5 Tips for Going Back to Work with a Disability

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw is one of our blog contributors that enjoys sharing information and stories about living with a disability. She suffered a severe spinal cord injury over 20 years ago that left her significantly paralyzed and has found ways to adapt and live an enjoyable life with her husband and children.

Here, Meena shares five things she learned after finishing physical and outpatient rehabilitation and deciding to go back to work. She talks about some of the new barriers those with a disability may face when seeking employment and some things to consider.

1. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

We have had many laws changed that help companies in The United States understand what it means to accommodate a person with a disability. We also have laws in place making it a crime to discriminate against a person with a disability within the workplace. However, if you are like me and have applied to many jobs for which you are well experienced and qualified, you will also find that much more work remains to be done for change. Ultimately, this hurts all of us when it comes to economy and self-sufficiency.

As a mother raising young children, I had to think very quickly about what I would do, considering the employment market was not working for me. After my spinal cord injury, I applied to two hundred seventy-nine jobs. Out of those, I received seven callbacks for interviews.

Since I was so new in my injury, it never even occurred to me to mention I was in a wheelchair when setting up interviews. One company felt so bad that I could not get up their mounds of steps they instead took me to lunch for my interview. The interviewer was genuinely disappointed. I was completely qualified for the position, but the building was built before the ADA law had been put into place and could not accommodate my disability.

Most interviewers were gracious, but I kept running into the same problem whereby either the building wasn’t conducive, or the law didn’t apply. I even tried going back to my previous field of IT recruiting and found that my new physical image was preventing me from getting past the front door. I quickly received an education in hidden discrimination.

2. Finding Your Niche

Eventually, I was hired by a company, but I soon understood it wasn’t my physical limitations that I wasn’t ready to handle; I lacked proper mental stability to face the ‘real’ world I encountered.

That is when I decided to go back to school and get into a field that would suit my lifestyle as a busy mother.

I always loved writing and was also very good at it from a very young age. Nonetheless, it wasn’t something I pursued early on, but now that I was home twiddling my thumbs, I had nothing to lose. I accepted an opportunity to enroll in a college program to learn how to write for children and teens. Before then, I had already self-published a memoir and began working on a children’s book.

When I had my spinal cord injury, I was on Social Security disability benefits. Under the ticket to work program, I was allowed to work for nine months before deciding whether I could successfully exist in the workplace without the benefits being disturbed.

Eventually, I was earning as much as a part-time employee as a writer, and now, with the books I have published and the blogs I write, I am grateful that it is more, and I can call myself self-employed.

3. Going Back to School to Learn Something New

It isn’t unusual to return to school after having a debilitating injury and be retrained to focus on what one can do with the new limitations. Many disabled people become attorneys and doctors or find the computer industry to be suitable.

I found that my writing was my therapy. Even better, I was earning while bringing awareness regarding issues within the disabled community that often forgotten.

So, if work is on your agenda, remember that larger companies are more regulated now and are, by law, equipped to accommodate you. Also, many colleges and training programs will help you find a job after you complete your course. Therefore I advise you to get to know your counselor well!

woman in wheelchair on computer

4. State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies

Another resource is the State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, which will help you prepare for, obtain, maintain, or regain employment. Every state in the United States has a vocational rehabilitation agency. These agencies are beneficial when it comes to meeting your employment goals.

5. Think About Transportation

Transportation can be an issue and if you cannot afford a vehicle. You may consider residing in an area where public transportation is available. I live outside the city limits and have recently gained assistance in having a modified minivan equipped with hand controls and a ramp since I have been using a power wheelchair since late 2014.

Since I work from home, I now have a modified desk to write, an automatic door to assist in getting in and out of my house, and proper modifications on my vehicle, allowing me to easily go outside of my home to perform the necessary functions of my job.

For more information on going back to work, I recommend you log into the Social Security Administration website. There is a wealth of information available on how to get back into the workforce that I found very useful.

About the Author

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw

On January 23, 2000, Meena suffered a spinal cord injury that left her a T12 paraplegic. She worked hard to grow and push past adversity and challenges and even went back to school for a four-year diploma in writing for teenagers and children.

What Personally Delivered is Doing to Comply with ADA

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Despite our best efforts to ensure the accessibility of our website, there may be some limitations. However, we are continuously updating for the best user experience. For our full accessibility statement, refer to the bottom of our Terms of Use page.

