Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities The Best Careers and Salaries that Combine Success and Satisfaction

Students with disabilities may feel wary about searching for employment opportunities and whether or not to disclose a disability when applying for work, but today’s job market is vast and accommodates people with a wide range of skills, interests, talents, goals and abilities. A disability, whether physical or mental, should not limit anyone’s career aspirations or job prospects; finding success and satisfaction at work is ultimately about identifying a student’s interests and where their strongest attributes and skills lie. Read on to learn about navigating the path to employment as a person with a disability, and find how to evaluate an employer’s standards of accessibility, accommodation and acceptance in order to find the right career fit.

Students with Disabilities: What to Look for in a Job

Though some signs of potentially rewarding careers can be hard to identify, students with disabilities who are concerned about their job prospects can learn a lot about a company by doing a bit of digging when they see a job posting or are in the process of applying for a job. Here are some ability-friendly callouts to look for, and where to look for them as you explore employment opportunities.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR…

  • Many companies and organizations that welcome employees with disabilities will make it clear on their website that they are committed to diversity and inclusion. To attract a wider demographic of employees, they may include some or all of the following on their website:

    • An accessible website such as large text or links, “text-only” versions for people with visual impairments who use screen readers, and/or audio clips for people who are deaf/hard of hearing. The University of Cambridge offers an Inclusive Design Toolkit that fully explains the practice.

    • An explicit, public commitment to workplace diversity and inclusion in a statement that includes people with disabilities, and a diversity and inclusion plan that is clearly outlined, with actionable steps to encourage greater diversity in the organization’s hiring pool.

    • Regularly-updated reports on the status of diversity and inclusion at the organization over time.

    • Benefits like a flexible workplace schedule with opportunities to take work from home days, make-up options outside normal business hours or even the option to exclusively telecommute.

  • If a job involves regular work in an office or other specific location, employees with disabilities should be sure they feel comfortable in that workplace. A building designed to retain diverse employees, including those with disabilities, might include some of the following features:

    • A clearly-indicated entrance accessible to people with limited mobility, and parking spaces for people with disabilities that have the necessary space for vans and lifts.
    • Accessibility features like automatic doors or door openers, lifts or elevators if the offices are on the second floor, and Braille or large-print signs and accessible restrooms, water fountains, kitchens, hallways, aisles, offices and other rooms.
    • Adaptive seating options that allow people with mobility devices or other physical needs to be comfortable at a desk.
    • A commitment to minimizing workplace stressors by providing quiet workspace zones, flexible break times, recreation or relaxation areas.
  • The interview process is when a prospective employee can learn about the values, expectations and atmosphere of the workplace and assess whether a job will fit well with their professional goals and lifestyle. For people with disabilities, are some important accessibility issues and career opportunities to ask about in the interview:

    • Q: Does the company have a contact person or department to reach out to with questions about inclusion, accommodations and accessibility?
    • Q: Is there someone in the office who can converse in sign language?
    • Q: Do you provide a budget for employee professional development, such as funds for seminars and conferences?
  • In the later stages of hiring, it may be possible to shadow an employee and get to know the office environment. In exploring the workplace, students with disabilities can look for the following examples of accessible workplace systems:

    • Assistive technology in phones or audio conferencing such as volume control, closed captioning and microphones.
    • Workplace advocacy groups that staff can join to find community, promote cultural awareness, share professional development, and promote greater visibility of issues that affect them in the office.
    • Service animal guidelines or clear expectations in place for respecting service animals in the building.

KEEP IN MIND, the job that an employee does is only one part of joining the workforce and finding success and happiness in a career. For students with disabilities and those without, the environment in which they work, the managers and employers, the co-workers, and the opportunities for advancement all contribute to employee success and satisfaction.

Employment and Disclosing a Disability

This is a sticking point for many people with a physical or mental disability, and there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether or not to disclose. Ultimately it is completely up to you: if you would like to share, how much you’d like to share, when and with who. However, disclosing a disability is required in order to request accommodations of a potential employer. Here are some thoughts and considerations to make if you’re unsure about disability disclosure:

  • 1. Reasonable accommodations help employees succeed

    The key idea to keep in mind is that the accommodations an employee with a disability requests are usually well within the legal definition of reasonable. There are many ways to adjust a workplace or amend job duties to accommodate an employee with a disability, and asking for these changes is something every company must legally consider.

  • 2. Disclose at the right time

    The time to disclose a disability depends on a variety of factors, not just when a person wishes to ask for accommodation to perform their job. There are benefits to disclosing during the interviewing process, or when a person’s disability status or circumstances change.

