Why should students with disabilities participate in work-based learning?

Through the interaction of study and work experience, students can enhance their academic knowledge, personal development, and professional preparation. Specifically, work-based learning opportunities can help a student

  • clarify academic and career interests;
  • fund education expenses;
  • gain academic credit;
  • apply practical theories from classroom work and develop human relations skills through interaction with coworkers;
  • gain exposure to specialized facilities not available on campus;
  • develop job-search skills, résumés, and cover letters;
  • identify career assistance programs; and
  • develop contacts for employment after graduation.

For students with disabilities, work-based learning offers additional benefits. Participating in a work experience can give them a chance to determine if they can perform the essential functions of a particular job with or without a reasonable accommodation. It also gives them a chance to practice disclosing their disability and requesting accommodations from potential employers while determining which accommodations work best for them. These experiences help students with disabilities develop the confidence and self-advocacy skills needed for success in higher education and challenging careers.

Many secondary schools and colleges offer programs that help students gain work experiences before graduation. Work-based learning options may include internships, cooperative education, job shadowing, service learning, independent study, informational interviews, and career services.

For more information related to work-based learning and students with disabilities, consult AccessCAREERS.

Date Updated: 

1/18/2013