Working with people in the disability community can be very rewarding. Whether you serve as a rehabilitation counselor with newly disabled adults or teach children with special needs, your role can make a huge difference in the lives of those you touch. Depending on your field of choice, there are ways to advance in the field where you’ll get opportunities to influence policy or reach an even larger constituency. Most jobs in the disability field require at least a bachelor’s degree, though most fields also need support personnel and various levels of educational backgrounds.
You’ll find a number of opportunities in disability law. Whether you go through the years of schooling and the licensing process to become an attorney, work as a paralegal in a law firm or help settle disputes as a mediator or in a community services forum, you’ll find satisfaction in knowing you help people follow the laws regarding disabilities and the treatment of people with disabilities. In addition to private law firms, disability lawyers can find work in government agencies, school districts, national advocacy organizations, labor unions and school districts.
Perhaps some of the most challenging work prospects are in the advocacy fields, where disability advocates serve as lobbyists, trying to change laws and get acceptance for their constituencies. Groups such as the National Organization on Disability, the National Federation of the Blind and the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities hire professionals in a variety of capacities, including researchers and writers, consultants, program directors and accountants. They provide speakers and recruit volunteers, advise local chapters how to organize and offer funding for scholarships and other disability-related activities.
Hands-on rehabilitation jobs can be some of the most rewarding. Whether you work as a physical therapist, a mobility instructor or a prosthetics trainer, you can help people with disabilities take advantage of the techniques and technology available for various disabilities that can help those with disabilities to have more independence and opportunities. State departments of human services hire rehabilitation counselors to help clients with disabilities to find work and access available services.
The health care field is another arena full of career options for people who want to make a difference in the lives of those with disabilities. Work in research to find a cure for depression, macular degeneration or spinal cord injuries with a PhD or MD specialty in the sciences. Government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Education provide universities and private research facilities grants to work on various projects. Become a doctor and work with the hearing impaired, children with developmental disabilities or those with other debilitating physical impairments. Join the disability health care community in the mental health field as a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Specialize as a nurse or work as a certified nursing assistant in nursing homes and rehab centers that care for those with disabilities.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."