IT Opportunities for the Disabled

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If you have a mental or a physical disability, you already know how tough it can be to find work, especially in our current economy. The unemployment rate among the disabled is much higher than the overall rate. A disability can be something you’ve lived with all your life, or it could be due to an injury or illness that changes your life in a split second. Still, it is important that you don’t let your disability define you or keep you from pursuing a career. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed to prevent employers from discriminating against disabled applicants, and assistive technology exists to accommodate the blind, deaf, and those with mobility issues. Working in the field of technology can be enjoyable and rewarding for those with special needs. In some cases, an individual can use his or her disability as an advantage, by serving as an advisor to those who develop assistive technologies, and helping develop new innovations in that field. Just think: you would be in a unique position to use and improve upon programs like transcription, captioning, and plain language on version, so that others could get the maximum benefit from the best possible product. There have been a few cases where individuals have secured positions as advisors and developers for companies that create accessibility software. They were simply brazen enough to contact the companies with their suggestions for improvement.

There are many work-at-home jobs available for the disabled. Often you need no special training, and the jobs require no
equipment other than your telephone and your computer. These positions, usually a customer-service correspondent for a large company or a state or federal establishment, are typically secured through government agencies. Of course, if you are a people-person, the work-at-home option may not be as appealing. And if you are interested in a career in technology, answering phones just won’t cut it.

In the 1980s, a Chicago-based firm called nAblement was created to train, support, and place individuals with disabilities in
technology jobs. While nAblement began simply to train people with disabilities in computer programming, the website is
priceless for its links to similar programs, companies that specialize in accessibility, and blogs about disability and technology. The Goodwill-run AbilITy Connection is a similar program in Wisconsin that provides mentoring, internships, financial assistance, and job placement in an IT field. A few high-profile employers who utilize this program are AT&T, Microsoft, and IBM, and these are only three of about fifty companies on the list. On the East Coast is the New England ADA Center, where candidates can obtain information on higher education, or find work in accessible IT. On the West Coast, Washington’s AccessComputing seeks to enroll more students with disabilities in undergraduate and graduate programs in computer
science. This firm also works with educators and employers to create a more inclusive environment. If you are unable to find a similar establishment in your neck of the woods, AbilityLinks is a web recruitment site that works like Monster.com, but is
geared specifically toward those with special needs.

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