Finding a job is a difficult task for anyone, but when you add a disability into the mix, things get even harder. The unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities is at a whopping 75 percent. There are several factors affecting this statistic, but fear of losing benefits and accessibility top the list.
When I graduated from college, I faced these same fears, but figured I would move to the big city, find a job, and live happily ever after. It has been six months now, and that fairytale is still eluding me. There are many things I have learned on this journey to employment, and I’d like to share them with you.
In the recent past, a person would lose their disability benefits as soon as they landed a job. This meant no funding for attendant care, medical equipment, or medical care unless it was compensated by the employer via insurance, and for many this was not an option. Times are changing, however, and our government is passing legislation that allows us to maintain some if not all of our benefits after employment.
The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act allows people with disabilities to start receiving or to retain Medicare health coverage when they take paying jobs. Each case is different, however, so it would be wise to check out the Social Security Administration’s website before you took a job offer.
Once you have cut through all the red tape, actually finding the right job can be a challenge. You have to take into account things like transportation, work environment, and the job duties. Many towns have public transportation or special transit to get you to and from work, and work environments are more accessible thanks to the ADA, but it is up to you to make sure you can perform the job duties (with reasonable accommodations). Read job descriptions and make sure they match your abilities, if they don’t, research accommodations and alternative ways of accomplishing the tasks.
There are many different places to look for jobs. Classified ads are good, but the descriptions are often short and lack vital information. Word of mouth and networking are good too, but if you don’t know the right people, then you won’t get far. The Internet is a great resource because your search can be more defined. There are also several sites specifically for disabled people seeking employment. Check out the related links to the right.
So in this adventure, remember to accentuate the positive. Focus on you and not your disability. If employment is a goal in your life, I urge you to seek it.