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Work and Finances

Spinal Cord Injury Adjustments in the Workplace

Returning to work requires some changes to your workspace to keep you safe and make it easier for you to get things done after a spinal cord injury. Explore these handy tips.

by: KMT May, 2021 5 min read

When you’re ready to return to work, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your work environment to help you manage life with a spinal cord injury. Here are a few tips and suggestions to get you started.

Returning to work after a spinal cord injury requires both you and your employer to make some adjustments in the workplace, to keep you safe and comfortable and make it easier for you to get things done. Fortunately, there are many innovations and assistive technology devices that help you create a great working environment.

Working on a laptop

Most assistive technology products and adaptive equipment cost very little, so it’s in your employer’s best interest to make these relatively minor workspace adjustments.

General office workplace adjustments

If you have an office job, it’s easy to adapt your working environment following a spinal cord injury. There are several workplace adjustments you should consider for office environments and desk work. Some practical workplace adjustments include

·       A roomier desk and workspace layout to accommodate your wheelchair dimensions and allow you to move around freely without bumping into things

·       Assistive technology software (if you have little or no hand function) such as voice dictation

·       Other adaptive equipment or assistive technology, such as smart voice-enabled gadgets, ergonomic office supplies and universal cuffs that attach to most items

·       An ergonomically designed keyboard and mouse or trackball, headsets and speakerphones for easy telephone communication and a raised or adjustable-height desk for optimum positioning

·       Commonly used office supplies that make handling paper easier, such as copyholders, vertical files, page-turners and revolving tabletop holders

Adjustments for wheelchairs in the workplace

Working long hours in a wheelchair can be detrimental to your health. Besides the fatigue you’ll feel, sitting in a wheelchair for long periods can lead to loss of circulation, spasticity, pressure sores and other issues.

Fortunately, an essential workplace adjustment like a powered standing wheelchair can help alleviate the issues caused by extended sitting. When used in combination with a height-adjustable or standing desk, a standing wheelchair allows you to stretch out and minimise stress to your body, whilst continuing to work on a computer, make phone calls and do other necessary desk work. Furthermore, in a survey of individuals with a spinal cord injury, 31 per cent reported improved breathing when standing.

The downside is that standing wheelchairs are expensive. Your insurance or employer may not pay for all or some of the cost of a standing wheelchair. If your insurance or employer is unwilling to offer assistance, consult your occupational therapists about other financing and financial aid options.

Your employer’s obligation to provide workplace adjustments

UK employers are required to make reasonable workplace adjustments for those with a disability, such as paralysis from a spinal cord injury. Other countries have similar laws.

Regardless of the legal obligations, your employer may be willing to go above and beyond what’s required to help you to work productively. Don’t forget that your employer should value your talent and a strong work ethic. Don’t hesitate to ask for any other workplace adjustments that could help you continue to be a great employee.


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