If you're like most wheelchair users, you'd like nothing more than to have a satisfying career that develops your talents to the fullest extent while making a positive contribution to the world. But as you might have guessed, it's not always that easy. In this post, you'll discover ways to overcome the odds, then conclude with a discussion of some of the best jobs for people in wheelchairs to help steer you in the right direction. Ready to get going?...
Finding the right job is difficult under the best of circumstances, let alone people in wheelchairs where the number of available jobs is less than the general public. But with social and technological advances, the tide is starting to change, to the point where 17.4% of working-age wheelchair users now have jobs (source). But, as you'd imagine, there are still many obstacles to overcome...
THE CHALLENGES OF FINDING JOBS FOR PEOPLE IN WHEELCHAIRS
Now, we all have talents and limitations. Someone who isn't particularly good at math probably won't excel in a career in engineering. Similarly, an introvert isn't as likely to excel in sales as an extrovert.
In the same way, the physical limitations of wheelchair users preclude certain jobs like plumbing and construction, careers which require a fair amount of agility and resiliency. Moreover, jobs that require you to stand frequently such as food service, hairdressing, and retail, also aren't realistic options in most cases. Thus, while unfortunate, this probably disqualifies a fair number of jobs right from the start.
Aside from the demands of the job itself, another major reason why it's hard for people in wheelchairs to find jobs comes down to accessibility. The fact is many buildings still aren't wheelchair-accessible. And even if they've been modified to include wheelchair entrances and exits, there still might be challenges in other areas.
For example, potholes, cracked sidewalks, or fallen branches can transform a relatively short distance from the parking lot to the building into an obstacle course for a wheelchair user. Not to mention having too little space to enter and exit adapted vehicles easily on each side.
Moreover, the buildings themselves might not have accommodating bathrooms, stairlifts or elevators, not to speak of the offices, many of which require modifications to become more wheelchair-friendly:
- Height adjustable desks or tables
- Low-height filing systems
- Shelves and drawers within reach
- Copiers and other office machines positioned at a lower height
- Computer mounts that attach to wheelchairs
Now, don't get me wrong, with the right accommodations, virtually any barrier to exceptional job performance for people in wheelchairs is possible. But you might have to wait quite a long time until that happens (if at all). In the meantime, there are a number of other avenues you can take...
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WHERE PEOPLE IN WHEELCHAIRS CAN LOOK FOR JOBS
The best way to bypass the rigmarole described above is to concentrate only on companies known to actively hire disabled people, including those confined to wheelchairs. In recent years, many online job banks for the disabled have sprung up to make the task easier, including:
And because of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires all government agencies, companies with federal contracts, or any company that receives federal funding of any kind to be in compliance, government-related jobs should be given special consideration. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, make sure to check out USAJobs.com.
(For more information on how to find a job with a disability, click here.)
So what kind of job should you look for? Well, regardless of whether you're disabled or not, it all depends on your skills and interests. That said, some jobs for people in wheelchairs stand out better than others...
SIX OF THE BEST JOBS FOR PEOPLE IN WHEELCHAIRS
Medical Office Assistant/Pharmacy Services
This is one field where being in a wheelchair can work to your advantage. Since you likely deal with physical limitations on a daily basis, you may have more understanding and sympathy toward others undergoing medical treatment.
Moreover, medical offices and hospitals also provide state-of-the-art wheelchair accessible ramps, elevators, and bathrooms, which many other jobs don't. And if you can't work on-site, you may be able to telecommute for certain tasks like data entry.
The average salaries for positions in this field are:
Medical office assistant –$34,000 per year
Health information technicians – $40,430 per year
Health services managers – $106,070 per year
Each position offers a lot of opportunity for professional growth. Another option is work with pharmaceutical companies as a sales representative, but this is only viable for people with outgoing personalities and experience with certain medications.
Many successful people in wheelchairs want to be able to share their experiences in a way that can benefit others. Vocational counseling is a great way to do this by helping people achieve their highest career potential.
Vocational counselors work in schools and non-profit organizations as well as private industry. It's a field expected to grow, especially as more and more jobs get displaced by technology. The average salary for this career is $54,000.
Virtually every business needs an accounting department to keep track of the bottom line. This is a field where you can either work for an accounting firm or go into business for yourself.
The average salary for bookkeepers and accounting clerks as a company employee is $38,990 per year. Certified accountants and auditors, on the other hand, earn a very comfortable living with an annual average salary of $75,280.
Keep calm, it's just a wheelchair! 😉
Not only is computer programming one of the best and most lucrative jobs for people in wheelchairs (average salary: $79,530), it's also a career expected to expand in coming years. In fact, many well-known companies, such as IBM, Lockheed Martin, and Merck participate in educational job training programs for students with disabilities such as Entry Point.
Work from Home
The number of people who work from home has risen dramatically within the last decade. In 2003, only 19% of people earned at least part of their income working from home, which increased to 24% in 2015 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And for those who work in finance and management, the percentage is even higher, ranging from 35% to 38%.
Because the internet has made remote work possible, 68% of workers in the U.S. expect to work from home at least part of the time in the future. And based on the large number of reputable companies who've already come on board with the idea, it seems the trend is likely to continue. The fields of sales, education, training, and customer service all offer telecommuting positions.
As my personal favorite, the amount of money you can make in this field is only limited by your ambition. In fact, Disabled-World.com lists affiliate marketing as one of the great online career choices for people with disabilities.
Essentially, an affiliate marketer is someone who partners up with a company to promote their products and services in exchange for a percentage of sales made through a personal "affiliate link." The way you attract visitors to click on these links and buy products is either through paid advertising or your own website using educational or entertaining content. Best of all, you're not the one responsible for storing, packaging, shipping, and returns — the company is.
But while affiliate marketing takes very little money to get going (unlike the startup costs of most traditional businesses), it does take a lot of persistence before you start to reap the (many) rewards.
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As the online job market continues to grow, more opportunities will open up for people in wheelchairs. Government, technology, and education are just a few sectors where progress is already being made. But even now, there are plenty of jobs available that offer career satisfaction and financial success so long as you take the time to look for them.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
What experiences have you had in the workplace as a wheelchair user? Can you think of any other jobs for people in wheelchairs not already mentioned above? Leave your comments below!