Updated: Oct 20
From skills training to interview practice to job search support, there are many employment resources available for disabled workers. Below, we’ll review some of the most significant programs that you should be aware of for growing your job-seeking skills.
Article by Jeff Arseneaux
It can be a challenge to discover job openings that make sense for your background and skill set, especially when you consider additional factors such as your desired location and salary requirements. By developing job-seeking skills, you’ll have a much easier time finding the ideal job opportunity for your situation.
The Department of Labor funds over 2,400 American Job Centers, which provide career services such as vocational assessment and access to labor market information. You can plug your city or zip code into Career One Stop’s finder tool to discover the American Job Centers that are located closest to your home.
There may also be a Center for Independent Living located near you. In addition to helping people with disabilities live on their own, many of these facilities offer services such as job training and career coaching.
For finding a job
Once you’re ready to apply for positions, you can use one of the many job boards, online search sites, and other job placement resources that are designed for people with disabilities. Some of the most helpful resources include:
AbilityJOBS. Founded back in 1995, abilityJOBS is the largest job site for people with disabilities. One hundred percent of the employers that use this service are looking specifically to hire disabled workers, and these employers include prominent organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency, Deloitte, Amazon, and Wells Fargo.
Disabled Person. This job board offers opportunities across many different career categories, including accounting, architecture, marketing, military/defense, and management.
Getting Hired. You’ll find tens of thousands of available jobs with inclusive employers on this site’s job board. Getting Hired also holds recruiting events and publishes helpful articles on inclusivity-related topics.
For finding federal and government jobs
There are a couple of key benefits to federal jobs for people with disabilities, such as work is available across the country in many different career fields, and it allows you to take advantage of the Schedule A hiring process.
The Schedule A program involves federal agencies using a special authority to hire disabled workers without requiring them to compete for the job. To be eligible for the Schedule A program, you must be qualified for the job you’re applying to and have an intellectual, psychiatric, or severe physical disability (you’ll also need to obtain “proof of a disability” documentation in which a medical professional attests to this fact).
This non-competitive process can improve your odds of landing a federal job, but it does not guarantee employment. Also, there is a probationary period for Schedule A jobs that can last up to two years, depending on the type of employment, during which you will be held to the same performance standard as all other employees.
The federal government’s job site, USAJOBS, allows you to search for both competitive and non-competitive job openings for disabled workers.
For recent grads and people new to the workforce
It can be difficult for anyone to find their first job and get used to the routine and responsibilities of a full-time position — disabilities may make this transition more difficult.
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability provides a number of helpful resources for people with disabilities who are new to the workforce, including the High School/High Tech program, which helps disabled youth explore careers in math, science, and technology.
Job Corps can also help you get your career off to a good start, as they offer free educational and job training programs. These programs are very accessible, with Job Corps offering support services for a wide range of disabilities.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a comprehensive set of Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) services that help disabled veterans achieve their career goals. These services include job training, resume development, and career coaching. They can help you set up accommodations at your job as well.
Veterans are eligible for these services as long as they did not receive a dishonorable discharge and have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10% from the VA. Active-duty members of the military are also eligible for VR&E services if they have a disability rating of at least 20% or if they’re waiting to be discharged due to a severe illness or injury.
Know Your Rights
You’ve likely heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but that’s not the only law that protects disabled workers. Indeed, there are several other pieces of legislation that help prevent discrimination and provide accommodations for the disabled.
Below, we’ll break down the ADA as well as the other major laws that cover workers who have disabilities.
The ADA protects people with disabilities from discrimination. There are two sections of the ADA that deal with employment issues, which covers not just hiring practices but also pay, benefits, promotions, and firing practices.
Title I: Private businesses, educational institutions, employment agencies, and labor organizations that have more than 15 employees are prohibited from discriminating against disabled workers.
Title II: State and local government entities are prohibited from discriminating against disabled workers, regardless of how many employees they have.
Title I also requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for both employees and job seekers who have a disability. Such accommodations can include making existing facilities accessible, modifying equipment, and modifying work schedules.
Removing an essential function from a job, lowering production standards, and providing personal use items that are also needed off the job (prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, etc.) are not considered reasonable accommodations under the ADA.
How does a disabled worker request reasonable accommodations?
“It’s important to advocate for your needs as you’re the expert in what those are. During the interview process, make sure to discuss with the recruiter or hiring manager about the procedure for requesting reasonable accommodations, including with whom and how. This should establish your comfort level with requesting the accommodations you need and set the tone for the hiring process,” says Arseneaux.
While the ADA covers state and local government entities, the Rehabilitation Act covers federal government entities. Private employers that receive over $10,000 annually from contracts with federal agencies and organizations that receive federal assistance are also covered under this law.
