Employment and Education

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It is not unusual for individuals with spinal cord injuries to wonder how they will maintain financial independence and security. The resources provided here offer guidance on finding a job, returning to work, and pursuing further education to broaden career opportunities.

Connecting with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services is particularly beneficial, as VR counselors can assist in creating a plan and developing strategies for entering the job market. They help with tasks such as updating resumes, crafting effective online profiles, and exploring career options tailored to education, experience, and interests. Moreover, VR counselors aid in targeting job searches to companies actively seeking to hire individuals with disabilities.

This section also highlights disability resource centers that support transitions back to school at all education levels, from elementary to post-graduate. These centers assist in developing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that accommodate each student's unique learning and physical needs. Compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensures inclusion with non-disabled peers in educational settings.

Understanding the concept of "reasonable accommodation" and effectively communicating this definition to educators and prospective employers can enhance success. Explore resources and accommodation ideas specific to various health conditions through the Job Accommodations Network (JAN). These accommodations may include adaptable workstations, speech recognition software, adjustable schedules, and job-sharing options.

Furthermore, learn about access to employment and education under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the return-to-work provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Additionally, discover work incentive programs under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that allow for continued employment without forfeiting medical benefits.

ABILITY Jobs provides a resource for people with disabilities to find employment online. Here you can upload resumes and search job postings by employers who support and engage in “affirmative disability action.” Registration is free and job seekers have the ability to search positions according to job function, industry and location.

The AbilityLinks mission is to increase employment of qualified persons with disabilities. By joining the AbilityLinks Consortium, non-profits, businesses and government agencies gain access to disability employment networking opportunities. Organizations can find qualified candidates with disabilities; job seekers can post resumes and apply for jobs online. The Find Jobs section directs you on how to post your resume, apply for jobs, and get information about employment opportunities in your area.

ADA Project Fact Sheet – Employment Issues

This factsheet developed by Equipped for Equality outlines the relationship between the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act, American’s with Disabilties Act (ADA), and the Family Medical Leave Act (FLMA).

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Summary of Key Points

This consumer education sheet summarizes key points of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This legislation made it a violation of federal law to discriminate against people with disabilities, just as civil rights laws protect people against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, and religion. The ADA is divided into four main sections, called “Titles”: 1. Employment, 2. State & Local Government, Transportation, and Public Service, 3. Public Accommodations, and 4. Telecommunications. Knowing your rights in each of these four areas can assist you in reentering the job market and pursing an active lifestyle. Additional information on the ADA can be located at:


Unlocking the Mysteries of the ADA

Discriminatory ADA Education and Reform Act Blocked by Senate Democrats


Back to School Success: Stories of Success on Campus by Stephanie D. Lollino (2015)

Going to college is a major life change for anyone, and it may present an especially daunting challenge for wheelchair users. This article from New Mobility Magazine provides helpful tips for transitioning to college and achieving a positive campus experience.

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Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, founded in 1979, is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities. The mission of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, and public policy and legislative development. The Special Education Resources section provides an array of consumer information sheets to help parents and students with disabilities.


DREAM (Disability Rights, Education Activism, and Mentoring) is a national organization for students with disabilities in post-secondary institutions. DREAM advocates for student rights, increased accessibility, social and policy change, and aims to provide support and mentorship to local campus disability groups and individual students.

Employment after Spinal Cord Injury

Most people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) want to work yet need support, training, and vocational rehabilitation services to help them obtain and keep a job. This consumer education sheet identifies sources of support that may help to overcome many barriers that are outside the individual’s control, such as financial and health care issues, accessibility, and employer attitudes. 

Equipped for Equality – Employment Fact Sheets

A variety of employment fact sheets were created by Equipped for Equality, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing human and civil rights of people with disabilities in Illinois. Rights information for employment covers frequently asked questions regarding disability disclosure, disability-related inquiries and medical examinations, documenting discrimination, disability harassment retaliation and constructive discharge, where to file employment complaints, and employment rights under the American’s with Disability Act (ADA).  

Guide for Parents: Educational Accommodation-Descriptions and Comparison of Section 504 and IDEA (IEP)

By law, students with disabilities are entitled to appropriate accommodations and modifications to assist in achieving and maintaining educational success. This resource, from the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab LIFE Center, provides detailed descriptions of the 504 Plan and Individual Education Plan (IEP) so you can become informed and prepared to work with your child’s or own education team to create an optimal learning experience.

Helping Youth Develop Soft Skills for Job Success: Tips for Parents and Families

Soft skills help youth succeed in life no matter what they are doing. This consumer education sheet from the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability provides helpful hints to enhance and develop communication skills, interpersonal skills, decision making skills, and a desire for lifelong learning.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

Provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, JAN is a service intended to help employees, job seekers, entrepreneurs, and employers create a more accessible environment by providing information about job accommodations, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), related legislation, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities. Assistance is available over the phone or online. JAN also provides consulting services to decide the best course of action in making a business accessible as well as ideas for accommodating disabilities in the work place.


