Maintaining gainful employment is a crucial way for disabled people to participate more freely in society and create more opportunities for themselves. In addition to the income they earn and the ways disabled people enrich their workplaces through their strengths, experiences and insights, disabled workers play an essential role in changing societal perspectives and proving that disabled persons aren't unable or unwilling to work.
Finding work as a disabled person can be tricky. Do you have to hire someone with a disability? No, but it's illegal to discriminate against someone whose disability would not interfere with performing the duties required of the job. While many companies abide by principles that forbid them from discriminating against people with disabilities, human resources departments sometimes aren’t used to hiring disabled people. They may think doing so would automatically result in costly accommodations. However, some companies have emerged as leaders for promoting disabled employment.
This notable technology company first assisted disabled people in practical ways before other brands had even thought about it. IBM engineered braille typewriters and similar equipment that offered improved communication devices for disabled individuals.
Choosing to branch out from that pioneering commitment, the company upholds a long-standing tradition of bringing disabled people into its workforce. It has been doing so for decades, even before the Americans With Disabilities Act existed.
In the 1940s, IBM brought a blind psychologist on board to develop a program for hiring and training disabled people. The company has a 40-person team responsible for making sure all IBM products comply with government-mandated accessibility standards and aids partner companies in using the technologies in their workforces. Managers at IBM also receive training about how to make workplaces maximally accessible.
This chain of drugstores in the Philippines has an excellent track record when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. Employees who work for Southstar Drug receive awareness training and orientation from the Unilab Foundation, and the company is excited about the role it’s playing to recognize the inherent potential disabled people have, rather than fixating on the disabilities themselves.
Company representatives say differently-abled people bring unique skill sets to their jobs and have an uplifting effect on everyone. For now, Southstar Drug is mainly employing disabled people in its Manila branches, but such hiring practices will hopefully expand soon.
P&G is the multinational company responsible for making Crest toothpaste, Folger's coffee and much more. The brand also excels at corporate inclusion practices that welcome disabled workers.
The company proudly observes National Disability Employment Awareness Month. During it, the brand took the opportunity to explain some of the things it’s doing to make workplaces more open to those who are disabled.
At one of its manufacturing plants, over 40 percent of the people employed have developmental or physical disabilities according to P&G, and there are similar inclusivity efforts in the brand’s other U.S.-based facilities. Procter & Gamble also has a corporate affinity group for people with disabilities that serves as a resource for disabled employees as well as those who care for them.
Aetna is one of the largest health insurance providers in the United States. It has a standout track record of hiring disabled workers and offering employment options that fit their abilities.
One of the ways it offers accommodation is by providing flexible break schedules for people with identified disabilities that may require more frequent periods of rest. People also recognize Aetna as a worthy provider of remote work that may be more feasible for disabled people who aren’t able to travel outside the home to pursue employment.
There are several different jobs that may be considered a particularly good career paths for individuals with disabilities, some of which include:
Candidates with disabilities who excel at math and technology can make excellent livings as computer systems analysts. This field largely centers around desk-based computer programming, making it a strong fit for those with mobility issues. According to US News and World Report, computer systems analysts can expect to make a median salary of $87,220.
Another great fit for the mathematically-inclined, accounting offers competitive pay for work that can certainly be performed by educated and qualified individuals with physical or mental disabilities. CareerCast reports that financial institutions count among the nation’s top employers of disabled people, and the median salary for accountants currently stands at $63,175.
While entrepreneurship comes with its own significant challenges (like a need for investors and a responsibility to employees), folks with disabilities who crave flexible hours and a workspace designed to meet their needs may discover that owning their own businesses is the best way to find career fulfillment. Average salaries for entrepreneurs vary wildly, but Sokanu estimates a median annual income of $57,360.
Many emotional disabilities and even certain physical and mental disabilities can benefit from exposure to animals. If this sounds familiar to you or one of your loved ones, a career as a veterinary assistant could be a good career option. Veterinary assistants, who typically take charge of caring for animals staying at vet hospitals and clinics, require a high school diploma and, in some cases, an Approved Veterinary Assistant certification from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. The median salary for vet techs is $26,140.
In the field of pharmaceutical sales, hiring managers and recruiters like to bring employees aboard who can speak to the effectiveness of their products from a first-hand perspective. If you have a disability that requires the use of medication or equipment and you’re pleased with your experiences, a career as a sales representative for the pharmaceutical company behind that item could be a lucrative move for you. Pharma sales reps can expect to earn a mean salary of $133,563, including both base salary and commissions.
For many offices, the human resources department ensures that all employees are given fair and equal treatment and that hiring managers are well aware of the rights afforded to their staffers with disabilities. Job seekers with disabilities of their own may be able to make a meaningful difference by pursuing careers in HR. In the U.S., HR managers earn average annual salaries of $106,847.
As with HR management, careers in vocational counseling can reap particularly powerful results when the individuals in those roles have a first-hand connection to the communities they serve. Vocational counselors help adults with disabilities or life-related challenges seek out their own professions and connect them with on-site job coaches when necessary, and a vocational counselor who’s experienced that same pursuit on a personal level is a prized asset in the field. Vocational counselors typically make between $57,615 and $75,723 per year.
People without the ability to hear often have heightened experiences with their other senses, including the ability to see and visualize on an advanced level. If that applies to you, a career as a graphic designer could be an appealing avenue to make use of your talents. Graphic designers make an average base pay of $52,589 per year, according to Glassdoor research.
Because deaf employees don’t require the same auditory protection required of those with full hearing ability, they can fit well into roles that involve regular exposure to loud noises, like working as a machinist. These skilled craftspeople use large (and often noisy) mechanical equipment to cut parts out of aluminum, steel, and silicon to use for building other machines. Machinists earn an average of $42,547 a year, according to salary.com.
Just as hearing loss can result in heightened vision, so too can vision loss cause enhanced hearing. Therefore, blind applicants for audio engineering roles may be in an advantageous position. Audio engineers make mean salaries of $56,283, according to Sokanu.
The IRS provides incentives for hiring people with disabilities. Organizations that make an effort to hire disadvantaged workers who would otherwise have trouble finding employment could save money via Work Opportunity Tax Credits and additional financial incentives.
Programs like social security in the United States provide supplemental income to people who cannot work due to temporary or permanent disabilities. These benefits make it possible for people to continue familiar lifestyles, even under unexpected circumstances. Programs like this are important, but it’s also vital that employers offer accessible job opportunities to those who have a disability but are able to work.
These companies demonstrate how disabled people are assets to the workforce. They have made it possible for them to participate fully in their positions along with colleagues. Whether you are a disabled person looking for work or just want to filter your job search so it focuses on companies that include everyone, this list is a good starting point.
Sarah Landrum is an expert career blogger and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and lifestyle blog helping professionals create a career they love and live a happy, healthy life. For more from Sarah, follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter.
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