Written by Patrick Young
61 million American adults hold a disability that impairs their mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, and ability to live independently — according to the CDC. And while some disabilities make learning, job searching, and working a challenge, new technology advancements can help to empower individuals with disabilities and eliminate some of the obstacles that often prevent them from leading normal lives.
Below are a few of the tech tools and resources that can be used to enhance the careers — and lives — of workers and students with disabilities.
Despite the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, U.S. colleges and universities have a long way to go in terms of accessibility. And unfortunately, this often poses physical challenges on college campuses, learning difficulties, and a less-than-ideal college experience overall. This is where remote learning comes in.
Today, students can earn their degrees online and complete all their college coursework at home — regardless of whether they’re majoring in business management, marketing, information technology (IT), or any other field of study. With an online master’s degree in information technology, for instance, students can learn about cybersecurity, IT management, and data analytics — all from the comfort of their homes.
In addition to online degree programs, virtual tutoring services can help to support college students with disabilities. According to Verywell Family, some of the best online tutoring services include TutaPoint, Chegg Tutors, and Tutor.com.
Like remote learning, working from home is more common than ever before. And depending on your skills, interests, education, and professional background, you could launch a work-from-home career as a consultant, freelance writer, customer service representative, translator, or medical transcriber — to name a few. Several places to look for remote work opportunities include PersonalSite Consulting, Flexjobs, Remote.co, NTI@Home, Virtual Vocations, and Freelancer.com.
If you’re interested in pursuing entrepreneurship or self-employment, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability and Employment Policy shares additional resources for business-minded job seekers with disabilities. Before launching a business or pursuing remote work opportunities, however, you’ll need to design an accessible home office space. Vicki of Wheel Chic Home offers some tips on how to do it.
Whether you’re working or learning at home or in an office or classroom, assistive technologies can help with everything from hearing more clearly and getting around the home or office — to turning pages in a book and comprehending information. The following assistive technologies are especially useful to workers and students with disabilities.
• Voice recognition software.
• Screen readers and magnifiers.
•Book holders and automatic page-turners.
•Personal frequency-modulated (FM)systems.
• Ergonomic keyboards,enlarged keyboards,and head-mouth keyboards.
Moreover, several smartphone apps can help to boost focus and learning. The First-Then Visual Schedule from Good Karma Applications can help you to set, prioritize, and achieve goals, while Say It & Mail Pro uses voice commands to send and manage emails. Other tools and apps that have been designed for individuals with disabilities include Dragon, Google Docs Voice Typing, Windows Speech Recognition, Intel Reader, and Voice Dream Reader.
Whether you’re looking for new work opportunities or you’re ready to further your education, modern technology makes it easier than ever to achieve your goals and lead the life you want to live. Your disability shouldn’t hold you back from earning a degree, launching your own business, or pursuing your ideal career — and with these technological advancements — you don’t need to wait a minute longer to land the job of your dreams.
About Patrick Young
Patrick Young is an educator and activist. He believes people with disabilities must live within a unique set of circumstances–the outside world often either underestimates them or ignores their needs altogether. He created Able USA to offer helpful resources to people with disabilities and to provide advice on navigating various aspects of life as a person with disabilities.