Are you tired of getting stuck in dead-end jobs due to your disability? People with disabilities tend to have less job security, fewer hours, and lower pay than non-disabled employees ‑ and that’s when they can find work at all.
However, as the accommodations disabled workers have long advocated for go mainstream, including the ability to learn and work from home, the barriers to career advancement are starting to subside. For people with disabilities, the key to career advancement is taking advantage of technologies that level the playing field between them and their non-disabled colleagues.
What are those technologies, exactly? Whether you’re just starting your career or pursuing professional advancement, here’s how you can use technology to overcome barriers and get ahead at work
Starting Your Career
As Indeed explains, earning a professional degree can make a world of difference in your progress toward your career goals. But what are the best fields for people with disabilities? Additionally, how can you overcome barriers to earn a degree and make it work for you? We live in a day and age when it has never been easier. Here’s what you need to know about starting your career with a disability.
Careers for people with disabilities
Your disability doesn’t define your career, but it does make some jobs more doable than others. For many people with disabilities, that means jobs that let you work from a computer using assistive technology. Career fields to consider include:
- Business management
- Computer Science
- Customer Service
- Software Development
Accessing higher education
Most colleges have disability services offices to help students access the accommodations they need to earn a degree. If you need to study or work with disabilities, you need only connect with the appropriate office. However, these services aren’t always enough to help disabled college students navigate life on campus.
If you want to earn a degree without turning your life upside down, attend classes online instead. Advances in video conferencing, file sharing, and online collaboration have made it possible for students to earn a degree online without sacrificing a quality education. Both traditional colleges and online schools offer distance learning, but keep in mind that brick-and-mortar institutions may require some on-campus learning. Before enrolling in an online degree program, ensure the school is accredited in order to avoid diploma mills.
If you are looking for some tuition hacks, check out this article to learn 9 ways you can save money with your education.
On the Job Hunt
Are you unemployed, underemployed, or stuck hopping from gig to gig? When you need a good job, don’t stick to old-fashioned methods. Instead, turn to digital job search strategies that ensure employers see your skills first, not your disability.
Job search tools for people with disabilities
These days, most hiring starts online. That’s good for applicants with disabilities because it reduces the opportunity for bias. However, it’s important to be strategic when applying for a job online. Rather than submitting one-click resumes through generic job boards like Indeed, submit your application through the company’s website and tailor your resume using keywords.
Disabled job seekers who prefer to work from home can turn to remote job boards like WeWorkRemotely and Remote.co to find their next telecommuting position. Remote jobs let you work from home 100% of the time, effectively eliminating the physical barriers that people with disabilities face in the workplace. You can also find remote gigs as a freelancer using freelance job boards and their corresponding apps to find your next contract. If it’s your first time seeking a remote job, familiarize yourself with popular remote work tools like video conferencing apps, file sharing tools, and collaboration software before the interview.
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Tips for acing the virtual interview
After getting through round one of the hiring process, it’s time for the interview. Technology can lend a hand here too, with videoconferencing tools that let applicants and employers meet remotely. Virtual interviews can keep your disability from becoming the elephant in the room and also makes interviews more accessible for people with hearing and mobility impairments.
However, while they eliminate some barriers, virtual interviews have challenges of their own. Use these tips to ensure your next virtual interview goes smoothly:
- Test your technology before the interview to avoid technical problems.
- Find a quiet, private space and eliminate potential distractions.
- Dress professionally and use good posture.
- Maintain eye contact by training your eyes on the camera, not the screen.
- Practice answers in advance and write talking points on Post-it notes for reference.
Disclosure, reasonable accommodations, and assistive technology
One big question for disabled jobseekers is whether to disclose a disability during the interview process. There’s no obligation to share your disability status with an employer. However, if your disability is apparent in the interview process or you need an accommodation to attend the interview, there may be no way around it. In that case, it’s better to be up-front and confident when addressing a disability, including clearly explaining accommodations and assistive technology you require.
Some employers fear that accommodating a disabled employee will be prohibitively expensive. When addressing assistive technology, banish misconceptions by explaining exactly what you require of an employer. For example, the leading screen readers only cost around $1,000 and many assistive technology apps are available for free or low cost. If you’re not sure what assistive technology you need, find out if your state offers a lending library where you can test technology before you buy.
Excelling and Advancing in Your Career
When you’re ready to take your career to the next level, don’t let bias and barriers stand in your way. Here are some ways that technology can help you harness your next career opportunity.
Online networking for professionals
Don’t let your disability make you invisible in your industry. U.S.News notes virtual networking lets professionals stay at the top of their game, and you can engage without navigating physical barriers. Whether it’s sharing articles and connecting with colleagues on LinkedIn, joining Twitter chats on hot industry topics, or participating in live stream events, staying active online keeps you at the forefront of your field.
How to maximize virtual networking events
Do you struggle attending conferences and industry events? You don’t have to meet face-to-face to network effectively. Virtual events offer networking opportunities too. These tips will help you make the most of your next virtual event:
- Publicize your attendance.
- Make a list of networking goals and potential contacts before the event.
- Share comments and participate in conversations and Q&As on the event platform.
- Engage in real-time messaging during presentations.
- Share relevant articles on social media.
- Participate in virtual hangouts.
- Follow up with new connections after the event.
The professional world looks a lot different than it did a decade ago ‑ and that’s good news for people with disabilities. As technology plays an ever bigger role in the way we work, the workplace is becoming a more accessible and flexible place for workers with disabilities. Whether you’re just starting to think about your career or are ready to take it to the next level, let these tips help you achieve the professional success you deserve.