We welcome your feedback. If you encounter any issues, please contact us by email at info@personallydelivered.com. We try to respond to feedback within 2 business days.

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Arthritis with an Ostomy: Tips to Help Manage

Living with an ostomy already has its challenges. However, suffering from arthritis with an ostomy can increase the difficulty of specific tasks such as opening tubes of stoma paste, stiffness when bending over to empty the ostomy appliance, or using scissors for a cut-to-fit ostomy barrier. Having arthritis with an ostomy doesn’t have to mean a total loss of independence. Take a look at some helpful tips for managing these conditions below.

Types of Arthritis & Other Conditions That May Affect Hand Dexterity

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects a person’s immune system and attacks their tissues. The feeling often experienced is a burning pain accompanied by swelling and sometimes stiffness in the joints, particularly in the hands, shoulders, knees, and feet.  Many also report feeling fatigued throughout the day.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Due to the cells’ changes as we age, osteoarthritis develops between the ages of 45-90 years. The cartilage in the fingers and weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, back, and feet are affected. Pain, stiff joints, and swelling are also a symptom of osteoarthritis.

Fibromyalgia

While fibromyalgia is not a type of arthritis, it can co-occur with other types of arthritis. Fibromyalgia is a type of chronic pain syndrome that can cause immense fatigue and pain in muscles, joints, and other soft tissues. It has no known cause or cure at this time. However, research indicates it may be related to genetics (family history), having coexisting conditions such as arthritis or lupus, going through prolonged stress or trauma, or having a viral illness. The pain from fibromyalgia can range from mild to severe and include stiffness, burning, throbbing, or stabbing sensations in the muscles. Fatigue, depression, anxiety, numbness, tingling, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and cystitis have been reported.

Gout

Gout occurs when uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints and cause inflammation. The body breaks down proteins, which then form this uric acid. Gout usually affects one joint at a time, especially in the big toes. The ankles, knees, hands, wrists, and elbows are other joints that can be affected.  Common symptoms of gout include pain, warmth, redness, and swelling. Most gout onsets occur quickly and can remain for up to a week if left untreated. Excess alcohol consumption, being overweight, water pills, surgery, or sudden illness are just some of the things that can trigger and aggravate gout.

Reiter’s Syndrome

Reiter’s Syndrome is a type of arthritis that occurs as a reaction to an infection somewhere else in the body. It may be related to intestinal infections such as Salmonella or urinary tract infections. Reiter’s Syndrome’s symptoms can include inflammation of the joints, tendons, eyes, urinary tract, or skin and may involve a rash or fever.

Scleroderma

Scleroderma involves a thickening of the skin on the fingers, arms, and sometimes the face. There are often color changes in the hands from pale blue to red, small calcium deposits that form nodules on the fingertips, and stiffness in the joints with these indicators. Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation can also be other symptoms.

Enteropathic Arthritis

Enteropathic arthritis often accompanies inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Painful, hot, and stiff joints are common symptoms of enteropathic arthritis, and when the gastrointestinal disease goes into remission, the arthritic symptoms go along with it.

Tips if You Have Arthritis with an Ostomy

Arthritis in the Hands

hollister new image two-piece ostomy pouch with integrated closureOpening packets of an ostomy product such as stoma paste, peeling off backing papers, and cutting holes in skin barriers can be challenging for those with arthritis in their hands. Many manufacturers have noticed this problem that those with arthritis and an ostomy face and have made some adjustments to their packaging.

ConvaTec has Moldable Technology that eliminates the need for scissors to customize the hole around the stoma. There is a helpful and informative article at the end of this blog that goes into detail about ConvaTec Moldable Technology. ConvaTec also offers many pre-cut barrier options, such as the ConvaTec Esteem + One-Piece Pre-Cut Closed-End Pouch, which can help.

arthritis compression gloves for those with arthritis with an ostomyMany drainable ostomy bags feature integrated closures instead of clips. The Hollister New Image Pouch has an easy Lock N Roll Microseal closure that is excellent for those with dexterity problems.

Tubes of ostomy paste, such as the Hollister Adapt Paste, come in a soft tube that you can use a credit card or paste dispenser to glide the formula out easily.

Having a pair of arthritis compression gloves can also be very helpful. Not only will they help keep a better grip on items, but these gloves may also help increase circulation and reduce pain.

