The disabled community in the United States have the highest unemployed rate in the nation. With just shy of 20% of the disabled community gainfully employed, that leaves nearly 80% unemployed. These statistics came from the bureau of labor statistics February 2020 (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/disabl.pdf). What is appealing is that with the ADA laws we currently have in this nation, along with the requirement of ADA compliance at job sites (and companies may be able to receive government money for employing the disabled) we are still at such a low number of the disabled in the workforce.
People who are in the disabled community who are not working at a either a part-time or full-time traditional job can experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, anxiety, depression and may even feel envious of their peers who are gainfully employed.
I am disabled and I am a not working at a traditional job for most of my adult years. I have felt the pain of not joining my peers in the workforce and I felt less of man for not working. I have felt that I was a burden on society and that I was not pulling my weight as I had to live solely off of supplemental security income (SSI) while my childhood friends went off to work every day and build a career that will provide for their themselves, their families and their future.
If you are a disabled person and a traditional job is either not a good fit for you or every employer you interviewed with does not see you as an asset to their company, there is something you can do – volunteer.
According to a study conducted by Harris Interactive for UnitedHealth group, volunteering has many mental health benefits. The survey found that people who volunteered reported that volunteering:
- has made volunteers feel healthier (76%).
- Improved volunteers mood (94%)
- Enriches volunteers sense of purpose (96%)
- Gave volunteers control over their mental health and depression (80%)
- Lowers volunteers stress level (78%)
Volunteering will change your world. During my seven years that I volunteered in my community (both in the ICU and as a lunch buddy through Big Brothers and Big Sisters) I felt proud of what I was doing. I felt as if I was contributing to my community while I was making a difference in the lives of others.
Volunteering can also lead to gainful employment. After three months, of volunteering to work for a local Internet Service provider as a customer service representative for college credits, the hired me on as a paid employee.
If the place you chose to volunteer at does not pan out to a paid job, you can use that experience, along with references from your peers and superiors form your volunteer postion, to convince an employer that you can make his or her company better.
There are many organizations who are looking for volunteers and the gifts that you can bring to the table. You can start looking for volunteer opportunities through your local church, hospital or most non-profit orgainizations.