  • 3. Employers must provide benefits and privileges to all employees

    All employees should receive access to the same company resources. This includes any trainings the company offers; transportation benefits; access to company spaces like cafeterias, lounges and gyms; and invitations to company social functions.

  • 4. Disclose to the correct person

    The procedures for requesting an accommodation may vary from organization to organization, but employees always have a right to privacy. A company’s human resources department or Equal Employment Opportunities office should offer information on the process, or it may be detailed in the employee handbook. You can also speak directly with your supervisor or manager.

  • 5. Change in the workplace can affect how a disability manifests

    A change in a workplace environment—both the physical space and as employees are hired or leave the company—may affect someone with a disability, and it is appropriate to disclose a disability under these new circumstances in order to receive accommodations that make you comfortable in the new environment.

  • 6. Disability status or diagnosis can change

    A disability can develop or a diagnosis can change over time. Keep relevant people informed about these changes as they affect your workplace comfort or performance and as accommodation needs adjust.

EXPERT ADVICE ON IF AND WHEN TO DISCLOSE

Connie S. Foster is a vocational rehabilitation counselor with 20 years of experience working with individuals who have physical, mental, and/or learning disabilities that are barriers to employment. She earned her undergraduate degree in secondary education from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, received her high school vocational education coordinator certification from the University of Northern Iowa, and transitioned into being an occupational specialist doing career exploration, labor market research and surveys, job development and worksite modifications.

Potential employers should not ask if you have any disabilities, or if you need accommodations during an interview.

“If it is obvious that you have a disability, you can let the employer know up front your accomplishments, skills and abilities. They may not know how easy it is to accommodate you and that you can get help from your local VR office if an employer feels they don’t have the funding for accommodations.”

Even if you know you will need a reasonable accommodation for your disability, you do not have to disclose until after you have accepted a job offer.

“You must do it within the first week of starting the new job and provide documentation justifying the need for the accommodation—usually this is as simple as having your health provider outline what accommodations are needed.”

Don’t settle, get support.

“Realize that you don’t have to do this on your own. There is help and assistance out there to help you find a career that you find fulfilling.”

Individuals with Disabilities: Career Ideas for Your Abilities

Organizations hire employees because of the abilities they bring to their job, and there are a lot of potential careers available to driven, curious people with disabilities who have a range of strengths and interests. Students with disabilities should think about the skills and experience they have when applying for new career opportunities and focus on how to highlight those skills on their resume and during the interview process.

Here are some career and salary ideas based on a variety of skills and professional attributes, with examples of successful people with disabilities working in those positions.

Creative or Artistic

Visual Artist

Artists use a range of materials and techniques to create drawings and paintings they can exhibit or sell, or that they were commissioned to create. There are many successful artists who are on the Spectrum, including British musician and painter Yap.

Degree Required: Long-term training, on-the-job experience

Median Annual Wage: $49,160 per year

Projected Job Growth: 6 percent

Actor / Actress

An actor may work in theatrical performance or in film or television, portraying a character as part of a larger story. Actors work on projects until they are completed, which can last from a few days of filming or performing, to years if a play or show that they work on is popular. There are successful actors of all ages on the Spectrum.

Degree Required: Experience-based, some college

Median Hourly Wage: $17.49 per hour

Projected Job Growth: 12 percent

Math or Numbers

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. There are specialized training organizations, such as Coding Autism, that work to train people with autism in coding skills.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $82,240 per year

Projected Job Growth: -7 percent

Budget Analyst

People in this profession work with public or private institutions in the government sector, universities, or private companies. Budget analysts organize company finances and monitor how they spend their money, and also make successful Certified Personal Accountants.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $75,240 per year

Projected Job Growth: 7 percent

Communication Skills

Technical Writer

Someone in this career develops and collects technical information, then prepares instruction manuals, guides, articles, and other documents that express these complex concepts. The Autism Daily News features their contributing writers, many of whom have technical writing backgrounds and are on the Spectrum themselves.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $70,930 per year

Projected Job Growth: 11 Percent

Administrative Services Manager

Administrative services managers are in charge of the support services of a company. They maintain the office and facilities, direct recordkeeping and mail distribution, and coordinate other administrative support staff.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $94,020 per year

Projected Job Growth: 10 Percent

Work Ethic

Air Traffic Controller

Employees in this field coordinate aircraft flight patterns, working in control towers or route centers to develop their skills through training programs and in the field. It is common to work nights or weekends as an air traffic controller, and it is important for controllers to maintain focus for long periods of time.

