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The Often-Overlooked Benefits of Working While Living with a Disability

By Kylie Moore

In 2022, nearly 80 percent of the individuals living with disabilities were unemployed, according to the most recent data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rates for persons with a disability (7.6 percent) and persons without a disability (3.5 percent) declined in 2022. However, as the numbers suggest, those living with a disability are more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

October is a Disability Employment Awareness Month – a time to reflect on what has been achieved in ensuring inclusion in the workforce and recognize the importance of providing meaningful employment for people of all abilities. With that, I would like to discuss the importance and value of people with disabilities being employed.

It is my belief that all capable individuals with disabilities should try to get a job or volunteer in some capacity. As people become adults, what they do for work becomes part of their identities and how others see them. When people with disabilities have a job or a place to volunteer, it gives them a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.

Below are some exciting benefits of being employed if you are living with a disability.

Meaningful jobs lead to meaningful lives.

Individuals with disabilities have many unique skills and talents they want to utilize in a job setting. They just need to find the right place to allow them to prove themselves. Unfortunately, many people with disabilities are graduating from high school to the couch. And this is a dire situation. It is unhealthy for young adults with disabilities to sit at home all day doing nothing and having their skills go to waste. Rather they need to find ways to utilize their skills and abilities in a productive manner. If companies give these individuals a chance, they will find that they are hiring hard-working employees who want to contribute. People with disabilities are often incredibly proud to be employed and of their work.

Being a part of a team creates a sense of belonging…

Another significant benefit of working is meeting new people and building relationships. When people with disabilities can interact with others at their jobs or volunteering sites, social skills improve dramatically. Working and volunteering helps individuals learn how to interact with others in a professional manner and how to collaborate on a team. Sometimes, if people find they have a lot in common with their co-workers, they can become good friends. Everyone wants to have a place where they feel like they belong, and sometimes, our workplace provides that.

… and a sense of accomplishment

Working also provides people with disabilities a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that they made a difference in others’ lives. When people with disabilities feel like they have meaningful jobs, they will be able to reach their full potential.

Working is a way to discover new skills and explore career paths…

Working and volunteering also allow people with disabilities to discover their skills and abilities. When individuals with disabilities are placed on a job or volunteer site, they may have the opportunity to try out different types of positions to find out which ones best fit their skill set. When companies provide internships or job shadowing opportunities, they help potential employees gain on-the-job experience and discover their career interests. The more individualized training that people with disabilities can receive on job sites, the more prepared and successful they will be in the future. These opportunities also give individuals with disabilities the chance to prove themselves and their abilities to employers on a trial basis.

… Ultimately leading to independence.

Lastly, working provides individuals with disabilities with financial means that could help them become more independent.

Working and volunteering enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing several essential benefits. Being employed gives individuals with disabilities a sense of purpose, allows them to meet new people and build relationships, and helps them discover their skills and abilities.  It is my hope that organizations like the Bobby Dodd Institute will continue to foster meaningful employment opportunities so that more individuals with disabilities can experience all the benefits of being employed.

I’m Kylie Moore, a 35-year-old from Roswell, Georgia, living with Cerebral Palsy. I’ve dedicated my career to advocating for the disability community, creating self-advocacy programs, and serving on boards. I founded the Ambassador Program at AADD, received the Tom Miller National Advocacy Award in 2020, and now advise Arts InCommunity. When not teaching, I can be found watching the Georgia Bulldogs or my beloved New England Patriots play football or participating in wheelchair sports.

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