People with a spinal cord injury may find they need a little extra support when returning to the workforce after sustaining an injury. People with a spinal cord injury may choose to return to their previous career or decide to transition to a new role. Either way, the biggest change is often in the workplace, with reasonable adjustments and workplace modifications going a long way to enabling people with a spinal cord injury to succeed.
A safe and healthy work routine can help you return to work after a spinal cord injury. Work and employment following a spinal cord injury are important for restoring physical and mental health. People who return to work after a spinal cord injury have higher satisfaction with life, better self-esteem, and improved overall health.
The following tips and strategies enable people with a spinal cord injury and their employers to ensure that the workplace is inclusive of employees with a spinal cord injury.
At EPIC we offer a holistic employment service to help people with a spinal cord injury achieve their employment goals. If you would like to chat about your individual goals please get in touch with us today.
After sustaining a spinal cord injury, many people take the time to consider their career options and may choose to move to a new industry. Others may choose to stay in their current job and make changes to ensure the workplace is set up for their success. Either way being in the right physical and mental state is essential when entering the workforce for people with a spinal cord injury.
For those looking to start a new career it is important to create clear objectives across all stages of the employment journey. People with a spinal cord injury may find it beneficial to sit down with a friend, family member, or employment specialist to write a list of their goals and ways in which they can achieve them. Having a clear job plan is a great way to bring purpose, structure and satisfaction to the spinal cord injury job search process.
Workplace arrangements are also an important consideration when entering the workforce. People with a spinal cord injury should consider if they would prefer to work full-time, part-time or on a casual roster. Deciding on the correct workplace structure can help workplace burnout and strain, and lead to meaningful and sustainable employment.
At EPIC Assist, we understand everyone is different and we offer a personalised service to people with a spinal cord injury. Employment after an injury doesn’t have to be difficult. To make this return to work as smooth as possible, we provide the support people with a spinal cord injury need to prepare for the right role.
Job interviews are a great opportunity to showcase people’s talents, abilities and knowledge. It is important for people with a spinal cord injury to be confident and understand that they have been chosen for a job interview based on their experience and capabilities for the role.
People with a spinal cord injury may choose to advise a prospective employer of their disability prior to the interview, to ensure the interview is held in an accessible space. Of course, it is up to the person with a spinal injury if they choose not to tell the employer about their disability prior to the interview.
In the interview, it can help if a person with a spinal cord injury addresses their accessibility needs in the workplace by offering possible solutions, such as workplace modifications or accessible public transport options. This will be particularly useful and informative for employers with minimal knowledge of spinal cord injury employment or workplace modifications
It is important for people with a spinal cord injury to be aware that there are things an interviewer can and can’t ask during the interview.
Interviewers can ask:
- how you will complete certain job tasks.
- questions that are relevant to knowledge, skills, and abilities that pertain to the job.
- if a person can or can’t complete a job with or without accommodations.
- cost of accommodations, in which case JobAccess can be a great resource to refer them to.
Interviewers cannot ask a person with a spinal injury personal questions about their (or a family member’s) disability.
Remember, people with a spinal cord injury are not required to answer any questions that make them feel uncomfortable.
At EPIC, we understand that job interviews can be a stressful time in people’s lives. That’s why we offer a number of different services to help mentor and support our job seekers through the interview stage of their employment journey.
Before beginning a new job or returning to the workforce it is important for a workplace to be fully accessible to a person with a spinal cord injury. This can be a good stage for the person with a spinal injury to engage with a Disability Employment Service provider such as EPIC. We can help assess workplaces to ensure the correct supports are put in place to enable people with a spinal cord injury to thrive in the workplace.
The type of workplace modifications (if any) that an employee with a spinal cord injury may need will depend on the individual’s level of injury, the physical requirements of the job and the work environment. People with disability are the experts in their own needs, and will often be able to identify what they need to succeed in their role. Accommodations are usually inexpensive, and there are many government grants that can help employers cover costs.
There are many easy ways to fix common barriers at work for people with spinal cord injuries.
If a person’s desk is too low for wheelchair access, try removing centre desk drawers, safely raising the desk using secure and stable structures, or purchase an adjustable desk.
Many people with spinal cord injuries have limited hand and arm movement. If the person is finding it difficult to hold a desk phone, a speaker phone or phone headset can be great options.
It is important to consider building accessibility, specifically:
- ensure an accessible car park is located near your premises. You may need to contact the council to arrange this.
- maintain building accessibility by ensuring pathways are clear and lifts are regularly maintained
- lower door handles easily accessible to people using wheelchairs
- replace heavy doors with power doors.
At EPIC, we provide personal ongoing support for as long as our job seekers need us – that could be a week, a month or a year. We don’t just find people a job after a spinal cord injury, we make sure they have the tools and training needed to be successful in their role for the long term.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person with disability. Employers cannot deny employment to qualified job applicants who are able to perform the essential job role functions because they have a spinal cord injury. This means employers:
- can only ask applicants in a job interview if they are able to perform the job duties. They may not ask about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability.
- must make any reasonable adjustments that help people with a spinal cord injury complete their role.
The DDA also makes discrimination unlawful at all stages of the employment process, from advertising through to termination.
As you embark on your career, it’s important to understand your rights. People with disability have equal opportunities at all stages of recruitment. They have control over whether or not they want to disclose their spinal cord injury to their employer and how much information they wish to share.
When you return to work after a spinal cord injury, you have access to workplace adjustments and disability support services to make your transition back to work as smooth as possible. Our team at EPIC Assist is well-versed in the legalities of employment after a spinal cord injury and will support you through the entire process, from learning the skills needed for a job to ensuring you are happy in your role and stay there long-term.
If you have a spinal cord injury and are looking to get back into the workforce, contact the team at EPIC Assist today.
We help support people with a spinal cord injury to find and maintain employment where they will thrive. With a little support, people with a spinal cord injury can have long and meaningful employment and offer a host of benefits to any organisation.
EPIC Assist has service centres across Queensland, Northern New South Wales, and Tasmania.
Give us a call today to discuss how EPIC can help you.