Degree Required: Associate degree

Median Annual Wage: $124,540 per year

Projected Job Growth: 3 percent

Animal Care Worker

Animals in zoos, kennels, pet boarding, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums all need to be cared for. Animal care workers in these facilities ensure pets are fed, groomed, and exercised. Temple Grandin is famous for her work in animal science.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $23,160 per year

Projected Job Growth: 22 percent

Solid Judgement

Paralegal

Legal assistants, also called paralegals, support lawyers in a variety of ways, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. There are courses, such as the Paralegal Assistant Training (PLAT) Program, that train people on the Spectrum to work in this field.

Degree Required: Associate’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $50,410 per year

Projected Job Growth: 15 percent

Fire Inspector

People in this profession are trained to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. They may assess outdoor fire hazards as well, or can specialize in investigating the cause of fires. Firefighter Courtney Mills is using her experiences with Asperger’s to teach autism awareness.

Degree Required: High school diploma, on-the-job-training

Median Annual Wage: $56,670 per year

Projected Job Growth: 10 percent

Research or Analytical Mindset

Computer Research Scientist

These scientists work with companies or with the government to find new, innovative ways to employ current technology. They design creative approaches to computing technology to solve existing problems in fields such as business, medicine and science. ULTRA Testing is an example of a computer software QA company utilizing employees on the Spectrum.

Degree Required: Master’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $114,520 per year

Projected Job Growth: 19 percent

Market Research Analyst

Market researchers work in nearly every industry, studying and developing ideas on how to best sell a product or service. They typically work normal business hours, and the position may require intense focus and keeping tight schedules. Companies like AutonomyWorks specialize in connecting people with autism spectrum disorders to these types of advertising and marketing operations positions.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $63,230 per year

Projected Job Growth: 23 percent

Creative or Artistic

Musician

People in this career may sing or play one or more musical instruments. They may create music in a studio; perform it for audiences on-stage or on-air; or record their work to use in other media such as video games, television or movies.

Degree Required: Experience-based

Median Hourly Wage: $26.96 per hour

Projected Job Growth: 6 percent

Sculptor

Customers may commission a sculptor, or the sculptor may create their work independently for exhibition and sale. Sculptors may work in a variety of media to make three-dimensional art, such as Michael Naranjo, who molds figures in wax that he then casts in bronze.

Degree Required: Long-term training, on-the-job experience

Median Annual Wage: $49,160 per year

Projected Job Growth: 6 percent

Math or Numbers

Software Developer

Software developers are the true creative minds behind computer programs and video games, and there is a growing market for video games designed to include blind and low-vision players. Developers may work on the systems that control game and software mechanics or design the controls that are used to operate the program.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $103,560 per year

Projected Job Growth: 24 percent

Insurance Agent

These professionals connect people with insurance policies that cover them financially when accidents happen. They typically work in standard offices, which may offer the ability to telecommute. Read Ramona Harriford’s story about working as an insurance agent before and after retina hemorrhage.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $49,710 per year

Projected Job Growth: 10 percent

Communication Skills

Travel Agent

People who work at a travel agency help plan and book transportation, hotels, and activities for individuals and groups going on trips. The company Traveleyes was started by a blind man to plan trips for vision-impaired travelers.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $36,990 per year

Projected Job Growth: -12 percent

Historian

It is the job of historians to research, analyze, interpret, and communicate about the past. A historian often conducts interviews with people who offer a specific perspective about an event or time period, capturing their first-hand impressions. The Activist History Review chronicles a historian with Retinitis Pigmentosa’s work.

Degree Required: Master’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $59,120 per year

Projected Job Growth: 6 percent

Work Ethic

Jewelry Designer

There are online guides on how to create jewelry as a person with impaired vision, and the rise of online sales has expanded the market for homemade jewelry. People who make earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces work to design their pieces; purchase materials; and construct, adjust, repair and sell their work.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $37,960 per year

Projected Job Growth: -7 percent

Massage Therapist

People in this profession help relieve pain and stress in their clients by manipulating muscles and other soft tissues of the body. Roderick Parker has worked as a blind massage therapist for over 20 years.

Degree Required: Certification

Median Annual Wage: $39,990 per year

Projected Job Growth: 26 percent

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers and other custom clothing designers such as theater companies may employ seamstresses to construct the clothes they create. This job requires attention to detail, the capacity to visualize how a piece will fit together on a body, and long hours to make the garment.