Arthritis in the Neck and Back

adjustable mirror to aid in changing an ostomy applianceArthritis in the neck and back can cause stiffness, and bending over to view the stoma when changing your appliance may be difficult. A suggestion to help make this a bit easier may be to sit down and lean back somewhere comfortable with a desk or table in front or beside you. Place a mirror on the table and face it down toward your ostomy appliance. A mirror that easily adjusts to all angles would work best.

Stiffness Getting On and Off the Toilet

Railings can be installed around the toilet to help stabilize yourself when emptying your ostomy bag. Another option that might be helpful when getting on and off the toilet and entering and exiting the bathtub is a transfer bench. This adaptive equipment piece works as an added safety feature to allow those with arthritis with an ostomy to take their time when sitting and rising to stand up.

Using Adaptive Equipment and Experiencing Leaks

If you are using a wheelchair or a walker, these types of adaptive equipment require the use of both hands. A leaking ostomy appliance while using one of these kinds of devices requires at least one hand to minimize the leakage. Preparing emergency supplies in a bag attached to the wheelchair or walker can be a possible solution to this problem. Having emergency ostomy supplies around the home can also alleviate some stress knowing that your needed supplies are nearby.

There are many other aids for those who have arthritis with an ostomy and can be found at your local pharmacy. Items such as easy-open pill bottles, grippers to unscrew lids, push-button pill reminder boxes, and more can be beneficial aids. You can reach out to a local occupational therapist or your local hospital for more information about where to find products made to help those with arthritis accomplish tasks more manageable.

Maintaining independence is essential to self-esteem, but remember to ask for help when you need it. The last thing you need when suffering from arthritis with an ostomy is having an accident that can potentially worsen your condition.

For even more information about arthritis, ease of use products, treatments, hundreds of articles, and even a drug guide, visit the Arthritis Foundation. You can even click to find your local area and connect.

For any inquiries about ostomy appliances, adaptive equipment, or any other home delivery medical supplies we carry at Personally Delivered, our Product Experts are just a phone call away and ready to help.

Other Helpful Articles

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Having a Spinal Cord Injury and Regaining Independence

A spinal cord injury is an often disabling medical condition caused by damage to the spinal cord or the nerves near the end of the spinal cord. Depending on the location of the injury on the spine, paralysis can occur in some if not all parts of the body. The higher the injury location on the spine, the more assistance a person most likely will need.

Becoming disabled after a spinal cord injury can truly be devastating. However, many individuals – even with high levels of paralysis, such as quadriplegics, go on to be extremely successful and productive members of society. Many also have relationships, including marriage and children.

Managing Life at Home After a Spinal Cord Injury

The biggest concern for anyone who has a spinal cord injury is how they will manage it. This thought happens most often in the early stages of their recovery. When I had my spinal cord injury, I couldn’t do much for myself either. After having a back fusion surgery where rods were surgically placed all the way down my spine, I had to wear a TSO cast that encased my entire upper torso. It gave time for the rods to fuse with my spine. During this time, I was under many restrictions, such as when I wasn’t wearing it, I had to remain in bed and could not even turn myself. After twelve weeks, I was completely free from wearing this cast, but I still couldn’t lift more than five pounds.

As much as I appreciated all this attention to detail, my biggest concern was that I had infant children. My youngest was a newborn who had never been less than five pounds. So, I had no choice but to hire help. It was the only way I was going to have any chance of working on myself. I hired a nanny to live with me to take care of the baby at night. During the day, they went to daycare.

I was in a rental wheelchair when I went home from rehab. I was also sleeping in a hospital bed until the orthopedic surgeon felt it was safe for me to sleep in my own bed. Before I had left rehab, I had hired a home health aid. She wasn’t trained in personal care, such as bladder and bowel incontinence, but she was willing to learn, so the rehab facility taught her. She helped me shower, take care of my bathroom needs at home, dressed me, and helped me into my wheelchair. Once I was in the wheelchair, I was at least mobile.

Then, I learned to drive. I received assistance from DARS, now known as Texas Workforce. They helped pay for the hand controls installed in my car and the lessons to learn how to drive a modified vehicle.

Going Back to Work After a Spinal Cord Injury

woman in a wheelchair working on a computerLater on, when I chose to go back to college, Texas Workforce helped pay for courses and books that I needed. When I got further education to write for teenagers and children, they continued to help me achieve my ultimate goal to be a full-time writer. I chose to work from home, so with their help, I had my office set up with adaptive equipment, including an ‘uplift desk.’ There was no excuse for me to not be productive, so I went to work.