Marianjoy Scholarship Program

The Marianjoy Scholarship Program was established in 1994, and to date over $500,000 in scholarship money has been awarded. Each year, scholarships for post-high school education are awarded to students with disabilities to enable them to pursue educational programs at accredited four-year colleges and universities, two-year colleges, or vocational-technical schools in the United States. The Marianjoy Scholarship is intended for individuals with permanent physical disabilities, like those served through Marianjoy programs, but it is not necessary to have been a Marianjoy patient to apply. Click on How Do I Apply to review scholarship qualifications.

Middle School and High School Transition Planning

Parents of youth with disabilities should begin thinking about transition (planning for adulthood) as early as possible. Although the formal process of transition planning doesn’t begin until high school, it is helpful to begin thinking about it much sooner. PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment provides various consumer education sheets to assist with this process, including information on Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), College Planning, and Preparing for Employment.

National Council on Independent Living

As a membership organization, the NCIL advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities through consumer-driven advocacy.  The NCIL envisions a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully.  It was founded to embody the values of disability culture and Independent Living philosophy, which creates a new social paradigm and emphasizes that people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs, that they have crucial and valuable perspective to contribute to society, and are deserving of equal opportunity to decide how to live, work, and take part in their communities. 

North Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association

The North Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association aims to enable people with spinal cord injury and disease to achieve their highest level of independence, health, and personal fulfillment by providing resources, services, and peer support. The Association’s event calendar provides additional opportunities for active community involvement.



Office of Disability Employment Policy

The Office of Disability Employment (ODEP) promotes policies and coordinates with employers and all levels of government to increase the number and quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. ODEP manages a number of efforts designed to advance employment and has extensive resources on disability rights in the workplace.

PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment

PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment provides quality information and resources for families of young adults with disabilities on transition planning, civil rights, work-based learning, career accommodations, higher education, financial aid, and much more. It serves as a comprehensive source of information designed to support families’ varied needs.

Ramp Less Traveled

Ramp Less Traveled provides scholarships and mentoring opportunities to assist those who have sustained spinal cord injuries in the pursuit of higher education. They pair scholarship recipients with experienced mentors who help guide students and their parents along the path to college success. The mentoring relationship is comprehensive and ongoing, and Ramp Less Traveled does their best to ensure a successful and rewarding college entrance following injury. 


ServiceSource is a not-for-profit corporation with regional offices and programs located in nine states and the District of Columbia. ServiceSource’s regional offices share a mission to provide exceptional services to individuals with disabilities through innovative and valued employment, training, habilitation, housing and support services. Nationwide, ServiceSource serves more than 13,000 people with disabilities annually of whom nearly 2,000 individuals are directly employed on both government and commercial affirmative employment contracts. Others receive assistance in rehabilitation programs, benefits planning, job placement, evaluation and counseling and housing. Whether you are an individual with a disability, a government contracting officer or a local business owner, ServiceSource and their local regional offices are committed to meeting or exceeding needs and expectations. Find a location near you to learn more about our innovative programs and services

The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual With a Disability

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability. It also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in State and local government services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications. This factsheet explains the part of the ADA that prohibits job discrimination, which is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and State and local civil rights enforcement agencies that work with the Commission.

Ticket to Work

Ticket to Work connects individuals with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits with free employment services. The program provides information on preparing for work, and finding and managing a job. Participants receive services such as career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and job placement and training from authorized Ticket to Work service providers, such as employment networks or state vocational rehabilitation agencies.

University Accessibility after Spinal Cord Injury – Going to College Video

What is it like to attend a college or university after spinal cord injury? The biggest hurdle is often your perception or confidence in yourself. Once you make the decision that you are ready to attend college, your campus disability services office is available to help with the details. These professionals will coordinate academic accommodations, such as accessible classrooms, note- and test-taking assistance, and e-books, as well as environmental accessibility for classrooms, dorms, and on-campus transportation. This video provides candid remarks from students who have attended school after injury with reflections on how to enjoy the social aspects of college life, like participating in sports, clubs, theater and Greek life, as well as making new friends.

We Connect Now

We Connect Now is dedicated to uniting people interested in rights and issues affecting people with disabilities, with particular emphasis on college students and access to higher education and employment issues.  We Connect Now aims to help college students with disabilities to succeed in their studies by getting the information and support they need, both through resources, links, blogs latest news, studying existing laws and regulation and through personal contacts. Through this website people can also share and read other people’s stories as a source of support and comfort.

Wounded Warrior Project

The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) began when several veterans and friends, moved by stories of the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq, took action to help others in need. What started as a program to provide comfort items to wounded service members has grown into a complete rehabilitative effort to assist warriors as they recover and transition back to civilian life. If you are a veteran injured after 9/11/01, select Programs.  Here you can learn about WWP’s programs, which are uniquely structured and designed to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement.