If you or someone you know has a physical or developmental disability, then it can be difficult to find meaningful employment.
In 2015, the unemployment rate for an individual with a disability was 10.7%.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that was about double the unemployment rate of those who did not have a disability.
Those with developmental disabilities sometimes see unemployment rates reach 40%.
This creates a paradox.
Those with a disability are often told that they should work toward having a “normal” life, including work, but then are unable to find the work they need.
One way to approach this situation is to use the services of an employment network.
This may include supported employment opportunities, where a caseworker would help someone with a disability find a job.
Then the caseworker would visit periodically to teach specific skills that may be needed to maintain that employment.
Unfortunately, many people with disabilities tend to accept whatever job they can find.
Instead of pursuing a career that they love, they take what is often the only job that they are offered.
If you want to have a meaningful career and you are in a wheelchair or have another disability, then don’t let anything hold you back.
Consider these options so you can get into the high-paying job you deserve.
#1. Pharmaceutical Industry
Sales representatives for today’s pharmaceutical companies can easily earn above $100,000.
Even the average salary within the industry is about $60,000.
There are just two conditions that need to be met.
There must be knowledge of the medications that are being proposed to doctors and a sales rep must know the conditions that their medication can treat.
A pharmaceutical sales representative is required to be on the road a lot, which is perfect for those who like to explore.
If you prefer to stay closer to home, a job as a pharmacy technician can still get you a salary that is reasonably good.
The average income for a pharmacy tech is about $30,000.
You’ll be asked to count out medication, supply medical offices with any requests that are sent, and be the first to interact with customers.
#2. IT Industry
If you are good with your hands, then consider working within the IT industry.
People always need to have help with their computer.
From repair to general software support, the ability to diagnose a problem and offer a solution can pay over $40,000 per year in the United States.
There are several ways that you can provide customer support for troubleshooting issues.
Many companies hire troubleshooters to solve internal problems.
You could also work directly for a computer or software manufacturer.
Another great option within the IT industry is to work as a market researcher.
By mining the data that is collected by an organization, researchers help to influence future product strategies and service ideas.
It requires looking at spreadsheets all day and a great attention to detail, but offers the reward of a salary that is often above $50,000 per year.
One point of consideration: many IT jobs require a college degree or specific certification in order to apply for the position.
Sometimes the best solution to unemployment is to carve out your own job.
Freelancing is an opportunity to do just that.
Thanks to websites like Fiverr, Upwork, and 99 Designs, there are several opportunities available to help someone with a strong self-drive pursue something they are passionate about.
The benefit of becoming a freelancer is that you get to be in full control of what you do.
If you love to write, then offer your services as a writer.
If you love graphic design, then you could offer logo design services.
The options are virtually endless.
Many companies also hire freelancers because it is cheaper for them than hiring a full-time employee and the cost of the benefits that come with such a hire.
There are a few disadvantages that should also be considered.
Freelancing is not a guaranteed income.
To get your business off of the ground, you may find yourself working long hours, weekends, and holidays to set yourself apart from others who offer similar services.
You also have the self-employment tax to consider, as well as finding your own health insurance, retirement plan, and other common employee benefits.
Some places may also require a freelancer to file for a business license.
In the first year of working freelance, it is not unusual to earn $15,000 or less.
Most freelancers don’t make it to year 5, but those that do can typically earn above $30,000 and have full control over their schedule.
Although the retail industry isn’t always the most popular place to find a job, it can be an effective way to obtain employment.
Because it is such a vast industry, it becomes possible to pursue employment in a specific area of interest quite easily.
From clothing to electronics, toys to art supplies, the options are virtually limitless.
The turnover rates in the retail industry are quite high.
According to research performed by the Hay Group, 2 out of 3 part-time retail employees will quit or be fired in the next 12 months.
That means there is ample opportunity to find a job in this sector.
On the other hand, retail jobs also tend to be some of the lowest paying employment opportunities that are available.
It is not unusual for an entry-level retail position to pay whatever the local minimum wage happens to be.
In the United States, that means earning $7.25 per hour in many jobs.
This wage can be even lower if the job has been evaluated for piece-rate performance, which means an employee is paid based on the number of tasks they complete instead of an hourly rate.
There are locations in the US that pay much higher than the Federal minimum wage.
New York City is scheduled to pay $15 per hour by the end of 2018.
