Employment

The Law Is On Your Side

When you suddenly can't move or feel a large portion of your body, the last thing you need to think about is working, or going back to work. For some breadwinners or workaholics, their thoughts may turn to work, but for most people, going back to work is a long ways off in their minds and it's a long time before they do go back to work, if they do. 

It's important to know there's nothing keeping you from finding a job  as a newly disabled person. As you start looking for work, you may be thinking, "What kind of employer will hire me?" Just because you use a wheelchair doesn't mean it's OK for employers to overlook you.  In fact, it's illegal to do this thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What the ADA Does for You

Since 1990 (the law was upgraded again in 2007), the Americans with Disabilities Act has been fighting to make sure no employer can say, "No thanks we'll pass," simply because you're disabled. If you can do the job, they can't refuse to hire you because of your disability. And if you think an employer is possibly doing so, you can sue.

This is a pretty awesome change. Before the ADA, employment discrimination was widespread. Most people with disabilities couldn’t find anyone willing to hire them. Most employers couldn't see past the wheelchair. A sad but true fact. Now, if you want to go back to work you can.  There are even laws that allow you to keep your health benefits while working.

Thanks to the ADA, any job you can still physically do, you can do. It's amazing what kind of jobs people spinal cord injuries can have after their injuries. We have seen amazing people doing everything from welding and waitressing to farming and working as lawyers, teachers, speakers, writers and models. People with spinal cord injuries work all kinds of jobs in cities all around the world.

The main thing to remember is that there are open-minded employers who will hire you. The law has helped many to finally see the light. Don't be scared to show up in your wheelchair. You will be given a chance.

Find a Job That Fulfills You

Time for another true fact: going back to work is incredibly good for the psyche. Since a spinal cord injury forces you to take time away from work, many injured people will take this as an opportunity to change their profession and pursue something they've always wanted to do. Why not use this traumatic life change as motivation to find the career that makes you truly happy?

There are vocational counselors who can help you find a new career that will both fulfill you and help you become financially independent. This is possible. Many new paths open up after a spinal cord injury.

Maintain Your Benefits and Still Work

In many states, there are programs that allow you to work and still receive both part of your SSD benefit and remain on Medicaid/Medicare. In Minnesota for example, this program is called MA-EPD and has a buy-in system depending on your monthly wages. Learn more about this great news here

In the meantime, watch the video below of a quadriplegic talking about going back to work and don't forget to check out the Takeaway Points afterwards.

Video: Returning To Work After a Spinal Cord Injury

Takeaway Points/Other Things to Know

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents employers from discriminating against you because of your spinal cord injury
  • If you think a possible employer is discriminating against you, you can sue
  • Going back to work is good for your self-worth. It feels good to be productive
  • Use your spinal cord injury as an opportunity to find a job you love. There's no use going to a job you don't like now that you have a spinal cord injury
  • Wait 6 months before returning to work to get your bladder/bowel timing figured out
  • Get creative with what you can still do. Standing wheelchairs can help in many professions, like car mechanics, doctors, cashiers and hairdressers

SCI Employment Resources


Table of Contents
  1. The Law Is On Your Side
  2. Job Accommodations
  3. Vocational Rehabilitation