Going back to work after my spinal cord injury was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself, along with learning to drive. The sense of independence I felt was heaven sent. Within months, my confidence as a writer grew. With continuous physical therapy, I also gained upper body strength to take care of my own needs.

I wasn’t shy about seeking psychological help either. I was grieving the loss of my legs and how my spinal cord injury affected my life after that. Everything changed for me, and I could either sink or swim.

Regaining Independence After My Spinal Cord Injury

After my youngest reached four years old, I let go of the nanny. That had been one of the many goals I had set for myself. So from that point on, I was taking care of my two children alone.

I’ve always said that life is about choices, but my thought process became warped when I had my injury. Eventually, I gained hope, which ultimately gave me the strength to keep moving forward. I went on to marry again and have another child. Through all of this, I have learned I needed no help this time around caring for my third child.

What I Learned on My Journey to Independence

group with disabilities from spinal cord injury sharing a beer and playing gamesWhat I have learned the most throughout my self-discovery journey is that there are some really nice people in the world. One of them I married, and the others are my closest friends. I also found that the more I do, the more respect I gain from those who don’t quite understand my disability from my spinal cord injury. However, what they see is a self-sufficient, strong, confident mother of three who happens to be in a wheelchair.

If you or someone you care for has a disability due to a spinal cord injury or any other medical condition, some of the mobility and adaptive equipment and incontinence products we carry may help in everyday life. For more resources, help to find support, and to read other’s stories, the United Spinal Association is a great place to start.

If you have any questions or need more information on the home delivery medical supplies we offer, our Product Experts are just a phone call away and ready to assist.

About the Author

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw

On January 23, 2000, Meena suffered a spinal cord injury that left her a T12 paraplegic. She worked hard to grow and push past adversity and challenges and even went back to school for a four-year diploma in writing for teenagers and children.

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Living with a Disability: How Adaptive Equipment Needs Change

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw suffered a spinal cord injury 20 years ago that left her significantly paralyzed. She has worked hard to push past the challenges she has faced and hopes to inspire others with disabilities. Here, she shares some excellent information regarding living with a disability and some of the adaptive equipment she finds helpful in everyday life.

Living with a disability opens up many questions, especially if our ability to use our legs or arms is affected by completing regular daily tasks.  Yet, living in such a modern-day where technology and new inventions are always becoming available, we can find ourselves realizing adaptive equipment can help us with just about anything.

It can also become overwhelming because, let’s face it, we have many options now. It is essential for you to understand what you are looking at and if this is something that you need now.  In the experience of many that live with a disability, it is quickly determined that your needs change as you progress further into this new way of living.  Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to purchase too many things, but only what you think will be the most useful to you.  Another thing to consider is where you live. You might live in an apartment, or a smaller house, which presents a problem if you don’t have the space to store your items. Considering the cost factor of adaptive items can vary in price depending on how custom or technical the product is.   That is why it is important to know what is essential and what you might be able to wait on.

If you see a physical or occupational therapist, it is good to ask them what items will be most useful to you.   As you age, your body changes, and therefore your adaptive needs will have to change along with it.  To help you, I have come up with a few items that I think might help you in the meantime.

Mobility Aids

McKesson CaneAdaptive equipment like a wheelchair, walker, cane, or crutches are mobility aids you will need to look at very seriously. It is absolutely in your best interest to go through a Mobility supply company and be evaluated by an adaptive technician. These specialists are trained to fit you correctly by taking measurements so that the item is customized to your specific shape, size, and height. For example, a wheelchair is not a one-size-fits-all piece of equipment. Having it fit your body well allows you to sit with comfort, have fewer chances of getting pressure sores and other skin-related issues. Additionally, it will alleviate any potential for aches and pains from not getting the correct postural support.

Grabber

Carex Grabber Reaching AidA grabber is going to be one of your new favorite pieces of adaptive equipment. You will drop items. Now, you can purchase a foldable grabber. You can carry this reaching aid around with you wherever you go. It might even behoove you to keep one in your home and another one in your car.

Grab Bars

ADJ Drive Steel Bathtub BarPhysical unsteadiness means you need to make sure there are no chances taken to you falling in vulnerable places, such as your bathroom. Good quality grab bars that are installed by a professional will prevent mishaps.  Be very careful when purchasing “quick and easy” grab bars at your local store that work by suction. They are not all equally stable, and you could lose your balance if you need to grab something sturdy so that you don’t fall off your commode or in your shower or bathtub.

