can easily relate to.
- Average salary—$52,390
As a visually impaired person, one of your gifts might be an enhanced ear for music. And that could mean you have a talent just waiting to be used for recording, editing, or mixing songs and sound.
- Audio equipment technicians—$46,630
- Audio recording engineers—$63,340
- Producers in the music recording industry—$64,160
Careers for Those Who Are Deaf or Hearing Impaired
Hearing disabilities such as deafness affect more than 4.1 million adults in America. But people in this category have a higher rate of employment than any other disability group.*
And, like those with vision disabilities, people who have hearing disabilities have found career opportunities in just about every sector. Even so, some options stand out, such as:
Talented performers come in all varieties, but many deaf people have proven that they have the skills and charm to excel in areas like acting and show production.
- Actors—$37.47 per hour
- Theatrical arts producers—$62,350 per year
- Movie producers—$105,550 per year
This option is good for anyone who really enjoys focusing on something without a lot of distraction. Plus, you get to play a role in making buildings or other structures come to life.
Average yearly wages:
- Civil and architectural drafters—$53,470
- Mechanical drafters—$56,610
- Electronics and electrical drafters—$62,890
Whether it's biotechnology, chemistry, or something else, many people with hearing impairments have achieved incredibly meaningful careers in the sciences.
Average yearly wages:
- Conservation scientists—$63,800
- Wildlife biologists—$64,230
- Atmospheric scientists—$90,210
This skilled trade can be truly enjoyable, especially if you're the type of person who has an extra keen eye for detail.
- Average yearly wage—$46,780
Accurate diagnostic testing is a crucial part of the healthcare system. And it requires great vision, which may be a strength of yours. Plus, in some jobs, you don't have to communicate with too many people face-to-face.
- Average yearly wage—$41,420
Careers for Those with Psychiatric or Emotional Disorders
Many Americans are considered to be disabled if a condition like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia affects their ability to function in a job setting. Yet, a lot of people with such disabilities are capable of having successful careers, especially if they find therapies or medications that work for them.
If you fall under this category, you might thrive in careers where you get to work alone and don't necessarily have to socialize much with other people. The first four examples below are often associated with that type of work setting.
However, like many people with psychiatric or emotional conditions, you might actually do better in a more social setting. It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but getting to closely interact with other people in a structured environment each day can be healing. So the last four examples below represent more socially oriented options.
Imagine being involved in the design and testing of different kinds of electronic devices. As an engineer or technician in this field, you may get to work with fascinating electrical circuits in a neutral setting.
Average yearly wages:
- Electronics engineering technician—$61,870
- Electronics engineers—$102,390
- Computer hardware engineers—$114,970
Welders frequently get to work on projects alone for long stretches of time. Plus, the physical aspect of this trade can benefit your sense of well-being since it places a lot of focus on your hands instead of on what's happening in your mind.
- Average yearly wage—$40,970
The electrical trade is often another good option for people with psychiatric disabilities. It is physical in nature, but it also very interesting and can allow you to work alone or with only a few other people.
- Average yearly wage—$55,590
In this vocation, you may be able to turn your mental disability into a real strength. After all, many of the world's most creative artists and animators have succeeded in spite of their psychiatric conditions. Maybe you're the kind of person who would benefit from making your creativity come to life every day.
- Average yearly wage—$70,300
Making other people look and feel beautiful can be very satisfying. Plus, this social career offers a lot of positive interpersonal interactions while also allowing you to put your creativity to good use.
Average yearly wages:
- Nail technicians—$23,630
- Hairstylists, hairdressers, and cosmetologists—$28,770
Just like cosmetology, this career offers the chance to benefit from using your hands as well as being social. And you can be sure that just about all of your clients are going to be happy to see you since you provide a service they really look forward to.
- Average yearly wage—$43,170
Helping people achieve and maintain good oral health can be very enjoyable. In fact, many dental hygienists absolutely love their jobs since they get to meet a lot of different people but also get to use a lot of interesting technical skills.
- Average yearly wage—$72,720
As someone living with your own challenges, you can provide a real human touch in this occupation. It's a career option that involves helping all kinds of injured, recovering, or physically disabled people achieve greater mobility or range of motion. Seeing the progress you help them accomplish can feel incredibly gratifying.
- Average yearly wage—$55,250
How to Conduct an Effective Job Search If You Have a Disability: 8 Tips
All kinds of Americans with disabilities have found satisfying employment, and you can too. It just takes dedication to the job-search process and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone. After all, the best jobs tend to go to those who demonstrate so much confidence in their abilities that employers are able to see past their limitations. With that in mind, here are eight tips to help you get through this part of your journey:
1. Get Clear About Your Goals
Too often, people with disabilities fall into the trap of being willing to take any jobs that they can get. They don't seek out specific job opportunities, and they exude an ambivalent attitude about their ambitions. But potential employers want to see that you have genuine enthusiasm about a particular line of work.
