For many people with disabilities, meeting the requirements of a traditional job can be nearly impossible. But just because commuting or working long hours at a time may be difficult, that doesn't mean the disabled can't be productive in the workplace.
People with disabilities have skills, talents, and experiences that make them ideal employees but may have physical limitations or a chronic medical condition that make it difficult to perform their duties in a traditional work environment. The answer for many is to work from home. In fact, The American with Disabilities Act says that telecommuting -- a work from home job -- is a reasonable accommodation for people who are disabled.
Job Resources for People with Disabilities
National Telecommuting Institute (NTI)
For many years, telecommuting jobs were scarce and limited mostly to the technically knowledgeable and writers. In 1995, the National Telecommuting Institute (NTI), a non-profit organization, was formed "to identify and develop work-at-home jobs for home-based Americans who are physically disabled."
NTI offers three ways people with disabilities can get work-from-home jobs.
- The Staffing Connection provides linkage agreements to Federal contractors that enable these contractors to meet specific hiring guidelines to hire the disabled and helps place Americans with disabilities into these positions.
- Land a Job provides a database of over 500,000 jobs across the United States. To access the database, you need to register.
- NTI At Home offers jobs in customer service, technical support, quality control, and other jobs.
Hiring organizations are in many public and private companies from the AAA to the IRS. NTI is the prime contractor for the IRS and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and it acts as subcontractors for Medicare and Medicaid, the Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It has also matched disabled home workers with private companies, including Ticket Master, Home Shopping Network, Alamo Rent A Car, and other well-recognized corporations.
NTI offers training to qualified job applicants, the fees for which are paid for by vocational rehab counseling agencies. To qualify, you must submit a written certification of your disability before you can be offered a job via NTI. Either a physician or a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) office in your state must provide a letter verifying that you have a chronic medical condition or disability.
My Employment Options
My Employment Options is another resource to help people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI Non-Retirement) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) find work. It offers free job placement and other vocational services in 47 states and includes both telecommuting and on-site local community positions to people using the free Ticket to Work Program run through the Social Security Administration.
The work-at-home jobs listed at My Employment Options are wide-ranging, including bookkeeping, customer service, and technical support.
Other Home Career Options for the Disabled
There's no doubt that NTI and My Employment Options provides a valuable service for the disabled. Fortunately, today, people who need work accommodations because of physical disability or chronic illness aren't limited to the services these organizations offer. Telecommuting, freelance and home business options have grown such that people with disabilities can find jobs or create their own flexible home-based career with relative ease. Here are a few other work options open to disabled Americans.
- Ask the current boss to work from home. Because telecommuting is considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, disabled workers can present their employers with a work-at-home proposal if their jobs can be done from home.
- Contact your state's vocational rehabilitation agency for assistance. You can see a list of state locations and contact info from the Office of Disability Employment Policy, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Search for a home-based job in your field or fields you're qualified to work in. A great place to start is finding telecommuting jobs on LinkedIn. While many of the main job search sites such as CareerBuilder.com and Indeed.com have home-based jobs listed, you'll need to have a good understanding of work-at-home job scams to help you identify the legit jobs. You can try a site like FlexJobs, which charges for access to its database, but offers thousands of screened jobs.
- Freelance your skills to many businesses. While in a job you work for one company, as a freelancer, you can work for many. Because you're considered a contractor, you can be your own boss, picking and choosing the jobs you want to do and companies you want to work with. Similar to finding a job, LinkedIn can also be used as an online portfolio to find freelance work. Or you can use freelance sites such as Freelancer.com and Upwork to find jobs.
- Start a home business. The advantages to starting a home business are that your time and duties are completely flexible. You can focus on what you're best at and design a schedule that fits your needs. You'll find a ton of ideas, tips, and resources right here. You can even follow our Start a Business in Month Guide to get you up and running as quickly as possible.
There was a time when disabled Americans had to deal with the frustration of wanting to be active and productive workers but were limited by the constraints of traditional jobs. Today, technological advances and shifts in thinking about work have created many opportunities for people with disabilities to telecommute or create their own home-based career.
Updated by Leslie Truex