Our society is not really designed to help people with disabilities thrive. The Americans with Disabilities Act helped, sure, but it’s always a long fight to improve a culture. So, we’re working on it – but when it comes to doing a conventional job, a person with a disability can face significant challenges. Depending on their condition, a commute, work tasks (such as standing for long periods of time), or a tight schedule can present significant obstacles. People with disabilities may not overcome obstacles on a day-to-day basis – or maybe not at all!
This is another reason why the rise of work-at-home life is so great; It offers a disabled person who cannot work outside the home – an income and the hope of a career.
If you’re living with a disability and want or need to work from home, 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 a reminder. Here’s the thing, though: When people first start working from home, they tend to lose all day-to-day structure. There is no division between work time and home time, because you are working from home – so any minute can become a work minute. Your medication schedule means that it can cause you to wake up at 3am when you really should have been asleep hours earlier.
You might be able to get off it once or twice with a chronic illness, for example—and then your symptoms may flare up 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 helps you recognize your limitations. When you’re building your career from home, don’t take on more than you can reasonably handle. That’s a two-for: First, you might be tempted to work a total of 40 hours a week (or more!) If that’s something you can actually keep, more power to you. But don’t do it because you’re working from home and every minute can be a work minute.
Working beyond your limits isn’t just potentially harmful to your emotional and social life – it can, in turn, lead to a proliferation of symptoms that toss your work schedule like a house of cards. It can cost you a job or a project or a client, and ultimately damage your reputation.
Second, overextending yourself can be worse for your body. Are you typing too much if you have rheumatoid arthritis? Do you have social anxiety while working on the phone too long? Not following your sleep schedule with CFS because you’re working until 3 AM? For a successful work-home-life if disabled, don’t overextend yourself! Which brings us to:
Don’t neglect your self-care
If you have a disability, you know what your medical needs are. This may mean a specific medication schedule. This may mean physical therapy, even if you exercise at home all day. This could mean a specific sleep schedule, or monthly doctor’s appointments, or even weekly therapy. This can mean a dozen other things that affect your daily life and make a conventional task impossible during normal business hours.
Never skip any of them for your work-at-home tasks; Your ability to work is directly linked to putting yourself at your best. But beyond that? Treat your body and mind to the best that your life deserves.
Not neglecting self-care means doing whatever we can to improve our mood and take care of 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 windows helps produce important vitamin D. Regular movement keeps you from getting stiff and improves blood flow. Spend some time outside every day, if you can – get some fresh air. Ice your wrists if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injuries.
Don’t forget warm-up stretches for your wrists. When you feel overwhelmed, take ten minutes to do a breathing exercise or drink a cup of tea or whatever your focus is. You’re worth caring about, full stop. Being able to give your best to the world is just a bonus.
Practical job search
So, after you’ve taken into account your limitations and committed to not overextending yourself by practicing self-care – how do you find a job? I know it may sound impossible, but it’s not! You’ve got a roadmap for what you can expect from yourself – now you need to match it with a job.
When you visit the doctor frequently, but otherwise have a fairly stable schedule, you may be able to work a part-time or flexibly scheduled customer service job like Alorica@Home. If you have chronic pain or energy levels that fluctuate from day to day, you may have some time-based needs, such as freelance writing or coding. 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 doing a normal day’s work, there are plenty of phone-based customer service jobs or social media management jobs or teaching and research jobs to find your oyster at home. (Of course many of these can also be approached with changing conditions. It’s about matching your personal jigsaw pieces to what works best for you.)
I have tons of resources here on my site about finding the best work-from-home career path for you. If you want more directed help, go ahead NTI. They’ve been helping Americans with disabilities find remote work since 1995!
Know your income limit
I know this sounds weird, but if you’re currently receiving a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) check, I can almost see you shaking your head. As a disabled person, you can only earn a certain amount each month before they start reducing your monthly disability payment amount. (You can find this information on the Social Security Administration website or check with your caseworker or attorney.) Which makes sense if you’re able to sustain a work-at-home career that can fully support you! But if you can’t do that 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 feasible now? I hope so: Drop me a note to let me know if these tips helped you! And if there’s anything else that makes building a career an easier goal when you’re dealing with a disability? Tell me about it so I can add it.