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It's not fun to update your resume, look for a job interview and negotiate a salary. And if you have a learning disability, finding a job and progressing in your career may be even more challenging. Employers can't discriminate against you for having a disability, however, and companies may even be required to provide reasonable accommodations to help you at work. If you're feeling nervous or unsure of what to do, the resources below may help to put you at ease or aid in your job search.
What Are Your Employment Rights as Someone With a Learning Disability?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and subsequent Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) help protect people with disabilities, including learning disabilities, from discrimination. The laws ban any local, state and federal agency—and any private employer with at least 15 employees—from discriminating against someone based on their disability.
If you can do the job on your own or with reasonable accommodations from the employer, it could be illegal for them to deny you employment because you have (or they think you might have) a disability. These accommodations can vary widely and might include screen readers or speech-to-text software, visual aids or a job mentor.
Employers also generally can't directly ask you or require you to disclose if you have a disability during the interview process. They may be able to ask after making a conditional offer if they're also asking other applicants the same questions, however.
The ADA protections also cover you while you're employed. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against someone with disabilities in their employment practices, including promotions, pay, benefits and firing. It's also against the law for a company to retaliate against you if you exercise your rights.
Your specific rights protections and rights can depend on where you live because some states have additional laws.
How Job Seekers With Learning Disabilities Can Get Help
There are a variety of resources that can help you create a resume and cover letter, find job openings, prepare for interviews and get set up at your new job. Some of the disability-specific ones include:
State, Federal and Nonprofit Agencies and Organizations
Some agencies, departments and nonprofits could be good places to start if you're looking for assistance:
- State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies offer a variety of programs and services to help eligible residents find, secure and progress in their careers. You may be able to get personalized help from a counselor, an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) and continued assistance until you reach your goal.
- The Ticket to Work program is for 18- to 64-year-olds who receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. Participants can get free counseling, job training and placement through a VR or another service provider.
- If you're living in a Center for Independent Living, there may be on-site resources, and you can ask about referrals to other programs.
- The Job Accommodation Network offers a variety of free guides and confidential one-on-one consultations. The organization's guide to finding a good-fitting job and the A-to-Z list of disabilities and accommodations are popular free resources.
- Use SourceAmerica's nonprofit locator to find nonprofits in your state that focus on job access.
There are also general resources, such as Career One Stop, which you may find helpful.
A staffing or temp agency might be able to connect you with multiple employers or opportunities. Some organizations, such as the Galt Foundation and Peak Performers, focus on working with job seekers who have disabilities.
While you can, and should, look for openings on big-name and industry-specific job boards, there are also websites specifically for job seekers with disabilities:
How to Find Alternative Employment Opportunities
A traditional job isn't a good fit for everyone. If you're having trouble finding, keeping or progressing as an employee, you could look into some alternative ways to make money.
Perhaps you could start an online business and work for yourself rather than someone else. Or focus on the type of work you're best at and enjoy doing, and start a freelance business selling your services to a variety of clients. There are also app-based gig jobs, such as pet sitting and ride-hailing or delivery driving, that can be easier to start.
While being self-employed can give you more freedom, it might not be as financially rewarding at the start. You won't receive company benefits, such as healthcare or assistive technology, and you may need to pay more taxes as a freelancer or business owner than you would as an employee. Still, it could be a more sustainable approach to making a living.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking for a new job and worried about how your learning disability might impact the process or your work, know that you're not alone. Many organizations (including employers) are ready to help you find and apply for a job, and there are resources that can help you prepare for an interview and excel once you start.