Young woman in a suit with a briefcase, looking eager to work




orange squarepicture of a resumepurple square


Making that leap directly into employment may not be for everyone.  Maybe you’re looking to gain more experience to build up your resume, or perhaps you would just like to be your own boss.  If this sounds like you, then you may want to think about finding internship programs that fit your interests or joining the exciting world of microenterprise, sometimes called “self-employment”.  Internships can provide you with practical experience in your areas of interest, giving you valuable connections that may help you land your dream job!

Microenterprise is another word for starting your own business, and for many people, it is a perfect way to work on their own schedule and do things their own way.  In this section you will find information on these alternatives to traditional employment opportunities that can help get you to where you would like to be.


What’s an internship? An internship is basically a job that you have for a certain amount of time (usually during the summer, or for 6-12 months). It’s a program designed to let you see what a real job looks like, feels like, sounds like and even smells like.  Internships are a great way to gain valuable experience and spend some time in a real work setting. Working as an intern will not only provide you with work experience, it will also give you an opportunity to make connections with possible future employers.

Some internships are paid, and some are unpaid. The most important thing to remember is that an internship will get you started on your career path and it’s a great way to show a potential employer what you are capable of accomplishing! It may turn out you love that particular field, or maybe not… internships are your way to try different careers if you’re not sure!

Internship programs and opportunities

An internship program for high school students who are ready to test out the world of work. The program provides pre-employment skills training, job placement, and other types of assistance to help you make that big transition from school to work. For more information, visit the website listed below or ask your high school if they have a WorkAbility program.

Regional Occupational Programs (ROP)
A lso known as Career Technical Education (CTE), is a public education service which provides free, practical hands-on training, career guidance, job placement assistance and other supportive services to youth and adults. Search the website for the local ROP office in your county.

The Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP)
A nationwide recruitment and referral program for college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer internships or permanent jobs.

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

Do you have an interest in politics or information technology? This resource offers two internship opportunities for students with disabilities.  One is the Congressional Internship Program, where you can serve as an intern for members of Congress in Washington, DC; and the other is the Federal Agency Internship Program, for students who have a demonstrated interest in the field of information technology.

Emerging Leaders
A program that places college students with disabilities in fulfilling summer internships and provides them with leadership development opportunities.

Entry point!
A program offering outstanding summer internship opportunities for students with disabilities in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and some fields of business. 

Pathways Programs for Students and Recent Graduates
Offers clear paths to Federal internships for high school and college students, providing meaningful training and career development opportunities for individuals who are at the beginning of their careers.

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars
A program that can provide selected students challenging opportunities to work and learn in Washington, D.C. for academic credit. Lists a ton of internship opportunities for persons with disabilities, and provides information about disability mentoring.

An outstanding website containing information on hundreds of different internships available in your local area. It also provides links to other Internet search engines that may help you find that perfect internship.

Federal Internship Directory
Lists internship opportunities in many federal agencies.


Most jobs expect you to work a set schedule and require you to travel to your workplace daily.  This may not be for everyone, and for some people with disabilities choosing to start their own business is a great option. Micro-enterprising, also referred to as self-employment, can provide you with a chance to be your own boss, set your own schedule and do the things that you are passionate about.  Self employment takes a lot of motivation and may be difficult to “get off the ground,” but for some people this challenge can be exciting and rewarding. If self-employment is something you’re interested in, here are a few resources that can provide information to help you start your own business.

You can choose many different microenterprises based on your skills and talents. Here is a list of just some of the examples of microenterprises:

  • Equipment rentals
  • Creating and selling handmade gifts
  • Mobile pet grooming
  • Photography
  • Consulting on wheelchair accessibility
  • Landscaping and gardening
  • Computer repair
  • Flower arranging
  • Anything else you are good at and can turn into a business!

Where’s the money?!
Even if you have the expertise, vision, and motivation, your plan may fall short if you don’t have the cash to develop your business…  There are  many different resources to help you get the money you need to start with your dream business.  

The California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity
Can provide you with a list of places in your area that may be able to lend you money to get your business started.  You can also find stories about other people who have had success starting their own business. 

If you are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) then you are eligible for a special work incentive program called “Plan to Achieve Self-Support” or “PASS” for short.  This program allows you to save extra money for any employment-related expenses, including starting your own business! The website has information on how to find a PASS “cadre” who will be like a counselor to help you set up your PASS “plan”(

Department of Rehabilitation (DOR)  
DOR can support you in your goals of self-employment through the Individual Plan for Employment (IPE).  Find your local office on the website.

Other helpful Resources

The Self-Employment & Small Business Ownership section on the website is a great place to start when trying to find information about starting your own business.  It can provide you with programs and services that can help you with writing a plan to start your business.  It can also provide you with information about small business loans and other funding to help you get a small or home-based business off the ground.

New Perspectives in Business: Self-Employment Training is a free online training designed to support people with disabilities interested in self-employment.  These trainings can help you gain personal insight, find the resources you need, and put together a plan of action toward achieving your self-employment goals..  To register for these trainings, please go to:

For additional resources, articles and success stories about self-employment, please check out the Diversity World website at:

For detailed information summarizing about things to consider with your Microenterprise, check out this publication:

A Few Examples of Success

Molly shared her interests in technology with her VR Counselor who then paid for a series of Microsoft certification classes. Molly began working as a part-time computer instructor at the local community college, but panic attacks resulting from her psychiatric disability, and exhaustion stemming from her Fibromyalgia caused her to lose that job. With assistance from the local VR office and a business design team including a local SBDC advisor, she began her mobile computer repair business specializing in assisting the growing community of retirees interested in learning basic computer and internet skills. The business soon branched out to include desktop publishing specializing in formatting and printing local church and civic club newsletters.

James grew up in a family of upholsterers. He knew the trade and performed the work with great attention to detail. Medications he took for auditory hallucinations caused by schizophrenia, however, interfered with his concentration and job retention. He needed numerous breaks throughout the day and the flexibility to work long hours in the evening. James started his own upholstery shop using funding through a U.S Dept. of Labor Disability project, equipment purchased by the local VR office, and with on-going rehabilitation support from the community mental health center.

Kevin spent many years in a sheltered workshop where his developmental disability and his reputation for combative behavior were used as justifications for restricting his access to community employment. Kevin was enrolled in a state Developmental Disability Council funded project focused on community employment for individuals with challenging behaviors. Kevin’s interest in being a mechanic became obvious, but no jobs were available for a young man without experience. After many attempts, a local small engine repair shop agreed to have Kevin disassemble and clean a few motors every week. Because the single-owner did not want employees, a business-within-a-business was created that involved Kevin doing disassembly and parts cleaning. In return for the space to operate this complimentary service, and for mentoring in mechanics from the host business owner, Kevin paid a small percentage of his earnings to the shop. VR support, general fund expenditures from the local DD agency, and a PASS Plan through SSA provided Kevin with hand tools, work benches, a part washer, and work clothes. Today, over 7 years later, Kevin works 20 to 30 hours a week and charges approximately $30 per hour for his services.

From the  PDF mentioned above. 

Now you're all set so, go for it!