By Patrick Young

Ways Technology Can Help People With Disabilities Advance Careers

For the differently-abled, technology has made it much easier to work in a number of industries. Remote working is becoming the norm, with home-based job opportunities on the rise. Along with remote work, remote learning is also easier than ever, making career advancement possible for those facing mobility challenges. And for those who need accessible tools for working online, assistive technology is transforming how differently-abled people can contribute.

Remote learning challenges and benefits

Attending in-person classes can be difficult for differently-abled students, especially for those who need additional assistance for hearing, seeing, or accessing lecture halls and classrooms. For many students who are differently-abled, online classes can take away those barriers, allowing for remote learning and career advancement.

However, remote learning scenarios can leave some students with disabilities behind. Be sure to find online institutions that are accommodating to your needs, such as providing learning materials that are compatible with screen readers for the blind or for those with low vision.

Working from home

With many companies shifting to remote work this year, it opens up opportunities for differently-abled people to find work that may have previously been unattainable. By normalizing working from home, Forbes explains companies open the door to more people with disabilities.

There are plenty of different work-from-home job options, whether it’s finding a company that’s hiring for new full-time staff, or pursuing freelance opportunities. Depending on your career background, you may value the flexibility of freelancing, which can allow you to set your own hours. If you choose to be a contractor, consider posting your skills to online job boards to connect with potential clients and to pursue projects that interest you.

If you’d rather have a consistent job where you can work from home, NPR notes you’ll have far more options to choose from these days, with most companies allowing remote work for the foreseeable future. It’s a trend that will allow people with disabilities to pursue careers that were previously difficult to enter based on mobility issues and could open up new career paths for many.

Assistive technologies

Assistive technologies have transformed how people with disabilities communicate and work from home. From screen readers to voice recognition software, there are tools available that make computers far more accessible than ever before.

For people who are blind or who have limited vision, screen readers make it possible to work on computers. Screen readers are software programs that can identify the text on your screen and read it aloud. For those with limited vision, screen magnifiers help make screen text larger for easier reading.

Another assistive technology is voice recognition software, which is helpful for those who have mobility issues such as limb loss or limited hand-use. Ergonomic keyboards and one-handed keyboards can also be helpful for those who only have the use of one hand.

For those who don’t have the ability to move a mouse or use a keyboard to work on a computer, there are devices designed to help provide assistance. One option is a head pointer, which is a stick or object mounted directly on a user’s head to allow them to push keys on a keyboard.

Motion tracking or eye tracking is another device that works well for those who cannot use their hands. This device watches a target, or the eyes of the user, to interpret where they want to place the mouse pointer.

While having a disability was once a major barrier to education and finding a job, things have changed: one silver lining of the pandemic is the collective acceptance—and encouragement—of working and learning from home. If you’re looking for work, you’ll be eligible for more positions than ever before, and you’ll likely have plenty of options as a freelancer as well. Be sure to look into assistive technology that can help you use a computer from home for work or school.