The variety of disabilities that affect people are varied, from those that challenge them physically, mentally or emotionally to disabilities that impair the senses. A variety of professionals support disabled individuals to ensure they have an opportunity to contribute to society through work, community involvement and independent living.
Orthotists and Prosthetists
Orthotists and prosthetists design and fit disabled persons with adaptive equipment such as prosthetic limbs and braces. This involves taking a mold of a patient's leg or am before creating a prosthetic device specifically designed to fit the patient's body. Most work in private offices, though some are employed by hospitals or physician's offices. A career in prosthetics typically requires a master's degree and one year of residency training. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), orthotists and prosthetists reported a median salary of $65,060 as of 2010.
Physical and Occupational Therapists
Physical and occupational therapists work in hospitals and physician's offices. They help patients cope with their disabilities or injuries through training programs that improve their ability to work, perform physical activities and live independently. Occupational therapists need at least a master's degree; they earned a median income of $72,320 per year as of 2010, according to the BLS. Physical therapy positions require a doctoral degree and paid a median salary of $76,310. Physical and occupational therapists must be licensed by their state before they can practice.
Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists
Speech-language pathologists help patients with communication disorders or speech impediments to overcome the difficulties they experience in their everyday lives. For example, they often work with patients suffering from severe stutters. As of 2010, speech-language pathology careers required at least a master's degree and paid a median salary of $66,920.
Audiologists work with patients who have disabilities related to hearing. For example, they often fit the deaf or hearing impaired with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Aspiring audiologists must complete a doctoral program. As of 2010, they earned a median annual income of $66,660.
Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers support disabled students from kindergarten through high school, often helping them to function in general classrooms. They work with students who exhibit a wide range of disabilities, from sensory and physical handicaps to emotional or learning disabilities. Special education teachers design Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to help disabled students succeed in the classroom, and make sure that general education teachers implement them. This career requires at least a bachelor's degree. As of 2010, the median pay for special education teachers was $53,220.