The Rehabilitation Act prohibits these types of employers from discriminating against qualified job applicants with disabilities. It also provides funding for vocational rehabilitation programs, skills training, and other disability-related purposes.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) helps provide training and career services to all job seekers. There are several parts of this legislation that are concerned specifically with disabled workers, including:
WIOA requires American Job Centers to maintain physical and programmatic accessibility for people with disabilities.
Pre-employment transition services are available for students with disabilities.
State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies engage with employers and connect them with disabled workers.
Also, Section 188 of WIOA prohibits disability-based discrimination at programs and activities that are offered as part of WIOA-supported workforce development efforts.
Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act
Such contractors are required by this law to provide equal access to employment activities (recruiting, hiring, promotions, etc.) to disabled veterans. VEVRAA also requires employers to post available jobs with their local state employment service so that veterans get priority access to job listings.
Dealing With Workplace Discrimination and Harassment
It’s good to know that there are laws on the books protecting people with disabilities from discrimination — but unless these laws are actually enforced, they’re not going to have their intended effect. Federal laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
You should be aware that not all organizations are covered by the laws that are enforced by the EEOC. While federal government entities are subject to these laws regardless of their size, private businesses as well as state and local government entities with fewer than 15 employees, are not required to follow all of these rules.
Your protections under the EEOC
The EEOC ensures that employees and job applicants are protected against discrimination based on sex, race, age, disability, and other factors. Disabled workers are also protected from being denied reasonable accommodations.
Laws that the EEOC enforces
The laws enforced by the EEOC include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, and the Equal Pay Act. For disabled workers, the ADA is the most relevant law that is enforced by the EEOC.
What constitutes harassment?
Legally, harassment is defined as unwelcome conduct such as offensive jokes, physical assaults or threats, ridicule or insults, and the display of offensive objects or pictures. This behavior becomes illegal when it creates a hostile work environment or when a worker gets fired for refusing to put up with the harassment.
How you’re protected from retaliation
It is also illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who make an effort to utilize these anti-discrimination laws. Specifically, employers may not punish an employee for talking to a supervisor about discrimination in the workplace, refusing to follow directions from a supervisor that would result in discrimination, filing an employment discrimination complaint, or assisting an EEOC investigation.
How to file an employment discrimination complaint
The EEOC has divided their jurisdiction over the country into 15 districts, and each district has at least one EEOC field office. To file an employment discrimination complaint, contact the EEOC field office with jurisdiction over your area.
How to file a lawsuit
After you’ve filed a complaint with one of your district’s EEOC field offices, they will decide whether there is a strong enough case that the employer violated the ADA for them to move forward with litigation. If the EEOC decides to not bring a lawsuit against the employer based on your complaint, you will be notified that you have the right to sue them in civil court.
If you decide to file a civil lawsuit, find an attorney who specializes in employment law (the National Employment Lawyers Association’s directory offers hundreds of options to choose from). The amount of money that you can win in these cases depends on how many times the employer is found to have violated the ADA — the maximum civil penalty is $75,000 for the first offense and $150,000 for each subsequent violation.
Finally, there are a few prominent programs we haven’t yet mentioned that may be able to provide you with some valuable support:
Office of Disability Employment Policy. Founded in 2001, the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is the only non-regulatory federal agency that promotes policies and collaborates with employers on behalf of disabled workers. ODEP doesn’t directly provide support services, but their research, funding, and advocacy works behind-the-scenes to increase the number and improve the quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Job Accommodation Network. The Job Accommodation Network, which is funded by ODEP, provides free one-on-one expert consultations on topics such as job accommodation solutions, self-employment options, and the ADA as well as other laws regarding employment rights.
Ticket to Work. This program provides career development services to Social Security disability beneficiaries who are between the ages of 18 to 64 and want to work. These services include counseling, training, and job placement.
AbilityOne. Over 40,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities, including about 3,000 veterans, are employed through AbilityOne. This federal agency generates work for people with disabilities by purchasing products from participating community-based nonprofits that train and employ people with disabilities. If you’re looking for work, AbilityOne’s Find a Job page will direct you to the employment opportunities that are available in their network.
Workforce Recruitment Program. Managed by ODEP and the Department of Defense, the Workforce Recruitment Program connects employers with college students and recent graduates who have disabilities and are ready to enter the workforce. This is an excellent resource if you’re looking for a short-term summer job to test out a career path or gain some experience as you continue your studies. The Workforce Recruitment Program offers permanent job opportunities as well.
Read - Resume and Employment Guide for People With Disabilities - Part I for more helpful information.
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