In Washington State, the minimum wage will be $12 per hour in 2019 and $13.50 per hour in 2020.
Many retail positions do not have an educational requirement.
Those that do typically require a high school diploma or GED.
So if you take some time to look at each opportunity, how you can work within that opportunity with a disability, and take wages into consideration, there is the potential to find a good-paying retail job.
#5. Public Service
The public service sector provides numerous opportunities to support other people while still earning a fairly competitive salary.
Certain divisions, such as the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, even help people with disabilities find meaningful employment.
There are numerous social worker opportunities that are open as well.
Social workers help children, families, the elderly, and others find the services they need to better support themselves.
Many hospitals, adoption centers, and similar organizations also hire case management specialists.
Certain emergency management positions are also open to individuals with disabilities.
This includes being a 911 specialist, records keeping, and other administrative positions that support police officers, firefighters, and EMTs.
One of the unique benefits of working in public service is that many of these positions still offer a pension as a benefit.
Pensions are often being replaced by 401k matching programs or IRA contributions in many sectors and industries, but it is still a benefit often offered for public servants.
If you work a job for long enough, then you can earn an annual salary after retirement through the pension fund.
Most in public service earn between $15-$25 per hour.
High-level officials in public service can sometimes reach $100,000 per year.
Some jobs may require a college degree or specific certification.
Although some disabilities may make it difficult to become a teacher, for many it is still a viable employment option that isn’t always considered.
Most schools already have the access that is needed for an individual with a disability to perform their job duties, including being wheelchair accessible.
This allows for the pursuit of a career in a subject matter that is personally relevant.
Teachers are also in high demand at every level of education.
From Kindergarten to working within a PhD program, there are plenty of empty classrooms that would benefit from your knowledge, talents, and skills.
Teaching does typically require a college degree and state certification.
Teaching at a college or university will usually require a graduate degree.
Salaries for teachers are often dependent on where the school happens to be and what the local politics are at the current moment.
Two states in the US, New York and Massachusetts, have an average teacher salary above $70,000 per year.
Alaska has the highest average starting salary for a teacher at $44,000.
#7. Working Within Your Disability
Sometimes having a disability is seen as a disadvantage.
In reality, your disability makes you uniquely qualified for certain employment opportunities.
If you happen to be in a wheelchair, then you already know what it takes to live life successfully with it.
This knowledge, along with your expertise in how to maintain your equipment, makes you a natural salesperson for others who might need to purchase a new wheelchair.
Wheelchair accessories is a separate industry where you could find success as well.
The same is true for individuals who may need to use assistive technologies in order to counter the effects of their disability.
Several companies manufacture products that provide a better standard of living for people with specific physical disabilities where your unique perspective could be an employment benefit.
Sometimes the best way to find a job within your disability is to contact an employer and discuss a specific need.
Many businesses today in the service sector do not have any advisors which help them understand how to help those with a disability.
By contacting organizations to offer your unique perspective, you could find yourself in a paid consultation role.
#8. Go International
The world is becoming a very small place.
Many organizations are trying to enter global markets in order to expand their gross revenues.
For a company outside the US, there is often a strong desire to reach the American market with goods or services.
This means there is an opportunity for someone with a disability to represent those goods or services.
Goods and services from international companies are often sold through a rights-purchasing process.
Large companies will bid a new product to US-based companies.
Smaller companies, however, may open up the bidding process to individuals.
If you can obtain the rights to sell a specific product, then you can build a business around that opportunity.
The key to success here is that you would need to find goods or services that are not available in your current market.
This may take some research to match a company with a local need.
You will also likely need to contact the company directly.
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It is possible for people in wheelchairs to find meaningful employment.
Any physical or developmental disability can be used as an asset in the modern workplace.
You no longer need to settle for a job that has little meaning for you.
A career really is possible today thanks to the modern supports, subsidies, and opportunities that are available to those with a disability.
If you are struggling to find employment and you have a disability, then the first step is to contact your local APSE office.
APSE stands for Association of People Supporting Employment first.
You can also talk to your local Vocational Rehabilitation agency in the US by clicking on this link.
There are numerous resources available through the ADA National Network as well.
If you are actively searching for employment right now, then JobAccess has employers posting current openings where they are interested in hiring someone who is qualified with a disability.
A disability isn’t the end of the road when it comes to employment.
For many, it is just the beginning of a new opportunity.
Take the first step today.