The Path to Employment: Returning to Work-- Obstacles, Hurdles and Challenges…Oh, My!

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on May 29, 2020 # Lifestyle, Employment

One of the main challenges I faced after I was injured was my return to work. Despite my plans and dreams towards that end, it almost didn't happen. I was told early in my release from the rehab center that as long as I returned to work within one year from my last day at work, I could return to my job as a reference librarian in a large corporation.

That gave me about five months at home before I had to return. I was determined to make it back to work by my November 2 deadline. During a doctor visit several months ahead of my deadline, my doctor asked me if I really wanted to return to work. Naturally, I told him yes and how excited I was to go back; he told me that the medical director from my company had called and asked him if he could discourage me from returning! Of course, that had the totally opposite effect on me. I was now bound and determined to make it happen, no matter what.Information Specialist on phone

The day I had been anticipating for so long drew closer and closer. I became more and more nervous and more and more anxious because I would now have to do my job differently; that was a very scary proposition. And, more than that, I was going back to work but going back in a motorized wheelchair, an even scarier proposition.

Although I tried to prepare myself to deal with these major changes, the reality of the situation still stung when confronting them on a daily basis. It was harder than I had imagined.

As I acclimated myself to working while overcoming new barriers, I also used up countless reserves of energy and wasted untold hours by worrying and wondering. I bothered myself with new worries: It was tough enough to return to work. What would happen if I were to look for another job? Would a new employer ever want to hire someone who may need accommodations in order to do that job? Who would even give me a chance to prove myself? After all, my upper-level management, people who never even met me, tried to dissuade me from returning to my current job. What would happen in a whole new job search? What would I do? Where would I go?

Eventually, that day arrived but not as I expected. I found out about a new position as an Information Specialist at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center. I could hardly believe it; my interest was immediately piqued. I applied online and interviewed.

Now, I knew that I could get a job. But more importantly, I could get a job where I could help other people using both my personal experience as someone living with paralysis and my work experience as a librarian to provide needed information to family and friends who are currently facing the same situation that my family and I were in all those years ago. Plus, I could add a “personal touch” -- providing some insight into the profound and staggering circumstances brought about by a spinal cord injury.

When planning on returning to work, keep records of return-to-work dates, any conversations that you’ve had regarding your return, and complete any medical or other forms that are required.

If you need accommodations in order to fulfill the duties of your job, contact the Job Accommodations Network (JAN). JAN provides free consulting services to employees (regardless of disability) as well as employers. These services include one-on-one consultation about all aspects of job accommodations, including the accommodation process, accommodation ideas, and assistance with ADA compliance.

You are on your way!

Written by Senior Information Specialist Donna Lowich. To contact an Information Specialist, please call 800-539-7309 or visit our website at:

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.