So it's essential that you get serious about narrowing down what you really want to do. Even if you can't narrow it down to a specific career, see if you can figure out which skills you want to use or develop. Having more well-defined goals shows potential employers that you truly care about making a contribution.
2. Find Help
Conducting your job search alone might not be the best idea. You may be able to avoid a lot of common mistakes—and achieve success more quickly—by enlisting the support of others. Most communities have non-profit or government-run agencies that provide assistance to people who are seeking disability employment. Why not find out what they offer?
3. Know Where to Look
A lot of job opportunities can be found through organizations that actively generate or promote openings for those with disabilities. In some cases, you might even be able to take advantage of special hiring processes. That's why it's smart to get the support of local agencies; they can often show you where those opportunities are. Two great examples of where you can find disability employment openings include:
- The National Telecommuting Institute, Inc. (NTI)—This not-for-profit organization specializes in identifying and developing work-at-home opportunities for Americans with physical disabilities. NTI matches people with part-time or full-time jobs—and helps train them—in fields like virtual customer service, technical support, survey work, quality-control monitoring, and business-to-business telemarketing. In fact, roughly 85 percent of the opportunities developed by NTI are home-based customer service jobs for commercial companies and federal government agencies.***
- USAJOBS—As part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), this resource helps a lot of people with disabilities connect with good job opportunities throughout the federal government. In 2015 alone, USAJOBS listed over 360,420 job announcements—for opportunities in more than 145 countries—from over 500 federal agencies.**** Plus, it offers information about the Schedule A Hiring Authority, which often gives federal agencies a faster option for hiring individuals who have psychiatric, intellectual, or severe physical disabilities.
4. Make Your Ambitions Known
Don't be shy about telling friends, family, or other people that you encounter in your life about your employment aspirations. Make it known that you'd like to find a good job so that they see you as someone who is actively trying to make things happen rather than someone who is sitting idle. You'll likely get more encouragement that way, attain better job leads, and maintain a higher level of hope and optimism.
5. Start Volunteering
It's amazing what you can learn through volunteer opportunities. Many people with disabilities have gained marketable skills through volunteering and gone on to find great jobs that pay well. Plus, being a volunteer gives you a chance to expand your network of professionals who can serve as references. And it's a good way to avoid social isolation while getting used to working in a structured environment.
6. Think Carefully Before Revealing Your Disability
You may want to avoid disclosing that you have a disability during certain phases of your job search. After all, you probably don't want potential employers pre-judging your abilities or stereotyping you before even having the chance to meet you face-to-face. That's why a lot of disability-employment counselors recommend not mentioning your limitations on your resume or in your cover letter.
That said, in some situations, revealing your disability can be to your advantage. For instance, if you are going after a job in a federal agency, then disclosing your disability can make you eligible for Schedule A hiring. And some employers actually seek out professionals with disabilities in order to add more diversity to their teams. In addition, at the application or interview stage, you might be legally required to disclose your disability if you will require any special accommodations.
7. Interview Like a Pro
Every job interview is an opportunity to showcase your strengths. So it's essential to play up your talents and abilities. Obviously, your disability may become a topic of discussion, especially if you have visible limitations. But it's best to turn those limitations into positives by acknowledging your challenges and explaining why they've given you abilities that other people might not have.
For example, maybe your disability has given you more persistence, a better work ethic, and an ability to take on new challenges at a higher level than other professionals. Focus on how you can add value to each organization, and describe your talents in as much detail as possible.
If you need accommodations, then be honest about it. But make sure that you know what those might be. For instance, will you need a flexible work schedule, adaptive equipment, modified job duties, or any special day-to-day assistance? Let potential employers know what you'll need, but try to keep them engaged about all of the great things that you can contribute in spite of your limitations.
8. Don't Give Up
Even the most talented and qualified people without disabilities sometimes run into roadblocks. So if you're not getting the opportunities you want, don't lose hope. Keep trying. Your confidence and self-esteem are the biggest assets that will keep you in the running. It's only a matter of time before your job-search efforts start generating results. Stick with it.
Take a Confident Step Forward
Jobs for people with disabilities are widespread. So take action toward securing the kind of career you want. Plenty of convenient training options exist, and they're easy to find. Simply enter your zip code into the following school finder to quickly generate a list of nearby schools that can help you!
* Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, website last visited on January 27, 2015.
** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on May 20, 2016.
*** NTI@Home, website last visited on May 20, 2016.
**** USAJOBS, website last visited on May 20, 2016.
American Association of People with Disabilities, website last visited on January 27, 2015.
American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities , website last visited on January 27, 2015.
American Foundation for the Blind, website last visited on January 27, 2015.
Hearing Loss Association of America, website last visited on January 27, 2015.