Do potential employers notice your wheelchair before they notice you? Being seen as a person, not a handicap, can be frustrating and disappointing. It may make you wonder if you're employable, at all. The good news is that there are many meaningful jobs for quadriplegics. Here are some tips about jobs to pursue and jobs to avoid.
WORST WORK CONDITIONS FOR QUADRIPLEGICS
A company that doesn't support you and is unwilling to adapt creates an unlivable environment for a quadriplegic. Here are some of the worst work conditions to be aware of:
Buildings Without Wheelchair Accessibility
Some office buildings may as well have been built in the Dark Ages. They have narrow doorways, cramped cubicles, stairs instead of ramps, and bathrooms without handicapped stalls. These conditions are prohibitive to downright impossible.
Circumstances like these can be demoralizing if the handicapped person has to ask office mates to help them on a daily basis. The disabled person may feel like a burden (and their peers may, indeed, agree) and feel cheated out of their independence.
A Prejudiced Employer
Despite the Americans With Disabilities Act, a law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, some unscrupulous employers defy it. [source] This means you probably won't be hired, and even if you are, you'll be miserable, unless you call them out. As a result, you could find yourself ensnared in the additional unpleasantries of a lawsuit.
An Office That Lacks Sensitivity Training
A prejudiced employer spawns prejudiced employees. This could manifest as everything from exclusion to gossip to backstabbing to outright confrontation. This type of office culture has no sensitivity training, and the employee handbook also isn't of much use in this regard.
An Employer Who Won't Let You Leave for Appointments
A quadriplegic often has to leave the office for physical therapy, which can take several hours. They must also keep doctor appointments and even take the time to treat depression with psychotherapy, which is all-too-common for people with this type of injury. Even though these appointments may only take several hours, the employer refuses to let you keep them.
Jobs That Have a Rigid Dress Code
Some quadriplegics regularly struggle to get dressed in the morning. This exertion can be compounded by a dress code that rigidly dictates wearing business clothing, such as suits and ties. While optimal office clothing shouldn't be halters and flip-flops, such stringent rules should be somewhat relaxed for quadriplegic employees.
Jobs That Hold Quadriplegic Employees to Specific Hours
Quadriplegics have lengthy morning care needs. It takes a lot of energy to have their bodies hauled out of bed. If they have some functionality in their hands, brushing their teeth, shaving and putting on deodorant may still be time-consuming. They might have to get up long before sunrise, and it may be hard finding attendant care at that hour if they need assistance.
Many quadriplegics also have a morning "bowel program," or a method of emptying their bowels. [source] Performed at least every two to three days, this procedure can take 30 to 60 minutes to finish. An employer must understand that flexible morning hours are a non-negotiable part of hiring a quadriplegic.
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BEST WORK CONDITIONS FOR QUADRIPLEGICS
When you feel welcome and your needs are met, productivity is likely to soar. Here are some work conditions that can set the stage for success:
An Office with Adaptations for Quadriplegics
This type of office is a saving grace for a quadriplegic. Its modifications can include adaptive computer and telephone technology, lowered mirrors and paper towel dispensers, ramps, an L-shaped desk for wheelchair clearance, and widened doorways.
An Open-Minded Employer
Do you do your job well? Do you do your job poorly? Whether you're in a wheelchair or whether you can walk on water, your job performance is the only thing an open-minded employer cares about. This employer ethically abides by the Americans With Disabilities Act. (Maybe he/she can even quote it!)
An Employer That Provides Sensitivity Training
A good employer enforces mandatory sensitivity training and has zero-tolerance for bullying. He/she may conduct meetings or bring in an expert for added credibility. The disabled person may also be invited to speak if they feel comfortable doing so. Sometimes people aren't aware they harbor prejudices, so they may find this training particularly enlightening.
An Employer That Lets You Leave for Appointments
This employer doesn't suspect you're "pulling a fast one," by requesting time off for doctor appointments. They understand that the magnitude of your injury requires regular medical attention. They also trust you'll give them several days' notice about the appointment so they'll be prepared to have your duties covered.
Jobs That Have a Flexible Dress Code
When an employer gives a quadriplegic a more lenient dress code, they aren't babying the employee or giving them special privileges. They're simply accommodating their handicap. Relaxed attire doesn't mean dressing like you're going to a rock concert but dressing smart casual. [source]
Jobs That Have Flexible Hours
Compassionate employers offer quadriplegics a wide berth when it comes to morning hours. They've done their research and understand that the extra time is a self-care necessity, not a shirking of responsibilities.
