Our society is really not designed to help people with disabilities thrive. The Americans with Disabilities Act has helped, sure, but it’s always a long battle to improve a culture. So, we’re working on it – but when it comes to working a conventional job, a person with disabilities can face significant challenges. Depending on their situation, a commute, job tasks (like standing for long periods), or rigid schedules may represent significant obstacles. Obstacles a person with disabilities may not be able to overcome on a daily basis – or perhaps not at all!
This is another reason that the rise of the work-at-home life is so awesome; it offers a person with disabilities who cannot work outside the home hope – hope for an income and for a career.
If you live with a disability and want or need a work-at-home life, this post is for you. These tips and resources will give you the toolkit you need to succeed.
Recognize Your Limits
I know: you are MORE than familiar with your limitations. It’s not like you need the reminder. Here’s the thing, though: when people first start working from home, they’re prone to lose all daily structure. There’s no separation between work time and home time, because you’re working from home – so any minute could become a work minute. It can lead to being up at 3 AM doing just one more thing when your medication schedule means you really should have been asleep a few hours ago.
You might be able to pull that off once or twice with a chronic illness, for example – and then suffer a flare-up of your symptoms for several days, making you less productive overall. This can definitely hurt your income and your relationship with freelance clients or remote employers. So: recognize your limitations, and shape your work around them.
Don't Overextend Yourself
This little tip dovetails with recognizing your limitations. When you’re building your work-from-home career, don’t take on more work than you can reasonably do. This one’s a two-for: first, you may be tempted to take on work totaling 40 hours a week (or more!). If that’s something you can actually keep up with, more power to you. But don’t do it just because you’re working from home and every minute could be a work minute.
Working past your limits isn’t just potentially damaging to your mental and social life – it could also, again, lead to symptom flare-ups that knock your work schedule down like a house of cards. It could cost you a job or a project or a client, and ultimately damage your reputation.
Secondly, overextending yourself can be even worse for your body. Typing too much when you have rheumatoid arthritis? Working the phones too long when you have social anxiety? Not following your sleep schedule with CFS because you’re working until 3 AM? For a successful work-from-home life when disabled, don’t overextend yourself! Which leads us to:
Don't Neglect Self Care
If you have a disability, you know what your treatment entails. It might mean a certain medication schedule. It might mean physical therapy, even if you’re just doing exercises at home throughout the day. It might mean a certain schedule of sleep, or monthly doctor’s appointments, or even weekly therapy. It could mean a dozen other things that affect your daily life and make a conventional job during typical business hours an impossibility.
Don’t ever skip any of those for your work-at-home job; your ability to do your job is directly connected to keeping yourself at your best. But beyond that? Your life deserves you treating your body and mind the best you can.
Not neglecting self-care also means doing all the little actions we can take to improve our mood and care for ourselves. Take regular breaks from working on the computer: look out a window or get up and stretch.
Breaks can help with eye strain, and sunlight from a window helps important vitamin D production. Moving around regularly keeps you from getting stiff and improves blood flow. Spend a little time outside each day, if you can – get some fresh air. Ice your wrists if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or a repetitive stress injury.
Don’t forget to do warm-up stretches for your wrists either. When you feel overwhelmed, take ten minutes to do breathing exercises or drink a soothing cup of tea or whatever centers you. You are worth taking care of, full stop. Being able to give the best of yourself to the world is just a bonus.
Practical Job Searching
So, after you take into account your limitations and promise to not to overextend yourself while also promising to practice self-care – how the heck do you find a job? I know it might sound impossible, but it’s not! You’ve got a roadmap for what you can expect out of yourself – now you just need to match it up with a job.
When you face frequent doctor’s visits, but otherwise have a fairly stable schedule, you may be able to work a part-time or flexibly-scheduled customer service job like with [email protected]. If your chronic pain or energy levels fluctuate from day to day, you may need something deadline-based, like freelance writing or writing code. If you need something you can fit around the edges of a busy home life combined with frequent doctor’s appointments and an unreliable schedule, consider user testing or transcription or tutoring in English.
If you’re mobility-impaired but otherwise perfectly capable of a typical day’s work, then the work-at-home world’s your oyster – plenty of phone-based customer service jobs or social media management jobs or teaching and research jobs to be found. (Many of those could also go to those with variable conditions, of course. It’s all about matching up your personal jigsaw piece with the best job for you.)
I have tons of resources here on my site all about finding the best work-from-home career path for you. If you’d like more guided help, however, head on over to NTI. They have been helping Americans with disabilities find remote jobs since 1995!
Know Your Income Limits
I know this sounds like a weird one, but I can almost see you nodding your head if you’re currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks. As a person on disability, you can only make a certain amount in income each month before they start reducing the amounts of your monthly disability payments. (You can find this information on the Social Security Administration’s website or check with your caseworker or attorney.) Which makes sense if you’re capable of sustaining a work-at-home career that can totally support you! But if you’re not able to do so consistently, stick to a remote schedule that won’t create more stress and paperwork for you.
Does pursuing your work-at-home career seem more doable now? I hope so: drop me a note to let me know whether these tips helped you! And if there’s anything else that makes a career when you’re dealing with a disability an easier goal? Tell me about it so I can add it.