Disability.gov is a website operated and maintained by the federal government. It is a very useful resource for people who have disabilities. It is also very useful as well as for their families, caregivers, and others in their lives.

Update February 2017 The website described here appears to no longer be accessible. We have not been able to discover what has happened to it or why it has been removed. Users are taken to a Labor Department site with some links to benefit information for the disabled.

This site was started in 2002 as part of the New Freedom Initiative created by President George W. Bush. In well under a year the site reached 20 million visitors and by 2006 it had received numerous awards. It is a well-trusted, constantly updated source of information at federal, state and local levels.

Disability.gov was re-launched in 2009 with a new look incorporating social media tools and features, allowing more user engagement.

Users navigate to information categorized by subject areas updated daily, which is pretty impressive. These subject areas include basic information such as Benefits, Health and Civil Rights; practical areas like Employment, Housing, Emergency Preparedness and Transportation; and quality of life topics such as Community Life, Education and Technology.

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Using Disability.gov

Update September 2017: Did you know that only three people out of ten who apply for disability benefits get approved the on their first application attempt? That means it’s worth doing some research to learn about common mistakes and things to make sure you do to improve your chances of getting the benefits you need. There’s lots of information available on the internet, of course. One of the most common and important pieces of advice is to be sure to include plenty of details about your medical and work history. This means a good list of names, addresses and phone numbers of your doctors and healthcare facilities, your supervisors at work, etc. And be sure your medical records are no older than 90 days! And a written statement from your doctor can make a big difference.

Update December 2016 The federal government is currently making special efforts to hire people with disabilities. They have created a specific hiring path for applicants that is designed for the disabled decreases the number of people competing for government jobs.

News October 2016

There’s some new help for students who are disabled to get ready for college and employment. Grants have been awarded to five states (Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine and California) — totaling $39 million. The grants come from the Disability Innovation Fund Program. They will be used to create programs that demonstrate and promote effective methods for work-based learning for disabled students.

News February 2016: Virtual Job Fair for Those With Disabilities:

Are you receiving Social Security disability benefits? If you are ready to explore getting some work, check out Social Security’s Ticket to Work (TTW). It’s a “Virtual Job Fair” that will take place on Wednesday, March 16. Due to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act businesses that have federal contracts have to make special efforts to hire people with disabilities. This Job Fair will help you better understand your employment options and could make it possible for you to earn more than you are receiving on disability. You can find out if you’re eligible to attend, and learn more about other Social Security Work Incentives that could make it easier to work by calling 1-866-968-7842 or the TTY number at 1-866-833-2967.

News Flash The American Civil Liberties Union is has announced an online career expo for those with disabilities.  It will allow professionals with disabilities to apply for jobs with the ACLU. You can apply for open positions by sending your resume with a cover letter to hrjobsINCL@aclu.org by February 7, 2014 with “Virtual Career Expo” in the email's subject line. View open positions on the ACLU website under careers at aclu.org/careers.

Are you a caregiver for someone who is disabled? One of the best aspects of disability.gov is that you can choose what kind of information you are looking for, such as information for caregivers as opposed to the disabled person. On the opening page click “Guide Me”. Then on the page it takes you to, under “Select Audience,” choose Caregiver. Then the information you get in any of the topics you choose will be customized to be for the caregiver. You will also get to choose which state you are trying to find help in.

Financial Aid for Family Caregivers

The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) may make it possible for you to get paid as a family caregiver. Local programs may provide not only financial assistance but also local support groups, counseling and respite care among other things. Every state is different in terms of what it offers so there is no comprehensive guide to getting paid for caregiving. To find out what you may be eligible for, first check your state’s Medicaid policies. It is possible that Medicaid will pay you if you provide care at home and your family member with a disability is eligible for Medicaid. Beyond that possibility, check your local Area Agency on Aging for guidance as to what may be available and how to pursue it.

Navigating Disability.gov

The site in general is quite easy to navigate. The landing page used to be a bit confusing but they have redesigned the site to be more user friendly. We recommend that you look to the left of the page and first click “What Does Disability.gov Do?” to get an overview and basic instructions for getting around. Then go back and, just below that, click “How to Use This Site.” This will take you to a useful page with information like Access Options – like how to view the pages in a high-contrast mode rather than in the default color (required by many with poor vision), for example. You’ll also find useful tips about finding resources as well as how to register on the site, personalize your information, and keep current and connected with the site. You may want to come back and re-visit these tips after you’ve had a chance to investigate other areas of the site and have a better idea how you want to proceed. Back to the landing page: Now you can either type a keyword of interest in the search bar at the top of the page below the Disability.gov logo, or you can scan down the list of subjects in the box to the left to find resources related to your specific interest.

Finding the Help You Need

Leading the user to relevant information is a particularly strong point of disability.gov. First click any of the ten subject areas listed on the left of the page. You will be taken to a page with three large boxes across the top. These allow you to select whether you are want to see resources on the national level, a specific state level, or both. If you click “National Only”, you will go straight to a page listing resources. If you click either “State” or “State and National”, you will see a map of the U.S. and you can click on a specific state. You will then be taken to a page listing resources according to your selection.

For each major subject area you are likely to get quite a long list. In order refine your search, you can narrow down your results by looking to the left and selecting specific Subtopics (for example, “Scholarships and Financial Aid” under Education) as well as specifying the relevant Audience (e.g. Children & Youth) as well as the specific type of Disability (such as Low Vision, Mental Illness, etc.).

Overall Assessment

The ability to find extensive information right down to the local level, and have it relate directly to the searcher’s specific need, is quite impressive. We highly recommend this site and would love to hear about your experience with it.

Other Resources

For additional information take a look at our recent article Disability Grants.

If you are looking for health-related resources and your problems do not qualify as disabilities, see our review of the website healthcare.gov. If you are looking for assistance unrelated to these topics our article about Federal Aid is a good place to start.

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