How To Find Work While Living With a Disability

October 26, 2018


Work Safety


Tolu Ajiboye

Having to live with a permanent disability after a workplace injury, car accident, or indeed any traumatic incident, can be hard to come to terms with. Often times, you find yourself worrying about challenges you may have to face from that point on. If you lost your job after the incident that caused the disability, you’re probably wondering if you’ll able to get and retain a job — and a fulfilling one at that.

The truth is, job hunting isn't easy for anyone, and chances are, the search will be harder for you because of your disability.  

Fortunately, it's very possible to find a job you’ll love and be good at. No matter the kind of disability you have, there are many of options available to you where you can use your strongest skills and talents.

Depending on the type and severity of the disability you have, here are some job options and occupations you can pursue:

  1. Teacher
  2. Accountant
  3. Receptionist
  4. Financial management consultant
  5. Customer service representative
  6. Market Researcher
  7. Writer
  8. Proofreader
  9. Transcriptionist
  10. Software engineer
  11. Counselor
  12. Pharmacist
  13. Electrician
  14. Cosmetologist
  15. Chef

The list is not exhaustive, and honestly, you can work in virtually any sector regardless of your disability.

Worker in wheelchair at desk
No matter the kind of disability you have, your strongest skills and talents are applicable. Source: iStock

How do you find these jobs?

- The first thing to do would be to assess your current physical abilities as this will make it easier to determine what line of work you should search for jobs in. You should evaluate your ability to do common work-related activities like sitting, walking, typing and lifting objects, and to what extent.

- Next, you should adopt a number of job search techniques, and not just rely on one method. Personal contacts, classified job ads, disability support and advocacy groups, internet posting and job placement services are all sources of jobs you can use. Another great source of solid job opportunities is Jobactive; it’s a great government managed site that can help you find a suitable site.

- Research, research and more research. Before you decide to work for or even apply to a company, you should look into their reputation. Do they have a history of being supportive and providing conducive work environments for people with disabilities? Also, try to learn about the company’s goals and if your background (and possibly experience) is a good fit.

This doesn't mean you should cancel out work options you don't have skills or a background in, many disability support organisations offer to train applicants in the job-specific skills they'll need for the role.

- Consider home-based jobs. If you find that meeting the requirements of a conventional 9-5 job will be practically impossible for you because of the nature of your disability, a suitable option can be to work from home. Technology makes it so that you’ll be just as productive a worker in a company, from home as if you had to go into the office every day.

Many job postings online are listed as remote or work-from-home. All you need for these kinds of jobs are a computer and working internet. If you’ve chosen to work from home, know that you don't have to work for just one particular company; you can decide to freelance and retain control of who you work with and what job tasks you perform.

Challenges You May Face

It’s very important that you are aware of some of the challenges or obstacles you might face as a physically disabled person searching for work. Some of the more common challenges are:

- Discriminatory attitudes and misconceptions. On your job search, You will likely encounter some people with discriminatory perceptions or misconceptions about you and your disability. Despite the fact that there are anti-discriminatory laws in existence in Australia, discrimination still happens. Also, sometimes your potential employer's attitude may be affected by misconceptions about your disability and you may have to go the extra mile to convince him/her of your abilities to handle the job well.

Try as much as possible not to let all of that faze you. If you do encounter this and you can afford it, speak to a therapist or counsellor about it and discuss how you feel, as keeping your mental health in check is also important.

- Overprotective family and friends. Though their intentions are good, family and friends can be overprotective by trying to limit the kinds of job/work you seek or suggesting that you don’t go back to work at all. Be assertive about your need to return to the labour force in order to earn a living, enjoy social interaction, build your self-esteem as well as a career for yourself.

- High costs. While you’re searching for a job and attending interviews and the likes, you may incur more expenses than the next person, especially when it comes to commuting. Having to use taxis/private transport to move from place to place can get pricey. Also, once you land a job, you should be prepared to spend more on modifying your workspace, if necessary.

The good news is that there a number of agencies, funds, and programs that are set up to make your job search, and subsequent working experience, easier.

Government Supported agencies

These are major agencies working in tandem with the Australian government that have helped tens of thousands of people working with disabilities, find and retain employment. The two major specialist agencies that can be of immense help in your job search are:

- Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE). This is a group of non-profit organisations that provide a myriad of supported employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As it stands, the Australian Government’s department of social services estimates that “there are around 20,000 people with disability working in more than 600 Australian Disability Enterprises Australia-wide.”

- Disability Employment Services (DES). This specialist agency partners with a number of organisations countrywide to assist with finding, preparing for, and keeping a job. Job search support services offered by the Disability Employment Services (DES) include resume and application development, interview training, and skill development training. Not only do they help you find employment, but they also provide ongoing employment support services during the course of your employment.

Other Useful Resources and Programs

There are a couple of resources that can help you find work, retain the job you held prior to your accident, or if you’ve just gotten a job, perform your role better.

- Employee Assistance Fund (EAF): This fund can help you buy or pay for work-related modifications, equipment, assistance or services that you'll need to do your new job. This fund also provides a free workplace assessment, where your proposed workspace is assessed and the modifications, adjustments or equipment you will need to do your job are determined

- Mobility Assistance: Moving around while looking for work can be expensive, especially if you’re unable to use public transportation, and the Mobility Assistance exists to cover those commuting costs.

- Work Assist: If you haven’t lost your job but suspect that you’re about to because of your disability, Work Assist can help you keep it.

Tolu Ajiboye

Tolu Ajiboye is a contributor to the Smith's Lawyers blog for topics including injury recovery and mental health. Her work has been published by The Guardian, NBC News, Health Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.