Before her spinal cord injury, Lilly Terrion Longshore was a hardworking mother and had a two year old boy. She was also an Environmental/Wastewater Engineer and loved her job. However, an accidental fall in 2002 changed her life. She was diagnosed as a C5-6 quadriplegic and 5 years later, she and her son were both diagnosed with an incurable retina disease. Having to adapt to her various abilities over the years, read on to find out how Lilly successfully returned to work on her own terms.
Her First Return to Work
After putting a significant amount of hard work into rehabilitation, Lilly was ready to return to work. “After my injury, I received SSDI for about nine months,” she says. “Then I went back to work at my same job as an Environmental/Wastewater engineer in 2003, and got off SSDI within a few months.”
She didn’t, however, go back to work full-time. Instead, she had to take into account issues related to her spinal cord injury. “I maxed out at 24 hours per week, unable to get all the way back to full-time.” Fortunately, she had understanding bosses who worked with her disability. “In 2003, my bosses were very supportive, flexible, and helpful. I worked for nine years for them.”
Lilly’s bosses also did everything to make sure she had the accommodations she needed to perform her tasks at work. “They made changes like shuffling projects to give me wheelchair accessible tasks. They installed automatic door openers, provided a desk that raises and lowers with a switch, and ordered a monitor on an arm for my legal blindness.”
Changes at Work
In 2011, her longtime bosses retired and there was a big change in management. With the management change came new bosses who were unsupportive of Lilly’s needs. “They created barriers for me instead of removing them. In 2012, I quit due to increased health issues, much of which was exacerbated by undue stress.” After quitting her job, Lilly went back on SSDI, and still receives SSDI benefits to this day.
Lilly dabbled in freelance writing after leaving her job. Then, she was offered a dream part-time job in 2019 by an old colleague. The position – assessing a county in Washington and their ADA transition plan. “My old colleague became a manager. He remembered my skills and knew I had become a person with a disability. Because of my technical and analytical ability, very real experience on a daily basis using a wheelchair, and knowledge of the ADA, he wanted my perspective to be reflected in the ADA Transition Plan. He offered me a part-time position, which works perfectly.”
In her current position, Lilly assists her team by providing practical input in writing the County’s ADA Transition Plan. “I really want to be a part of this with my goal being logical and fair project prioritization, and making the ramp and sidewalk upgrades as well-designed and useful to as many people as possible. Blind pedestrians, wheelchair users, scooter and walker users—it has to work well for all.” For her current job, she also receives support from a counselor at Disability Rights Oregon.
When she is not working in her new part-time position, Lilly writes for well-known disability publications like New Mobility Magazine. She also speaks to various groups to inspire others, to educate them about life with a spinal cord injury and blindness, and ultimately, teach them that life can go on after sustaining a disability. To learn more about Lilly, visit https://lillylongshore.com.