After recovering from a spinal cord injury (SCI), many people are ready to get back to living their life and resume employment. As a working mom who’s been living with a spinal cord injury for 22 years, I know that returning to work after an SCI can be exciting but also rather daunting.
5 Tips for Returning to Work After a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Here are some of my tips for returning to work after a spinal cord injury that may help you get started.
1. Learn About Your Condition and Your Rights as a Person With a Disability
The best thing you can do when starting out is to equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Whether you just want to know more about living with a spinal cord injury or need to learn your rights as a person with a disability, being well-informed will be a huge help as you assimilate and transition back to daily life post-injury.
Plus, knowing your rights can be tremendously helpful when applying for a new job, returning to a prior employer, or requesting job accommodations that may be available to you.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that prohibits discrimination against people who live with a disability. It covers all kinds of aspects of life with a disability, including:
- Public Services
- Public Accommodations
- And other miscellaneous things related to ableism (discrimination because of a disability)
For example, did you know that you don’t have to disclose your disability when applying for a job?
Get to know your rights so you can prepare for life after your spinal cord injury, including issues like what to do if you encounter ableism on the job or during the application process.
2. Request Job Accommodations
Another thing the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures is that employers will provide reasonable accommodations to qualified job applicants and employees with disabilities.
If you’d like to continue working for an employer you were with prior to your injury, you may want to speak with your direct supervisor or manager or the Human Resources department. Then, together, you can discuss potential accommodations for working with a spinal cord injury. You may even be able to transfer to an alternate position if you’re unable to continue your pre-injury job responsibilities such as heavy lifting.
Alternatively, if you’re seeking new employment, be prepared to discuss which accommodations you may need.
Also, one thing to consider is you may be eligible for jobs where you can work remotely from home if you have sufficient internet connection.
3. Use Social Security Benefits If Needed
If you worked prior to your spinal cord injury, you may eligible to apply for Social Security Disability Income benefits.
You may want to learn about the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work Program, which allows you to go back to work under a trial period that lasts up to nine months.
The maximum you can earn as of 2021 is $1,130.00. This amount typically increases each year, so it’s a good idea to check on updates every now and then.
If you’re not eligible for disability benefits after your spinal cord injury, which may happen if you haven’t worked long enough to build up credit, then you may be able to apply for social security income (SSI).
You may also claim reimbursement for any expenses that are related to your disability while working. Contact your local social security office to obtain the necessary forms you will need to complete and submit.
4. Utilize job placement services
Ready to look for a job? You might do a search online for a credible local job placement service or agency that can help you with finding a job that will fit your schedule and accommodate your needs while fitting your specific skill set.
Also, did you know there are job search companies that specifically help people with disabilities? For example, Inclusively is a company that helps match you for a job with an equal opportunity employer like 180 Medical that’s devoted to encouraging a diverse, equitable, inclusive workplace.
In addition, as a person with a disability, consider reaching out to your state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services. This service assists people with disabilities obtain and maintaining meaningful employment. In addition, you may qualify through their help to receive assistive devices, vehicle modifications, and mobility equipment, such as a wheelchair.
5. Keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself.
Lastly, when returning to work with a spinal cord injury, don’t think about your potential limitations. You may discover more opportunities are available to you than you realize.
Ultimately, it’s easier than you might think to get back to having a job after a spinal cord injury. With just a few resources, you may be able to get back to doing something you love, earning an income, and feeling independent again.