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The choices young people make in their late teens and early twenties impact their earning potential and work opportunities for the rest of their lives. This study provides concrete strategies for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors to better prepare young adults with disabilities to find, keep, and advance their employment.
Barriers to career advancement for a young person with a disability are:
VR Counselors can help youth with disabilities build a solid foundation of work experiences and skills that will increase their opportunities for high wage employment. Strategies to do this include helping youth develop their unique skills and abilities, broadening career exploration activities, developing work opportunities, giving opportunities for postsecondary education and training, preparing youth to grow in their jobs, and advocating for change in the workplace.
Put It Into Practice
Tips and tools to help you apply best practices at work.
Specific interventions include:
Help youth develop their unique skills and abilities
- Provide instruction in adaptability skills such as problem solving, goal setting, and time management
- Discuss disability awareness and accommodations that may be needed
- Teach and help youth practice proactive communication, self-advocacy, and self-determination skills
Broaden career exploration activities
- Help youth identify their unique strengths and interests, using self-assessment tools
- Give youth opportunities to engage in career exploration activities
Develop work opportunities
- Collaborate with education partners to provide school and community-based work experiences, as early as possible
- Carefully consider person-environment fit in job placement
- Focus on obtaining work that requires a higher skill level
Give opportunities for postsecondary education and training
- Explore options for postsecondary education and training
- Assist youth to complete required steps to apply and enter programs
- Encourage youth to use college disability supports and accommodations
Prepare youth to grow in their jobs
- Facilitate youth access to role models and mentors
- Recommend affinity and peer support groups
- Use assistive technology and other accommodations
Advocate for change in the workplace
- Inform employers of disability laws and policies
- Encourage employers to be inclusive in their hiring, retention, and promotion practices
More About the Research
Young adults with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed, under-employed, or living below the poverty line than their peers without disabilities. This article synthesizes research from the fields of vocational rehabilitation, counseling psychology, and special education to illustrate the early career development of young adults with disabilities. It focuses on their career development process and barriers to career advancement, and provides strategies to enhance early career development.
Lindstrom, L., Kahn, L., & Lindsey, H. (2013). Navigating the early career years: Barriers and strategies for young adults with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 39, 1-2.