Looking for a new job is challenging for everybody. For people with disabilities, finding a job can sometimes be particularly difficult due to additional limitations on which jobs they may be eligible for in addition to possible discrimination from employers or colleagues. Although the rights of people with disabilities to have access to suitable, full-time jobs are protected by several federal and state laws, individuals with disabilities still face higher unemployment and underemployment rates than the general population.
As a result, several governmental and non-governmental organizations and groups are dedicated to helping people with disabilities across the country have equal access to the job market. Some of these groups focus on building a community for individuals with disabilities that provides a network of support, information and community services to those in need.
Other groups are dedicated solely to providing professional services to people with disabilities, often forming partnerships with local and national businesses to offer more economic opportunities to individuals in this group. Many of these companies help people with disabilities throughout the U.S., while others focus more on local efforts. Keep reading to learn more about federal and non-governmental programs and organizations that specifically work with job seekers who have disabilities to help develop their professional futures.
About Federal Programs That Support the Professional Development of People With Disabilities
Several federal programs have been founded with the primary purpose of helping people with disabilities have the same access to decent work that people without disabilities are privy to. Beyond these specific programs, federal agencies and many companies working with the federal government often adhere to federal laws guaranteeing equal rights for job seekers with disabilities by participating in the Schedule A Hiring Authority. While most jobs with the federal government require applicants to go through a typical, competitive application process to receive an offer, some positions created under the Schedule A Hiring Authority process can be filled in a faster way. In most cases, choosing a new employee with this process is as simple as matching a qualified candidate with disabilities with an open role in a federal agency. People with disabilities who would like to work for the federal government under the Schedule A Hiring Authority should contact the specific agency they are interested in to find out about any eligible open positions.
The federal government’s primary web portal for job seekers and employers, USAjobs.gov, includes important search and filtering capabilities to help applicants with disabilities know which jobs may fall under Schedule A, which may be able to provide physical accommodations for applicable disabilities and much more. Other important information and resources specifically catering to people with disabilities can be found throughout the web portal as well. One of the most expansive federal programs dedicated specifically to helping people with disabilities find jobs is The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP).
The WRP, overseen by The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity (ODMEO) manage the program, connects federal employers nationwide with highly motivated job seekers with disabilities. Interested job applicants can receive one-on-one help through a local Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) to learn what opportunities they may be eligible for.
As one of the federal government’s flagship programs to help the people with disabilities find work, WRP representatives promise to visit any high education institution with at least eight students with disabilities who are looking for work. The WRP database makes it easy for interested employers to find great candidates that meet the required job criteria. Eligible candidates participating in the WRP programs can learn a great deal of job-related skills in addition to gaining insight into the job market and hiring process on the whole. Other forms of federal support for people with disabilities include online resources, recruitment information and more.
About Programs Helping Students and Youth with Disabilities Find Work
In addition to the federal programs offering support for people with disabilities, there are dozens of non-governmental businesses and organizations that were specifically established to be able to help individuals with disabilities lead full lives with gainful employment. While many of these programs are open to any person with eligible disabilities, some programs are focused on helping an even smaller sub-section of the population such as students with disabilities. For individuals that fall into this group, there are multiple programs to help students stay in school and earn higher degrees or to transition into the workforce and develop professionally.
Whatever the case, the following are some of the most popular programs available to students and youth with disabilities available around the U.S. today:
- Bridges to Work helps over 1,000 youth with disabilities transition out of high school special needs education into the workforce every year. Bridges to Work helps connect employers and with new graduates to fill important entry-level positions.
- Career Opportunities to Students with Disabilities (COSD) provides college students with disabilities a career pathway system to search for suitable jobs and connect with hiring employers in the area. COSD is supported by dozens of big-name companies like Merck, Deloitte and ExxonMobil to name a few.
- Project SEARCH offers students a yearlong school-to-work transition program that takes place in the professional world. This program’s unique full-immersion approach offers participants an incredible perspective into the workplace and the skills they will need to succeed.
- Meaningful Opportunities for Successful Transitions (MOST) provides people with disabilities the opportunity to participate in an individualized, one-year transition program into the adult community. MOST is integrated with community resources and encourages the participation of family members of people with disabilities in many informational programs.
- RespectAbility – The National Leadership Program is an inspirational program for individuals with disabilities who are interested in leadership, politics, social issues or other public services. Through The National Leadership Program, participants will be able to get a firsthand look at how varies governmental and non-governmental organizations work for the common good.
- AAPD – Summer Internship Program offers students and recent graduates with disabilities the chance to work with government officials and agencies through summer internships and work-study programs throughout Washington D.C. AAPD programs provide a housing and living allowance to eligible students.
- Entry Point! STEM Internships for Students with Disabilities offers eligible students with disabilities internship and co-op opportunities in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science and business through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
About Programs Dedicated to Helpings Veterans with Disabilities Find Employment
A significant proportion of people with disabilities in the U.S. are also military veterans. Veterans with disabilities are considered a particularly at-risk group and are therefore supported by a wide range of organizations that want to help veterans with disabilities lead normal, healthy lives. Below are some of the most popular federal and non-governmental programs for veterans with disabilities
Veterans Administration’s Social Work Services (SWS) is a comprehensive group of federal programs that help all types of veterans transition back to civilian life. In particular, the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service organizes career and training resources for vets with or without disabilities throughout the year.
Sponsored by the DOL, the CareerOneStop web portal offers veterans with or without disabilities a one-stop-shop for career resources and professional networking opportunities. In addition, CareerOneStop is linked with the American Job Center, another great resource for vets.
Bonds of Courage provides a Career Fitness and Mentoring Program to support the professional pursuits of vets with disabilities including interview preparation, networking advice and more.
Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) offers vets with disabilities the unique opportunity to receive entrepreneurship and small business management training at no cost.
Hire Heroes USA – Employment resources for Veterans with Disabilities helps veterans with or without a disability receive job training and information about employment opportunities nearby. This nonprofit organization creates job opportunities for U.S. Military Veterans and their spouses through employment training and engagement in the workforce at no cost.
About Business Focused Organizations That Serve People With Disabilities
There are also several organizations that are dedicated to helping people with disabilities start their own businesses. From entrepreneurship training programs to help navigating the funding system, some of the most popular business-focused disability organizations include:
- Talent Acquisition Portal (TAP)
- Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond
- US Business Leadership Network (USBLN)
- Return on Disability
- National Organization on Disability (NOD)
- National Business and Disability Council (NBDC) at The Viscardi Center
- Bender Consulting Services