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Paraplegic In The Workplace; How To Accommodate From An Employer Standpoint



A friend of mine recently graduated with a Master’s degree from a prestigious university. He had been in a motorcycle accident years ago that left him paraplegic and has since been working towards his life goals of being employed in the Human Resource department of a major corporation.

This month he realized his dream and landed a position at a major United States defense contractor on the East Coast. Previously, he had interned at the same company and after a successful summer of learning the proverbial ropes, he was offered a highly coveted position.

There are many needs that he has in order for him to be employed, including some actions that must be done by a nurse in order to ensure his safety.

A couple of questions came to mind when talking with him about his future employment:

Who will help him when he is in need of care?

Is it out of line to ask a co-worker to perform minor duties?

What responsibilities does the company have to make sure his needs are met?

Although he understands the tenuous and tumultuous ride he’s about to embark on, his employer must understand and adhere to his needs.

It’s important to note that an employer cannot deny you employment based on disability alone and must cater to your needs; at least to a reasonable level.

Patient care, such as administering medicine in the form of pills or emptying a catheter bag is reasonable requests if fellow employees and the paraplegic individual are comfortable enough to follow through with the request. If either party is uncomfortable with the tasks at hand, caretakers should be allowed to administer the care during allotted employee breaks.

The special care that requires a health professional, such as a caretaker, should be administered on these allotted breaks as well. Employees are allowed a certain amount of breaks in a day, usually based on intervals of time. These breaks are an ideal time to take care of any medical needs the person needs.

However, some issues are more complicated than others. A recent report detailed how one paraplegic employee was fired for being seconds late to their job. Ethical responsibilities of the employer, reasonable in nature, should be adhered to in any regard. Each person is different and each employee may require different expectations. Experts say that it’s important for employers to know each person’s needs on a case by case basis, rather than having one umbrella method.

Many paraplegic and quadriplegic citizens have transportation needs that are often met by specialty busses and mass transit systems if they happen to live in a highly populated, urban setting. Experts warn that these methods of transportation aren’t always on-time and may require some sort of buffer zone in regards to expectations of arrival and departure from the workplace.

With these issues in mind, employers should have no trouble catering to an employee that is paraplegic.

Experts have pointed out that each employee should be catered to on an individual basis to maximize the quality of accommodation that is needed. After a reasonable platform is agreed upon, the employer should also keep an open mind and an open ear to the employee. Many health issues are dynamic and needs may need revisiting from time to time so it’s best to keep an open line of communication.