How Tech Tools and Online Resources Can Boost Disabled People's Career
While entrepreneurship is scaling up with IT industry trends, what prospects does it have for disabled people? Here's what experts think about the dilemma.
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One out of every four American adults has a disability that interferes with their daily lives and activities, according to the CDC. But as common as physical, mental, and intellectual disabilities are, the U.S. has a long way to go before its workplaces, classrooms, and other public establishments will fully accommodate those with impaired mobility, hearing, vision, or cognition.
As such, finding and holding a job—or obtaining a college education—are still challenges for individuals with disabilities after nearly 31 years since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The unemployment rate among Americans with disabilities sat at 7.3 percent in 2019—largely due to the lack of workplace accommodations in the U.S. and companies failing to comply with the ADA when screening and hiring applicants.
While this is certainly discouraging, people with disabilities can still go on to further their education, build successful careers, and lead independent lives despite their limitations and impairments.
Thanks to the internet and other technological advancements, those with disabilities can obtain college degrees from home, launch successful home-based businesses, and search for accessible employment opportunities with just a few clicks of a mouse.
Below, we highlight a few ways how job seekers with disabilities can use tech tools and resources to boost their careers and land the job of their dreams.
1. Accessible Employment
For many job seekers with disabilities or impairments, finding work they love isn’t always the issue; it’s landing a job at an accessible workplace that’s the problem.
Whether it’s the lack of office accessibility and respect from their colleagues, or chronic pain and discomfort that prevents them from performing their jobs without interruption, many workers with disabilities have trouble requesting reasonable accommodations at work—or holding down a job because of these obstacles in their lives.
Fortunately, the internet takes some of the hassles out of finding suitable jobs at inclusive workplaces. With job boards like disABLEDperson, Inc., for instance, workers with disabilities can search for available jobs by city, state, job category, or company. Another great option is abilityJOBS, where applicants can post their resumes anonymously, view available jobs, or create an account as a job seeker.
In addition to using disability job boards to search for work, job seekers can use websites like FlexJobs, Remote.co, Virtual Vocations, and We Work Remotely to look for remote job opportunities. Some of the best home-based jobs for those with disabilities or chronic illnesses include:
- Blogging, freelance writing, and proofreading
- Graphic designing
- Online coaching
You can also use traditional job search websites like Indeed and Monster to search for remote employment opportunities, but you’ll need to use “remote,” “home-based,” or “work from home” as search keywords.
For those who are interested in entrepreneurship, technology makes it easier than ever to start and run a business from home. By launching a home-based business, entrepreneurs with disabilities can save money on transportation and operating costs, set their own working hours, and create an accessible home office space that meets their specific needs.
Plus, some home-based businesses can be started and run solely online—including affiliate marketing, freelance writing, virtual assisting, dropshipping, tutoring, tech support, and many types of consulting.
For those who need financing to get their home-based businesses up and running, some of the best loans for entrepreneurs with disabilities include SBA 7(a) loans, USDA business loans, and SBA microloans. However, grants are also available under the federal government, Small Business Administration (SBA), and Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
After starting your home-based business, be sure to use tech tools like nTask, Coconut, Trello, and LastPass to keep track of your projects, passwords, expenses, invoices, and more. Other tech tools like adapted keyboards, screen, and text magnifiers, braille displays, and a foot-operated mouse can also be helpful if you have physical or visual impairments that make computer work a challenge.
If your disability or impairment affects your ability to concentrate or stay focused on work, other helpful tools and accessories may include handheld fidget spinners, noise-canceling headphones, timers (to break up your work into 15-minute increments), and smartphone apps like Focus To-Do, Engross, Brain Focus Productivity Timer, or Freedom.
3. Online Learning
While most U.S. schools and college campuses are not as accessible as they should be in 2021, remote learning can be a great alternative to in-person instruction for some students with disabilities. Many online degree programs are flexible, supportive, and affordable, and they give students with disabilities the opportunity to learn from home and at their own pace.
Western Governors University (WGU) is just one college that offers a variety of online degree programs—including a master’s degree in information technology (IT), bachelor’s degree in marketing, and master’s degree in learning and technology.
With a master’s in information technology, for instance, students can learn all about cybersecurity, IT management, or data analytics and become experts in their chosen fields. Plus, students can apply for scholarships and financial aid if they need help paying for college.
Thanks to assistive technologies, disability, and remote job boards, home-based business opportunities, and online colleges and universities, workers with disabilities can pursue the jobs of their dreams—and work or learn from the comfort of their homes.
Modern-day technology takes some of the trouble out of finding jobs at inclusive workplaces, starting a business with little-to-no money or experience, and earning an online degree in areas like IT, business, or education.
With these online resources, tools, and technologies, what once seemed impossible is now doable to anyone who has one or more disabilities or impairments. And to get started, all students and job seekers need is a computer, a stable internet connection, an accessible office setup, and a whole lot of determination and hard work.
Published at DZone with permission of Steve Parker. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.