Degree Required: Associate Degree / on-the-job training

Median Annual Wage: $49,160 per year

Projected Job Growth: 6 percent

Solid Judgement

Personal Financial Advisor

These professionals advise clients on investing, choosing insurance and financial planning. They may work for a bank, financial agency or insurance company; or may be self-employed.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $90,640 per year

Projected Job Growth: 15 percent

School Career Counselor

Colleges, career centers and individual clients may employ job counselors to help people choose their careers. They can advise on resume-building as well as paths to achieve employment goals. Career counselor and consultant Dr. Karen Wolffe has applied her experiences to help others who are blind or low vision.

Degree Required: Master’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $55,410 per year

Projected Job Growth: 13 percent

Research or Analytical Mindset

Museum Archivist or Curator

Museums, historical sites and places of higher learning will often hire an archivist to serve as an expert in appraising, cataloging and preserving historically valuable documents and records. In a role as curator, these professionals manage collections of artwork and historic items, and may exhibit them to the public. Blind Spot is an example of an exhibit by blind co-curators Barry and Jan Stirbens.

Degree Required: Master’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $47,360 per year

Projected Job Growth: 13 percent

Medical Science Researcher

Conducting research to improve overall human health, medical scientists are often the ones running clinical trials and investigating new methods of improving medical treatments and methods. Alix Coysh is one example of a biomedical researcher who hopes to use her research work to cure her own condition.

Degree Required: Doctoral degree

Median Annual Wage: $82,090 per year

Projected Job Growth: 13 percent

Creative or Artistic

Animator

Major studios employ animators on staff to create their movies, television shows, games or other media, but there are some animators who work for smaller studios or collectives, such as Deaf Animation. Animators often study computer graphics, art or a related field, developing their skills and portfolio of art and stories.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $70,530 per year

Projected Job Growth: 8 percent

Desktop Publisher

People in this profession design digital page layouts for media that is printed or published online, such as newspapers, books or brochures. People in this field can specialize in editing, graphic design and web design, and may find careers at full-service publishing companies like deaf-owned Eyeth Studios.

Degree Required: Associate degree

Median Annual Wage: $42,350 per year

Projected Job Growth: -14 percent

Math or Numbers

Bookkeeper or Tax Accountant

Individuals, businesses, nonprofits and corporations all need help preparing their taxes, and tax accountants can provide consultation and tax preparation support or prepare a client’s taxes for them. The company Deaf Tax offers a range of tax services and employs people fluent in American Sign Language.

Degree Required: Certification

Median Annual Wage: $39,240 per year

Projected Job Growth: -1 percent

Web Developer

It is important for web developers to know graphic design as well as programming, as they design and maintain websites for their clients. They may work with companies or individuals, creating the look of the site and ensuring it can handle the amount of traffic it receives while maintaining a fast loading speed. A deaf developer at Springer Nature writes about her experiences in web development in this blog post.

Degree Required: Associate degree

Median Annual Wage: $67,990 per year

Projected Job Growth: 15 percent

Communication Skills

Advertising / Promotions Manager

People in charge of planning ad campaigns and promotional materials are called advertising managers. They may work with other marketing professionals such as art directors and sales personnel to coordinate their campaigns. Route 66 Promotions is an example of a deaf-owned promotion and marketing material company.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $129,380 per year

Projected Job Growth: 10 percent

Virtual Assistant

For small businesses or companies that do not have an office, a virtual assistant can take care of administrative tasks such as scheduling, routine clerical and financial work, customer service, or marketing and social media. Bellwood Virtual Assistant is a company started by a Deaf entrepreneur who offers these services to customers.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $37,870 per year

Projected Job Growth: -5 percent

Work Ethic

Aircraft Mechanics

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Military provide training programs for aircraft mechanics and technicians to learn how to perform routine maintenance and repairs to aircraft. They work in loud environments such as hangars, repair stations, or airfields.

Degree Required: Certification

Median Annual Wage: $61,260 per year

Projected Job Growth: 5 percent

Industrial Designer

Industrial designers develop the concept designs for manufactured products, including cars, home appliances, and toys. They may work in offices, but often travel to visit clients, users, and manufacturing facilities. Their work combines art, business, and engineering to create functional, useful products that are easy to produce on a large scale, such as those found on designer Patrick Lane’s portfolio page.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $65,970 per year

Projected Job Growth: 4 percent

Solid Judgement

Judge / Hearing Officer

Federal, state, and local governments employ judges, who are in charge of overseeing court legal processes. They are experts in law, with years of experience to draw from as they conduct pretrial hearings, resolve disputes, facilitate negotiations and issue legal decisions.

