How Can Employers Support Workers With Spinal Injuries?
Most people with medulla spinalis injuries (SCI) want to work but need rehabilitation services, support, and training to assist them in obtaining and keeping employment. These support sources may help to beat many obstacles outside the individual’s control, like health care and financial issues, accessibility, and employer attitudes.
Although individuals with SCI can have active lives and successful careers, they need more obstacles to beat than those without disabilities. Federal and state laws and rehabilitation services exist to assist people with disabilities to overcome these obstacles. Spinal cord injury resources are always available online for you to research.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Passed in 1990 and amended in 2008, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities who are ready to perform the job’s crucial functions with or without accommodation.
- This law will protect you if you have a disability that limits you with major life activities. Nearly all people with SCI are protected under ADA.
- Employers must make “reasonable accommodation” as long as it does not hurt the business. Whether an accommodation is taken into account as something that hurts the business depends on the employer – the financial resources, size, nature of the operation, and other factors.
- Upon the application, the employer cannot ask you about the existence, nature, or severity of your disability, albeit you show up for your interview in a wheelchair. An employer should ask you about your ability to perform specific job functions.
- An employer can require you to pass a check-up as long as it’s job-related and required of all employees in similar jobs.
- If you feel an employer has discriminated against you, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Call to locate the office nearest you, or visit http://www.eeoc.gov. Other states have powerful disability rights laws, as well.
Wheelchair Accessibility and Disabled Toilet Access
It is not enough for a wheelchair user to access the place of employment – they must also have access to a wheelchair-accessible toilet. Although many workplaces now have accessible toilets, these can be abused and frequently used by able-bodied people.
Sometimes people with a spinal cord injury don’t have a lot of notice before they need to use the facilities. Employers should educate their able-bodied employees to be mindful of this and not use the disabled toilet.
Access to the building
Be it by a keypad, electronic pass, or deadlock. Security provision needs to be at a height that a wheelchair user can access independently. The same applies to light switches and the door; if it is too heavy, consider whether it needs to be automatic.
Access to kitchen and other facilities
The standard width of internal doors in the U.K. is approximately 76.2cm, but wheelchair access is required, the door width should be 83.8cm.
Ensuring that a wheelchair user has the space to access all of the facilities is important. This includes their desk and equipment such as printers, but also the kettle, microwave, and sink, so work surfaces should be a suitable height.
Working from Home
Proposing flexible working hours or working from home can also assist a person with a spinal cord injury when returning to work. Their morning routine can take much longer than that of an able-bodied person.
This, plus the increased commute time, particularly if using public transport, can make it very difficult to work the standard 9 am to 5 pm.
Working from home or allowing them to adjust their hours would help people feel more confident in returning to work.
Work vs. Benefits: Finding a Balance
Often, people with SCI are hesitant to start working because they don’t want to lose their medical benefits under Social Security Social Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or private or state long-term social insurance (LTD). They are also concerned about the additional cost of going to or staying at work.
Federal work incentive programs under SSDI or SSI allow people with SCI to receive benefits and federal health care (Medicare and/or Medicaid) while keeping a number of their earnings from employment. This will be a strong incentive for somebody with a high-level SCI who features a strong desire to work but needs assistance at work, must pay for a van, and wishes for other services to work. Some LTD policies include rehab benefits or incentives to return to work.
Work-incentive programs are complicated. And you’ll want to consult your rehabilitation counselor, a resource specialist with an independent living center, or a caseworker conversant in benefits systems.