At first, spinal cord injury survivors may feel that returning to work is impossible. However, recent statistics show that employment figures for those with a spinal cord injury are near to those of the general population.
As life events go, few have a more traumatic impact on day-to-day living than a spinal cord injury. Even after successful spinal cord injury rehab, getting to grips with the fact that your life has been forever altered is not easy. Depression often forms part of this process, until suffers are able to accept their unique situation and decide to move on with their new life.
One of the best ways to do this is by working.
Working often gives us a sense of self-worth, in addition to providing an income, workplace friendships, a sense of belonging and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from being part of a team. This is especially the case for those whose lives have been altered by an SCI.
Surprisingly, a recent study shows that 60% of spinal cord injury survivors work full- or part-time. This is not dissimilar to the pre-injury statistics for those same people, at 75%. Likewise, it comes close to the national overall employment rate in the UK.
There are many reasons for this, one of the primary motives being the wealth of opportunities that have emerged as a result of new technologies, which have made it possible to perform many jobs online. Computer skills afford those with an SCI enormous flexibility in terms of time management and where and how they work – whether that be from home, onsite or a combination of both.
Furthermore, online technology facilitates ongoing education for those spinal cord injury survivors who wish to learn new skills through training and education programmes. Did you know that, on average, people with an SCI actually obtain a higher level of education than that of the general population? Not only does this enhance employment opportunities, it provides those with an SCI an expanding network of supportive relationships, both personally and professionally.
Of course, this is not to suggest that working with an SCI does not come with its own challenges. It does. Many, if not most, spinal cord injury survivors will require at least some level of modification or adjustments in their workplace. But here, too, you may be surprised to discover that, according to the study, 90% of those working with an SCI have reported no problems receiving the adjustments they requested from their employer.
SCI survivors often worry that working could lead to the loss of certain disability benefits. Given the high costs associated with an SCI, losing these benefits could be devastating – and more than offset the benefit of being employed. The good news is that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are still payable, regardless of whether or not you are working. They are not means tested, so earnings do not affect your benefits. Universal Credit also allows you to work the number of hours that you can manage without losing access to financial support if you are still on a low income.
Working is a normal and rewarding part of life and this goes double for those with an SCI. It keeps you active and busy and helps to improve your physical health and sense of well-being as well. It is well worth exploring work, to see if you too can benefit from these rewards.