Degree Required: Doctoral or professional degree

Median Annual Wage: $115,520 per year

Projected Job Growth: 5 percent

Forensic Science Technician

It is important for forensic science technicians to earn a degree in a natural science or in forensic science to perform their duties. They aid criminal investigations by analyzing evidence, and may travel to collect evidence from crime scenes if they have proper training. This blog post by a deaf forensic science professor introduces several successful deaf scientists.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $57,850 per year

Projected Job Growth: 17 percent

Research or Analytical Mindset

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists spend time in the field monitoring environmental conditions, as well as in offices and labs. They use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health by advising policymakers and educating groups about environmental issues, cleaning up pollution, and/or working to reduce waste.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $69,400 per year

Projected Job Growth: 11 percent

Cartographer

Mapping skills are in high demand, and people in this profession collect, measure, and interpret information about geography in order to create and update maps. Their work may be used by the government, for education, or for regional or emergency response planning. The job may take them out of the office to inspect the areas they are mapping.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $63,990 per year

Projected Job Growth: 19 percent

Creative or Artistic

Photographer

People in this profession typically specialize in events or styles of photography, using their technical expertise and composition skills to capture people, locations, stories or phenomena. Photographer Oliver Hellowell composes photographs of nature and sells prints of his work. Photographers may also work in laboratories and take photographs using microscopes, or use telescopes to photograph distant objects.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $32,490 per year

Projected Job Growth: -6 percent

Ceramic Artist

Potters and ceramic artists create designs for their work. They may work in their own studio or as part of a larger group of ceramic artists, creating functional art pieces or purely aesthetic works. Stoneware artist Christian Royal creates his pieces with assistants.

Degree Required: Long-term training, on-the-job experience

Median Annual Wage: $49,160 per year

Projected Job Growth: 6 percent

Math or Numbers

Bank Teller

Tellers interact with customers and process bank transactions, including cashing checks, depositing money and collecting loan payments. Bank Teller Rachel Doeble’s success story has been featured by the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $28,110 per year

Projected Job Growth: -8 percent

Information Clerk

Every industry needs information clerks, but many work in government agencies, hotels and healthcare institutions. They perform routine clerical duties, including record maintenance, data collection and providing information to customers.

Degree Required: High school diploma or associate degree

Median Annual Wage: $33,680 per year

Projected Job Growth: 3 percent

Communication Skills

Online Sales Manager

Sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments, but online sales managers also work to ensure that their stores stock new, exciting, on-brand merchandise, and that customers are satisfied with what they buy online. They listen and respond to customer feedback.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $66,610 per year

Projected Job Growth: -3 percent

Cashier / Store Clerk

People in this career accept payment from customers who purchase goods and services or work with customers in retail or grocery stores, gas stations or other merchandise stores. Some employers may even be willing to carve out clerk positions for people with disabilities.

Degree Required: On-the-job training

Median Annual Wage: $21,030 per year

Projected Job Growth: -1 percent

Work Ethic

Electrician

Employees learn through apprenticeships and on the job in this profession, or may learn in technical schools and receive certifications. Electricians install, maintain and repair electrical power systems including lighting and communications. They work full time, and may work evenings and weekends.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $54,110 per year

Projected Job Growth: 9 percent

Construction Extraction

People who do construction extraction may work with a variety of materials, including safely identifying and disposing of materials such as asbestos, radioactive waste and flammable or corrosive substances. Work environments vary, and employees may have to wear protective suits or work overtime or during nights and weekends depending on the nature of their work.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $41,400 per year

Projected Job Growth: 17 percent

Solid Judgement

Firefighter

People in this profession control and put out fires, but they are also often the first to respond in a natural disaster or other emergency situation where lives, property or the environment are in danger. It is also possible to work as a volunteer firefighter, responding to situations as they arise and require more help than the regular staff can provide.

Degree Required: Postsecondary non-degree award

Median Annual Wage: $49,080 per year

Projected Job Growth: 7 percent

Security Guard

Many places employ security guards, including museums, stores, offices, manufacturing plants and banks. They patrol the area they are hired to protect, preventing theft, vandalism and other illegal activities. They may work nights or weekends.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $26,960 per year

Projected Job Growth: 6 percent

Research or Analytical Mindset

Survey Researcher

These professionals design and conduct surveys to collect data, such as employment and salary information. They may ask questions to understand and categorize people’s opinions, preferences or beliefs, and then analyze the results of their surveys.

Degree Required: Master’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $54,270 per year

Projected Job Growth: 2 percent

Medical Laboratory Technician

Hospitals usually employ medical lab technicians to collect samples of body fluids, tissues, and other substances; and perform tests to analyze these samples. Some states require these professionals to obtain a license before they work in this field.

