Working with disabled individuals as a social worker

People who have mental or physical disabilities often face a unique set of challenges in their everyday lives. For this reason, they may need the help of professionals who hold a master’s in social work, or an MSW degree. These professionals can help disabled individuals in a variety of ways, from showing them what social services they can use to ensuring they have access to safe and stable housing.

Individuals who are currently earning a social work degree may want to review the resources below, as they can give them a better idea of whether or not a career assisting disabled people is right for them.

General information on disabilities

Before they decide if a career helping disabled people is right for them, students should begin by gaining some basic information on disabilities in the U.S. The resources below provide basic information on this topic, including what “disability” actually means and what percentage of the population is disabled.

Disability statistics: Using this resource, individuals who are pursuing a master’s in social work can find a variety of statistics on disabilities on the U.S., including how many people are disabled and how many disabled individuals are currently employed. Students may find that this website is a good place to start when learning about the topic.

Defining “disability”: This website by the U.S. Census stated that the definition of the term “disability” has changed in the past 30 years. In the 1970s, for example, a disability referred to underlying mental or physical conditions. Today, the term has changed to reflect the interaction between individuals and their environment.

Statistics by type of disability: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created this website to provide the public with various statistics on disabilities in the U.S. This website has broken down its figures to show how many people suffer from hearing, visual and physical impairments. The resource also provides additional links for students who wish to learn more about the topic.

Issued faced by disabled individuals

The challenges disabled individuals face largely depends on their specific impairments as well as their severity. However, there are some common issues that most disabled people need to deal with, as outlined by the resources below. By reading these documents, students should get a better understanding of what their clients suffer from and how they can help.

Disabled people face many barriers: This website indicates that people who have a disability often face many challenges, especially when it comes to transportation, communication, their appearances and other people’s attitudes about their impairments. MSW degree holders can use this resource as an example of some of the many issues their future clients may face in their everyday lives.

Employment: According to this resource by the United Nations, while about 89.9 percent of bachelor’s degree holders have jobs, this figure drops to 50.6 percent among people who have disabilities. For this reason, social workers may find that a large part of their job when working with disabled individuals is helping them find employment and showing them that holding a full-time job is possible.

Public perception: While this survey is from a British source, it serves as an example of the types of prejudice disabled individuals often face from the public. The survey shows that, while the public perception of disabled people is getting better, there are still those who are not tolerant of these individuals. For example, about 15 percent of survey respondents said disabled people were not “the same as everybody else,” while 7 percent said they get in the way.

Transportation and building access: Disabled individuals may have a difficult time finding transportation or access to buildings. For this reason, social workers may advocate for improved options for disabled individuals, which will give them access to the same areas and services as other people.

Communication: Whether it’s not being able to type on the small screen of a cellphone or understanding how to interpret social cues in a conversation, disabled individuals can face many challenges when it comes to communication. This may be important for students to note if they plan on working with disabled individuals in their future careers.

How can MSW degree holders help?

Social workers who assist people with disabilities often have varied roles. Some may provide counseling, while others will ensure that their clients have access to stable housing and employment opportunities. While the jobs of these professionals will vary depending on the issues their clients face, the resources below will give social work degree seekers a better understanding of what their positions will entail should they choose to concentrate in this area.

How social workers can help: This resource by Help Starts Here discussed the varied role social workers play when it comes to assisting disabled individuals.

Providing benefits information: Individuals who have disabilities are often entitled to federal benefits. However, some may not be quite sure how to go about receiving support. For this reason, part of social workers’ job is helping their clients understand what they are eligible to receive.

Civil rights: The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures the rights of people with disabilities when it comes to housing, employment, education and other factors. Social workers can ensure that their clients understand their rights and are being treated fairly under this act.

Ensuring their rights: This website from the National Association of Social Workers states the group’s beliefs when it comes to the rights of disabled individuals. Students who are considering a career in social work policy can use this as an example of some of the issues they can advocate for in their future positions.

Advocacy: This resource may be particularly interesting to students who wish to land careers in social work policy. Here, individuals can find information on the sense of oppression and empowerment among the disabled population, as well as important aspects of the American Disabilities Act.