Carex Bath Transfer BenchIn the shower, installing the grab bars with one in front of you and one to the side works best.  When thinking about your commode area, think about where you will reach first to stabilize yourself if you were to lose your balance.  For instance, you might find it helpful to have one bar behind your commode and then to the side if you transfer from your wheelchair independently.

Bathtub benches come with handlebars for added support, and shower wheelchairs will offer the same stability level.

Cupholder

If you use a wheelchair or a walker, you will find this item will come in handy, especially if you like hot beverages.  This item will help prevent unnecessary spills that could cause burns on your skin.

Also, having a place to keep your water bottle is just as essential as staying hydrated.

Echo Dot or Google Home Mini

Having ‘Alexa’ by Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini is an excellent addition to helping you. You can program the lights in your home, including lamps, your microwave oven, and your alarm system.  You can even call 911, control your air-conditioning or heating just by using voice commands. This handy little item can help you not have to fiddle with switches at different times, not to mention at different angles.

As a bonus, she can also read you a book or tell you your daily news. You will find this to be a very delightful addition to your accessible needs.

Pedal Exerciser

CanDo Peddle ExerciserIf you’ve gone through any physical rehabilitation, you have already been exposed to various adaptive equipment for exercise.  These items can be very costly, not to mention can take up precious space in your home.

Some insurance companies might cover some of the cost, while others will not cover these types of adaptive equipment at all.

A simple pedal exerciser is an easy way to exercise your upper and lower extremities while in a seated position. You can get your cardio exercises in with his little treadmill for less than $40. For added activity, throw in a couple of 1 to 2-pound dumbbells, and now you’ve got yourself a very accessible and feasible way to exercise at home.  The pedal exerciser is small and can be used on a tabletop if using your hands.  This adaptive equipment can be easily stored in a closet, along with your dumbbells.

Catheter Inserter

MTG Eagle BoardIf you self-catheterize to void your bladder, a catheter inserter is a handy piece of adaptive equipment to keep in your traveling pack, such as your purse or backpack. Sometimes after frequent use of our hands, they tend to cramp, sometimes presenting carpal tunnel syndrome and other rheumatoid type issues. Being prepared with a catheter inserter is another inexpensive aid available at a urological supply company online.

If you are a quadriplegic or have limited hand dexterity, the MTG Eagle Board manufactured by MTG (Medical Technologies of Georgia) can greatly assist with the process of catheterization. This unique piece of equipment has many features that can help male catheter users start to gain back some independence.

Wheelchair Gloves

If you wheel around a lot using your manual chair or use pressure on your hands while pushing your walker, it is good to keep wheelchair gloves in your bag. This item will prevent you from having abrasions, calluses, and other skin issues typically caused by over-usage.

All it can take is a rainy day and a slippery grip to cause an unnecessary loss of balance.  Wheelchair gloves will provide extra friction you will undoubtedly appreciate.

Nighttime Boot Splints and Hand and Wrist Brace

DJO MaxTrax Walker BootTo keep the paralyzed limbs of your body limber, it is essential to incorporate range of motion exercises into your daily routine. Without movement, the affected areas will eventually become stiff and tight.  Wearing boot splints at night will help this immensely and keep your feet and ankles flat and straight in your wheelchair.

ProCare Ambidextrous Elastic Wrist SplintThe hand and wrist brace will give you the same support. After prolonged usage, your hands will begin to feel discomfort if you don’t take care of them. The wrist hand brace is an excellent solution to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and other rheumatoid symptoms. Hand and wrist braces are excellent pieces of adaptive equipment that could even save you from having surgery.

These are just a few ideas of the various kind of adaptive equipment available to help make life with a disability a little easier. I encourage you to go online to a mobility supply company and a urological supply company to explore the different available options. You will find that there is always a type of adaptive equipment that can fit your budget, size, and needs quite comfortably.

About the Author

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw

On January 23, 2000, Meena suffered a spinal cord injury that left her a T12 paraplegic. She worked hard to grow and push past adversity and challenges and even went back to school for a four-year diploma in writing for teenagers and children.

Since then, she has begun writing memoirs, blogs, and a book series featuring a young girl named Mattie who is in a wheelchair. She has been featured in magazines, fashion shows, radio shows, and local news to speak about her life as a disabled woman, wife, and mother. Through her work, she hopes to inspire others with disabilities.

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