Degree Required: Associate degree or certificate

Median Annual Wage: $51,770 per year

Projected Job Growth: 13 percent

Creative or Artistic

Filmmaker

There is a lot of potential to create personally-rewarding stories as a filmmaker, as Paul Dalio has demonstrated with a recent film that drew upon his experiences with bipolar disorder. A person pursuing this career may write and film their own work, or serve as a director of the story and acting.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $71,620 per year

Projected Job Growth: 12 percent

Graphic Designer

Publishing and advertising companies, design services and other related service and outreach industries employ graphic designers, but these professionals can be self-employed and work on a freelance basis as well. They use their artistic skills to create visual concepts, develop designs and build layouts for materials such as brochures, magazines, ads and reports. Some even use design to express their emotions and help themselves and others cope.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $48,700 per year

Projected Job Growth: 4 percent

Math or Numbers

Cost Estimator

Experience in the industry that a cost estimator works in can stand in for formal education. These professionals collect and analyze data around their chosen industry or products to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor that will be required to complete a service or create a product.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $63,110 per year

Projected Job Growth: 11 percent

Market Research Analyst

People in this field work in a wide range of businesses and areas of the economic market. They study market conditions to help companies understand what different consumers want and assess the costs and profits of these products or services. Those with mental health diagnoses may even enjoy conducting market research that addresses consumer’s mental health and behaviors.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $63,230 per year

Projected Job Growth: 23 percent

Communication Skills

Receptionist

In this career, employees perform administrative tasks and interact with the public over the phone and in-person. They answer phones and direct calls, receive visitors, and provide information about the company as needed. Listen to Maddie’s story about successfully working through depression and anxiety while managing the front desk of a popular beach resort.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $28,390 per year

Projected Job Growth: 9 percent

Recreation Worker

Summer camps, recreation and community centers, some parks and nursing homes all may employ recreation workers to help plan and lead events that will keep members of the community active, healthy and happy. People in this career may lead arts and crafts projects, sports, music practice, drama activities or games. Spending more time doing outdoor and park activity has also been shown to improve mental health.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $24,540 per year

Projected Job Growth: 9 percent

Work Ethic

Construction Worker

Working in the construction field is physically demanding, but essential to maintain a city’s infrastructure. These workers help build and maintain roads, buildings, and structures. The construction industry has begun to address mental health issues more seriously, providing resources and ideas for promoting mental health awareness.

Degree Required: Short-term on-the-job training

Median Annual Wage: $33,450 per year

Projected Job Growth: 12 percent

Sous Chef

Sous chefs typically work in restaurants or private households, on a team or under an executive chef. They oversee food preparation, and the work is often fast-paced and may require working early morning or late evening hours. This environment can be rewarding for those with who are committed to excellence and pay close attention to detail.

Degree Required: On-the-job training

Median Annual Wage: $49,950 per year

Projected Job Growth: 10 percent

Solid Judgement

Paramedic

People in this profession take care of sick or injured patients in emergency medical settings, responding to emergency calls and providing transport to hospitals. Paramedic Louis Belluomini and his PTSD service dog work together to quickly and competently provide medical services to patients.

Degree Required: Postsecondary nondegree award

Median Annual Wage: $33,380 per year

Projected Job Growth: 15 percent

College Professor

Postsecondary teachers work at both public and private colleges and universities, community colleges or professional schools. They spend most of their time instructing classes, conducting research and advising students, and often have a fairly flexible schedule. University of Southern California Professor Elyn R. Saks shares her experiences and research findings on people with mental health disorders who have highly successful careers.

Degree Required: Master’s or Doctoral degree

Median Annual Wage: $76,000 per year

Projected Job Growth: 15 percent

Research or Analytical Mindset

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

People in this profession work in hospitals, physician offices, or medical and diagnostic labs. They operate special medical equipment that generates images or conducts tests to help physicians diagnose or assess their patients’ medical conditions.

Degree Required: Associate degree

Median Annual Wage: $65,620 per year

Projected Job Growth: 17 percent

Forest Conservation Worker

Under direction from foresters, conservation workers measure the quality of forests and work to improve their environments. They may work for the government or on government contracts, or they may work in privately owned forest lands or nurseries. Many organizations such as The Wildlife Trusts focus on promoting natural resources for mental and physical wellbeing.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $27,650 per year

Projected Job Growth: -2 percent

Creative or Artistic

Editor

Editors may work in an office or from their home, and are responsible for planning, reviewing, and revising content for publication in print media. They may work on magazines, newspapers or websites. Online service providers like Disabled Writers connect editors with disabled people working in journalism.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $58,770 per year

Projected Job Growth: -1 percent

Sound Engineering Technician

These professionals may work in radio, television, music, theater, or movie production. They operate the sound equipment for these industries, either in studios or at concerts or other live events.

