As of 2017, about 40 million Americans live with some form of disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau . Ranging from physical immobility to blindness to hearing loss to cognitive impairment to extreme emotional challenges, disabilities can prove difficult to navigate when you’re on the job hunt.
If you need a new position and fear that your disability will hinder you, it’s important to know your rights and to know which careers will suit you best. To help with the latter decision, we’ve listed 21 promising jobs that can absolutely be filled by folks with a variety of disabilities.
What jobs are good for disabled people?
Of course, the term “disability” covers an extremely broad spectrum of conditions, symptoms, and requirements. No one job will suit all “disabled” individuals, but certain careers involve skills that may be particularly prevalent among those with specific conditions.
For instance, folks with vision impairments often have above-average auditory capabilities, so careers involving a keen sense of sound (like audio engineering) can be an excellent fit. On a similar note, people with hearing difficulties can frequently work in loud environments while maintaining focus, which can make them ideal hires for careers in construction and mechanical engineering.
Individuals with certain cognitive disabilities who benefit from structure and routine can thrive in manufacturing roles that require methodical repetition, while people with mobility issues can find enormous success in desk-based jobs like accounting, administration, and legal assisting.
How do I find a job when I have a disability?
When beginning your job hunt as a person with a disability, it’s crucial to understand your rights and to focus your search in the correct direction for your skill sets.
The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits prospective employers from discriminating against candidates with disabilities recognized and protected by this law. Essentially, any disabled applicant must be offered the same consideration as other applicants (meaning that your skills and experience will be evaluated and used as determining factors, with no decisions made on the basis of your disability). If you learn- and can prove- that an employer is unfairly blocking your candidacy because of your disability, you’re within your rights to take legal action against them.
If you find yourself stuck during your job search, there are resources specifically designed to help individuals with disabilities seek and apply for work. The U.S. Department of Labor sponsors numerous agencies and initiatives focused on this goal. Also, career search engines like abilityJobs seek to pair applicants with disabilities with well-suited careers, making them a great place to start your search.
Also, during the interview process, remember that you’re under no obligation to disclose your disability to your interviewer. Obviously, certain disabilities are more visible than others, but if yours isn’t outwardly identifiable, you don’t need to bring it up prior to an offer unless you require an accommodation covered by the ADA that would have to be implemented before your start date. If you do choose to disclose or discuss your visible disability with a prospective employer, having a strong sense of your necessary accommodations in advance makes a strong entry point for that conversation and allows you to bring the matter up on your own terms and from a proactive standpoint.
21 Job Options for People With Disabilities
When setting your job search parameters, consider these 21 careers with solid histories of success in hiring and retaining talented individuals with a variety of disabilities:
1. Computer Systems Analyst
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.
4. Veterinary Assistant
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.
5. Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
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.
6. Human Resources Manager
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.
7. Vocational Counselor
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.
8. Graphic Designer
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.
10. Audio Engineer
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.
Actuaries, who use their mathematical and statistical acumen to help businesses reduce risk, typically work from a desk, and their daily responsibilities require constant active thought. For people with mobility disabilities and a bachelor’s degree in math or science, this career keeps their heads busy with significant mental stimulation. Actuaries earn an average salary of $68,563 annually, according to salary.com.
12. Management Consultant
Like vocational counselors and HR managers, management consultants with disabilities provide valuable insight into a crucial segment of employee populations, making them hugely valuable to companies seeking to improve growth trajectories and job satisfaction for workers of all ability levels. Annually, management consultants earn an average of $85,213, according to PayScale.
13. Classroom Paraprofessional
For another position that values personal connections with the client’s challenges, consider becoming a classroom paraprofessional. These educators specialize in helping children with disabilities adapt to life in a classroom, usually combining regular class time with one-on-one tutelage. Classroom paraprofessionals make $12.19 per hour on average, according to PayScale.
14. Remote Call Center Agent
For many people with disabilities, jobs that allow them to work from home provide the highest level of comfort and accessibility. As more and more companies grow and expand, remote work increases in popularity, and one key remote field involves call center representation. Call reps can typically set their own hours, offering a helpful level of flexibility. Companies with call centers pay their representatives different amounts depending on the size and financing of the organization, but the current average salary is $32,214, according to Glassdoor.
15. Freelance Writer
Another career that typically enables working from home, writing on a freelance basis can be a great fit for creative people with disabilities, particularly if their disabilities are physical rather than mental or emotional. Freelance writers earn an average hourly sum of $23.99, according to PayScale.
16. Medical Transcriptionist
Medical transcription, a field based on typing written versions of voice memos created by doctors and other health professionals, is rapidly evolving into a stay-at-home profession, and its reliability and appeal to individuals with disabilities who prefer the comforts of their own homes and to those with cognitive disabilities who value consistency. Medical transcriptionists make an average of $15.39 per hour, according to PayScale.
Legal assistants and paralegals- individuals qualified for legal work who serve alongside attorneys but who aren’t fully licensed as lawyers- are strong career choices for people with mobility-based disabilities, as courthouses typically have accommodations for visitors in wheelchairs. For that reason (among many others), the legal field as a whole is worth consideration. The current average salary for a paralegal is $46,678 annually, according to PayScale.
18. Software Developer
Tech enthusiasts who have disabilities but also possess keen coding skills can make good money as software developers. The job’s comparative lack of necessary physical exertion make it manageable for employees with limited mobility, and those with cognitive disabilities that allow for strong fact retention and attention to detail can also readily partake. Software developers earn an average salary of $69,687, according to PayScale.
19. Manufacturing Associate
Certain mental disabilities involve a level of comfort with routine and repetition, a quality that can result in a mutually beneficial career fit as a manufacturing associate. These individuals build products on an assembly line, and the familiarity of the task allows them to hone their skills over time. Manufacturing associates make an average hourly rate of $12.76, according to PayScale.
20. Shop Associate
Whether a counter position at a local store or a cashier or stocking role at a major retailer like Whole Foods, shop associate jobs offer consistency, social engagement, and regular pay to all employees, including those with disabilities. Larger companies like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s also provide competitive health and time-off benefits as part of their compensation packages. Shop associate pay varies depending on the retailer, but the current national average is $10 per hour, according to PayScale.
21. Government Staffer
Government entities, whether on the local, state, or federal level, have a responsibility not only to adhere to the standards set down by the ADA, but also to actively diversify their workforces. Therefore, qualified applicants with disabilities are encouraged to apply for roles within government buildings. The pay for these jobs is highly dependent on the particular role, but administrative assistants on the federal government level earn an average base salary of $56,000, according to PayScale.