Life with MS

Job Opportunities for People with MS

By MS Focus Staff
A survey conducted in 2015 showed that, after retirement, the second highest reason for leaving the workforce was having a disability. For people with multiple sclerosis, leaving their job could be the result of physical or cognitive challenges, depending on their duties and their symptoms. When talking about leaving a job because of disability, there is an important fact that is too often overlooked - while someone may no longer be able to perform their specific job, that does not mean they cannot perform any job.  

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report detailing labor force characteristics for the disabled community. The data was compiled from population studies that collected information from more than 30,000 people with disabilities. The first sentence of the report shared the big numbers, "The employment-population ratio - the proportion of the population that is employed - was 19.1 percent among those with disability."

For comparison, the employment population ratio for those without a disability was 65 percent. It was also noted that the disabled population had an unemployment rate of 8 percent, more than double that of people without disabilities. It is important to understand how the bureau identifies "people with disabilities." The survey used six questions to determine if someone has a serious challenge with: 
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Concentration, memory and/or decision-making abilities
  • Walking or climbing stairs
  • Dressing or bathing themselves
  • Performing errands, such as visiting a doctor, without assistance.
While the report's overall numbers might be discouraging for some, there is a much bigger story. Here is a pair of interesting statistics from the report:

10 percent of workers with a disability are self-employed, and 31 percent of workers with a disability were part-time employees. These numbers tell us that, even when unable to perform a more "traditional" work role, people with disabilities still want to work, and some are finding ways to do it outside the mold. And one particular way doesn't even require you to leave the house. 

During the past several years, telecommuting or "work-from-home" jobs have become quite common and the field continues to rapidly expand. More companies from Amazon to Apple, to Hilton, Kaplan, and Nielsen, offer work-from-home opportunities, and some are even specifically for people with disabilities. If you are looking to get back into the workforce, or are looking to transition from your current job, here are some specific resources that might assist you in your search:
  • - This is a job board website that specifically assists people with disabilities in connecting with inclusive employers
  • - This website specializes in helping people who are currently receiving SSI or SSDI to find employment
  • - The National Telecommuting Institute is a nonprofit that has been around since 1995, and they assist people with disabilities in finding work-from-home employment
  • - This nonprofit works exclusively with people with disabilities and helps them receive reimbursements for work expenses, but also finds resources to help you find a job
If you are currently employed and your MS symptoms are pushing you out the door, always start by asking your employer about reasonable acommodations that enable you to continue performing your job in spite of those symptoms. If you already have accommodations in place and things are still worsening, consider asking to telecommute or shifting to a part-time role. Be sure to exhaust all possible avenues to stay employed before leaving your job because of MS symptoms or disability. 

Being forced to leave your job can cause a financial burden, but the emotional effects it can have on you can also be significant. Just remember, there are resources out there to help you. The websites mentioned here aren't the only options for finding job listings online, and there are almost always other avenues to explore as well.

At a local level, there may be a community career center or a neighborhood small business that needs help. At the federal and state levels, the Office of Disability Employment Policy can provide information on vocational rehabilitation agencies in your state that may be able to help. At the end of the day, if you want to work and are willing to transition into a new role, there are options that can help you find a job despite your symptoms. 

Beware MLMs

It is an unfortunate truth, but there are people out there who want to take advantage of you. If something sounds too good to be true, it typically is. Be very diligent on your job search and aware of potential scams. Multi-level marketing companies are an excellent example of something to avoid, since MLMs are often little more than rebranded pyramid schemes. Here are some signals that a job opportunity is an actual MLM scheme. 
  • Low-quality product with unfounded claims. For example, if a nutrient shake is marketed as a "cure," that should be the first red flag that a business is not trustworthy. 
  • Recruitment-focus business model. Many MLMs focus on recruiting people first, and selling a product second. Under this model, the person who recruited you continually gets a percentage of your product sales, and you are required to purchase your products from the person who recruited you. 
  • Purchase required to join. If you are required to purchase the product you'd be selling before you can "join the team," that is a serious red flag. Also, if the job requires you to buy large quantities of products and store them yourself, that is another red flag. 
  • Pressure to join. Since MLMs thrive on the recruiting process, someone might aggressively try to get you to join, because "recruiting" you directly benefits them. This might venture into unsolicited phone calls, texts, or emails, and this should raise serious concerns. 
  • Impossible promises. MLM recruiters typically have a promising hook. "I know a person who makes a million dollars a year doing this." Or, "You're your own boss and you set your own hours." These are nothing more than sales tactics designed to make you think that the opportunity will be easy and make you successful. 
Passive income

One of the big buzz words from the last few years has been "passive income." While this can be an excellent way to earn money, with varying levels of effort, it is important to understand what it actually is, because the term is a bit misleading.

The name suggests that passive income is money that you can earn without much effort or involvement, but that often isn't true. In the traditional work model, you are paid for the hours you work in a given week. In a passive income model, you are not paid for the hours you work, but instead earn money over time once the work is completed.

Here are a few examples:
  • Owning a rental property - This is one of the most popular forms of passive income. If you have the means to purchase an apartment, condo, home, and then rent that property, you will be earning money every month. And now with the rise of services like AirBNB, you will be able to rent out something as small as an extra room in your home.
  • Investing - Utilizing high-interest savings accounts or other banking options can be a safe way to earn passive income, but are typically long-term plans. 
  • Turn a hobby into a business - If you create jewelry, t-shirts, or other items, several websites exist where you can create a digital storefront and sell your items. These sites typically have low start-up fees and take percentages of final sales, which means your cost would be low. 
  • Blogging/Vlogging - If you start a blog or YouTube channel and grow your audience large enough, you can monetize your site or videos. This example requires a lot of up-front effort, though, since you will need to commit to regularly producing content.