Degree Required: Some college

Median Annual Wage: $42,650 per year

Projected Job Growth: 8 percent

Math or Numbers

IT Manager

This career is ideal for people comfortable with planning, coordinating and directing digital activities in a corporation or organization. They create computer solutions to meet their company’s information technology goals. Michael Sardinas’ story shows small accommodations can make IT careers more accessible for people with disabilities.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $139,220 per year

Projected Job Growth: 12 percent

Actuary

Insurance companies employ most actuaries, though some may work on a consulting basis and travel to their clients. These professionals perform financial risk assessments using statistics and financial theory, and help strategize to develop policies that will reduce that risk.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $101,560 per year

Projected Job Growth: 22 percent

Communication Skills

High School Teacher

Teachers specialize in one or two subjects that they teach to high school students, such as science or history. They earn specialized certifications in their subject areas and teach at public or private institutions. Some teachers with disabilities also find great satisfaction teaching students with disabilities.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $59,170 per year

Projected Job Growth: 8 percent

Mediator

People who work in the field of mediation or arbitration are responsible for facilitating a dialogue and negotiations between parties that are in conflict. They work to find compromises outside of the court system as part of state or local governments or in private legal services.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $60,670 per year

Projected Job Growth: 10 percent

Training and Development Specialist

Most industries employ training and development specialists to help with training their employees. These professionals plan lessons, give presentations, and work to improve employee skills and knowledge and provide job coaching to help people succeed professionally.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $60,360 per year

Projected Job Growth: 11 percent

Work Ethic

Sales Manager

Sales teams rely on their sales managers to direct employees to achieve sales goals, analyze data, and develop training programs for fellow employees. There may be some travel required for this position, in addition to evening and weekend work. They work in a variety of industries, from retail to consumer and business service providers.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $121,060 per year

Projected Job Growth: 7 percent

Customer Service

People who have strong people skills and some computer experience can find a career in customer service. Employees usually work in a store, call center, bank, credit or insurance agency, interacting with customers as they process orders, provide information and handle complaints. There may also be growth opportunities to supervise or run quality control within a customer service center.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $32,890 per year

Projected Job Growth: 5 percent

Solid Judgement

Lawyer

People in this profession are in charge of advising and representing individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues. They work in private or corporate legal offices, or for federal, local, or state governments, and can specialize in different areas of law, such as business law or financial regulations.

Degree Required: Doctoral or professional degree

Median Annual Wage: $119,250 per year

Projected Job Growth: 8 percent

Emergency Dispatcher

This position is also called ‘public safety telecommunicator,’ and people in this role are in charge of answering emergency and nonemergency calls to the police, fire department or ambulance dispatch.

Degree Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Median Annual Wage: $39,640 per year

Projected Job Growth: 8 percent

Research or Analytical Mindset

Financial Manager

People in this role work for their company to produce financial and investment reports, direct a company’s investments, and develop strategies to reach long-term financial goals.

Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree

Median Annual Wage: $125,080 per year

Projected Job Growth: 19 percent

Electrical Engineering Technician

Electrical engineering technicians help design and develop electrical equipment, which may include computers, navigation and communication equipment, or medical monitoring devices. They evaluate, test and plan how to manufacture the equipment they develop. Elvis Cheatham is an example of an excelling electrical designer with physical disabilities.

Degree Required: Associate degree

Median Annual Wage: $63,660 per year

Projected Job Growth: 2 percent

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Challenges & Rights of Workers with Disabilities

Some employers, workplaces and co-workers may have limited experience with people who have disabilities. However, there are protections in place through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and organizations that are dedicated to furthering the rights of people with disabilities. Every employee should feel empowered to seek out help from these professionals when a workplace environment is not accepting or accommodating someone with a disability as well as they could.

RIGHTS RESOURCES FOR WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES

AbilityJobs — An online job board for people with disabilities seeking employment.

The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual with a Disability — A U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guide to navigating an employee’s rights under the ADA.

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) — A national advocacy organization that offers resources to people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, including lists of preferred legal representatives and professional counseling services.

Career One Stop: Workers with Disabilities — A page on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Career One Stop website that contains guides on developing interview and job skills as a person with a disability.

Disability Rights Bar Association (DRBA) — A network of attorneys that specialize in disability law.

Easterseals — An organization that offers home- and community-based services to people with disabilities, including employment training resources.

Employees’ Practical Guide … — A guide through the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) that explains how employees with disabilities can petition for reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law — An advocacy organization working to protect and advance the rights of people who have mental illnesses or developmental disabilities.