TIPS TO HELP QUADRIPLEGICS GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY
Sometimes tasks a non-handicapped person finds easy can be draining for a quadriplegic. Here are some tips to help quadriplegics revitalize themselves and get through the workday more easily:
WORST JOBS IF YOU'RE QUADRIPLEGIC
Here are a few jobs that usually can't be adapted to a quadriplegic's needs:
- Tailor – Many quadriplegics have greatly diminished use of their hands. Thus, the very fine, exacting movements required of a tailor wouldn't be feasible. Not only would it require doing minor alterations, but completely creating new garments, which could be exhausting.
- Long-haul truck driver – If you're quadriplegic, you may not be able to answer the call of the open road. You'd need more modifications than a trucking company will cover. Instead, you'd have to buy your own truck (very expensive) and make your own modifications (also very expensive).
For example, you might need to install a highly customized lift, and overall the cabin. You might also need to call truck stops in advance to get them to fuel up the truck for you. You'd also need your commercial driver's license approved by the regulatory Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association. [source]
- Private investigator – If you're a detective who conducts covert surveillance from your car (providing you're able to drive), you'll have long, uneventful stretches of sitting and doing nothing. Not only is this tedious, but it takes a toll on your muscles.
When you do need to take action, you'll make noise getting out of your car, getting into your wheelchair and rolling along, which will probably blow your cover.
BEST JOBS IF YOU'RE QUADRIPLEGIC
Improvements in communication devices, as well as adaptive and assistive equipment, have given quadriplegics the ability to do jobs unimaginable a decade ago. Here are some of the best:
- Software developer/computer programmer – This is a job that can be done with a camera that's sensitive to head movements and a mouth-controlled mouse. With this equipment, coding can be entered letter-by-letter. There are also voice-to-text applications that can help you get the job done.
- Investment advisor – An investment advisor is a professional who helps clients choose the best investments for their portfolio. You'll be factoring in a client's financial situation, investment goals, and risk tolerance. It's kind of like putting together a financial puzzle, and if you're deeply analytical and understand finances, this job could be a great fit. You won't have to do anything physical to be an investment advisor.
- Car salesperson – If you relish strategy and bargaining, you'll love the psychology of selling cars. It's also great if you enjoy having continuous contact with others throughout the day. Salespeople used to be required to come along during a test drive. Now, the rules at some dealerships are more lenient, so you won't have to worry about how you'll get in and out of cars. You simply take a photocopy of a customer's license and let them drive solo.
- Recruiter – A recruiter finds qualified candidates to fill job vacancies at a company. Also called business operations specialists, they screen, interview and place workers. Recruiters also help candidates hone their résumé, prep for interviews, and negotiate salaries. This is another job where you must love interacting with people and helping them achieve their goals. No physical work is required.
The job market for recruiters grows at about seven percent annually, so the occupation has a very bright future. [source]
- Psychologist – Psychologists sit during sessions so they can be at eye level with their clients. This fosters a closer connection and is non-threatening. An arrangement like this is ideal for a quadriplegic since your condition dictates you're wheelchair-bound. As a psychologist, you can specifically serve those who are trying to cope with this disability. [source]
- Disability rights lawyer – As someone who has possibly been discriminated against because of your condition, you're keenly attuned to how cruel and degrading this treatment is. You can use this understanding, and the fire it's lit inside you, to seek justice for other quadriplegics whose civil rights have been violated.
These violations can include such offenses as wrongful termination, denial of access or other unfair treatment related to a disability. You can also advocate for people with disabilities other than quadriplegia.
- Survey-taker – If you're quadriplegic, taking paid surveys is one of the best ways to make money online. Companies run surveys as a way of improving their products and gaining an understanding of a particular market.
Survey-taking is a great way to earn money, because you work from the comfort of home whenever you want, as much or little as you want. You need no particular education or experience. You just need an opinion! Simply sign up with as many sites as you want, receive surveys and fill them in.
Surveys typically pay between $1 and $20, but some have been known to pay $50. If you zoom through surveys and take several an hour, you could easily rack up hundreds of dollars.
A few good companies include Swagbucks, Pinecone Research, and Panda Research. For a complete breakdown on how to get started taking surveys online, check out my detailed guide here.
- Affiliate marketing – Affiliate marketing is an excellent make-money-from-home opportunity if you're quadriplegic. To become an affiliate, you simply set up a website or blog, place a company's link on it, and get a commission whenever someone clicks on the link and buys something. Products could be for a Fortune 500 company or a single individual.
Affiliate marketing is ideal if you need to periodically take downtime during the day or spend adequate time on your morning routine. You do it 100 percent from the comfort of home and no expertise is needed. You just learn as you go.
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Job hunting is challenging enough if you have mobility, let alone if you're quadriplegic. You may contend with stereotyping and intolerance during your search. Luckily, there are plenty of employers who offer jobs for quadriplegics. They see you as a whole human being, a person who deserves respect and an asset to the workforce.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
What jobs for quadriplegics would you recommend? How have you dealt with being a quadriplegic in the workplace in the past? Leave your comments below!