For people with disabilities, career goals are just as diverse as members of the disability community themselves. Many students, job seekers, and entrepreneurs have found different career assessment tools like Live Career, Big Five, and DiSC to be helpful. Truity Psychometrics LLC is a developer and publisher of online personality and career tests. Other assessments like CliftonStrengths by Gallup and O*NET may also be useful. Every occupation requires a different mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities and is performed using a variety of activities and tasks. The O*NET database contains hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptions of nearly 1,000 occupations covering the entire U.S. economy. Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs assessment tool are cross-referenced with careers that have often been associated with different classifications.
These assessment tools are only part of an overall approach to assist you in deciding your career path. Within a disability rights context, it’s critical that you remain mindful of inaccurate perceived limitations many people hold based on stereotypes about disability. For youth with disabilities, Guideposts for Success is an important resource for making the transition to adulthood including school-based preparatory experiences, career preparation, and work-based learning experiences. These “guideposts” may also include connecting activities such as mental and physical health services, transportation, tutoring, managing finances, and family support. In addition youth leadership forums are organized in many states. Students with disabilities in high school also may gain invaluable insight through direct exposure to role models with different types of disabilities. For examples of some well-known role models, check out RespectAbility’s profiles of Talented African Americans with Disabilities.
For youth in post-secondary settings, many resources are available from National Youth Leadership Network during its existence several years ago, as well as Partners for Youth with Disabilities. In addition, the Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) Center offers good information about role models with disabilities. If you’re thinking of a legal career, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Commission on Disability Rights offers a mentoring program for law students. In addition, the Commission has produced a 2020 report detailing the present status of employment of people with disabilities in the legal profession. The ABA has also compiled a report that focuses attention on diversity and inclusion at every level of the organization and specifically includes law students and attorneys with disabilities. And remember that everyday individuals in your community may also help bolster your confidence as you seek to enter or re-enter the workforce.
There are, of course, many other potential career paths to which students might be drawn. For those interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) check out the STEM resource page on the U.S. Department of Education’s website. There are also disability-oriented STEM resources like the AccessSTEM Project at the University of Washington’s DO-IT Center and Independence Science, which “actively seeks partnerships with science education technology companies, access technology firms, and other educational researchers that are interested in opening doors of opportunity for students who are blind or have other disabilities…” The National Federation of the Blind also has engaged in efforts for students who are blind or visually impaired. And for those interested in teaching professions, the Disabled Teachers Network (DTN) is an organization “of, for and by teachers with disabilities by teachers with disabilities.”
In the entertainment industry, an area where people with disabilities are underrepresented, RespectAbility has put together The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit: The RespectAbility Guide to Inclusion in the Entertainment Industry, “to help entertainment professionals who wish to ensure they are as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible.” “With Hollywood striving to boost diversity and inclusion, opening the inclusion umbrella for America’s largest minority…is the right thing to do as well as economically smart, given that the disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion.” RespectAbility also has developed a comprehensive resource page for entertainment professionals aimed at bringing more people with disabilities into roles in front of and behind the camera.
Other ways to help ensure success must be geared toward minimizing the rate of youth leaving school before graduating. America’s Promise Alliance reports, “High school graduates experience personal and professional benefits. Graduates have longer life expectancies, face better health outcomes, have higher average incomes, are more likely to complete postsecondary education and training, and are more likely to be employed — 88% of available jobs in 2020 require at least a high school diploma. High school graduates contribute to the health of the national economy. Reaching a 90% graduation rate for just one cohort of students would mean the country would see a $3.1 billion increase in annual earnings, create more than 14,000 new jobs, and save $16.1 billion in health care costs. High school graduates promote positive community outcomes. Graduates are more likely to vote and be civically engaged, which improves living conditions for people in their community.” These approaches include systemic renewal (which may involve “whole-school” reform efforts), school-community collaboration, safe learning environments, family engagement, early childhood education, early literacy development, mentoring/tutoring, and other extracurricular involvement. Often overlooked is the need for students with disabilities to be supported in extracurricular activities. This aspect of student life may be incorporated into a student’s IEP through school-sponsored activities. For more information, read Effective Strategies from the National Dropout Prevention Center.
Many students with disabilities are interested in careers that do not require four-year college degrees. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) administers several programs under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). According to the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD), “unlike previous reauthorizations, the current version of the law, Perkin’s V, mentions students with disabilities and how to prepare them for employment.” A list of career and technical education centers is available, in addition to an online newsletter from “Opportunity@Work.”
Workforce Development Boards oversee a system of career and technical programs, which “prepare secondary, postsecondary, and adult students with technical, academic, and employability skills for success in the workplace and in further education.” The Association for Career and Technical Education organizes occupations into 16 Career Clusters® which drill down into more than 79 pathways.
If you’re thinking of advancing your education online, you may opt to participate in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Many of these are free and students have the option to pay for receiving academic credit from partnering educational institutions. Under the ADA, colleges, and universities are required to make their courses accessible, and this includes their MOOCs. Disability community members impacted by accessibility considerations include persons with visual or auditory impairments, learning disabilities, and conditions such as PTSD or epilepsy. “Creating an accessible course that meets the needs of these learners may encompass everything from page design to keyboard navigation to closed captioning to allowing extra time on assignments.” Software solutions in compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are addressed in “How Could MOOCs Become Accessible? The Case of edX and the Future of Inclusive Online Learning.”
 Advocates should note that, at the federal level, under Executive Order 13330 which established the Interagency Coordinating Council on Transportation and Mobility in February 2004, leadership continues to take place at a national level to provide coordinated human service transportation for senior citizens, low-income individuals and persons with disabilities. See https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/executive-order-13330-human-service-transportation-coordination. Also see the National Resource Center on Human Service Transportation Coordination at http://www.nrctransportation.org. This is important because, as service providers seek to help people with disabilities to receive the supports they need for gainful employment, access to transportation is critical.
 The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) at the U.S. Department of Education funds 21st Century Community Learning Centers nationwide, geared towards providing academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. For organization leaders to learn how to incorporate financial literacy principles into academic enrichment opportunities for youth, see “Financial Literacy for All,” You for Youth, https://y4y.ed.gov/financial-literacy-for-all. Also, in 2020, Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education sponsored a Student Financial Empowerment Summit, geared toward students, parents, state government representatives, non-profit organizations, and others. “The summit explored numerous aspects of empowering students with the knowledge and tools to allow them to make financially-informed decisions.” Members of the public may view proceedings (which are also closed-captioned) by logging in as a Guest. See https://fsatraining.ed.gov/course/view.php?id=304.