Service Animals and the ADA — A resource through the U.S. Department of Justice that explains what coverage is offered to people with service animals under the ADA.

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals — A manual through the ADA National Network that addresses service and therapy animals in the workplace.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) — A career resource for U.S. veterans who have a disability.

CHALLENGES THAT MAY STILL EXIST

  • Challenging Scenario: My employer will not let me bring my service animal to work. Advice

    Service animals are considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. A trained service animal should be permitted if the animal is not disruptive and if their function is related to the employee’s disability. An employer may need more extensive information about an employee’s disability and how the presence of their service animal will improve their job performance.

  • Challenging Scenario: Co-workers keep touching my mobility device. Advice

    People without disabilities might think that they are providing assistance when they touch someone’s mobility device, but it is a violation of personal space. Sometimes, a simple conversation can clear things up, but if not, contact your human resources department about offering a seminar on interacting with someone who uses a mobility device, or suggest bringing a mediator to facilitate a conversation about appropriate workplace behavior towards people using mobility devices.

  • Challenging Scenario: After applying for a job that I am qualified for and have done before with reasonable accommodations at a different company, I was told that the new company would not accept my application because I could not perform the job with my disability. Advice

    Some companies may be unaware of the wide range of support options that exist for accommodating employees who have a disability. If a company has a disability support services department, you can contact them to explain how you performed your job duties in the past with reasonable accommodation, or you can contact the human resources department.

    If there is no change in hiring criteria after you have addressed an employer’s concerns, there is precedent for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suing companies that refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to an applicant who performed their job with reasonable accommodations in the past. You can consult a local attorney about how to proceed, and you may file a complaint with the Department of Justice, who will investigate the issue.

  • Challenging Scenario: An employer is concerned that some of my job tasks and work environment will exacerbate my disability, and they seem worried about liability issues. Advice

    Employee health and safety are important to protect in the workplace, but if you and your healthcare provider are not concerned about your ability to perform your job duties in the workplace, you could propose contracting a third-party accessibility expert or ADA compliance consultant to evaluate your working conditions and personal safety. Your employer could also consult an occupational or vocational rehabilitation expert to assess whether you are able to perform essential duties of your job.

  • Challenging Scenario: My manager has spoken to other people in the company about my physical or mental health condition without my permission. Advice

    While your employer can gain access to your medical information, there is no reason for someone’s disability to be the topic of work conversation. You can file a complaint with your human resources department and address this issue with your manager in-person with a neutral third party present.

Expert Advice on Asking Employers for Accommodations

Connie S. Foster is a vocational rehabilitation counselor with 20 years of experience working with individuals who have physical, mental, and/or learning disabilities that are barriers to employment. She earned her undergraduate degree in secondary education from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, received her high school vocational education coordinator certification from the University of Northern Iowa, and transitioned into being an occupational specialist doing career exploration, labor market research and surveys, job development and worksite modifications.

Q: What are some common accommodations that employers can make for someone with a physical disability?

A: There are many accommodations that an employer can easily do. In an office situation, sometimes it is as simple as buying an electric table that can raise up and down with a touch of a finger so an individual can stand or sit at a height that suits you instead of a one size fits all desk. In a warehouse, there are electric hand trucks that are only a little wider than a person and are easily guided with your hands for moving heavy loads or lifting items above your head. There are hand trucks that can climb stairs so all you do is guide them. Sit/stand stools are available for individuals who cannot stand in one place for any length of time.

Q: What are some common accommodations that employers can make for someone with an invisible disability?

A: Many of the accommodations listed above can apply to an invisible physical disability. With mental health, it could be making it possible for them to take frequent shorter breaks so they can calm themselves if they are suffering from anxiety, or providing them with a safe place to go when they need it. It could be that they need reminder checklists for routine jobs. Cell phones can be used to develop reminder systems so checking on your tasks is not as obvious—you are just checking your cell phone. Echo pens can record instructions so an individual can refer back to information they have trouble remembering.

Q: Where should someone with a disability look for resources about workplace accommodations for their disability?

A: Hopefully you have tried to work with HR or your supervisor to resolve the issue that you couldn’t resolve yourself. If you have requested an American with Disabilities Act accommodation that is reasonable and provided the necessary documentation to HR or your supervisor showing you have justification for doing it and they still haven’t accommodated you, then you may want to consider consulting a lawyer. If you are being harassed because of your disability and HR/a supervisor does not take action to stop the problem, you may want to consult a lawyer. Many times, it is a process of educating coworkers about the rights of individuals with disabilities and how to react appropriately.