Employing people with disabilities

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and people of all abilities have hopes and dreams of becoming employed. Regardless of their disability, everyone has skills and talents that can be useful on the job. Individuals with intellectual disabilities, for instance, tend to work well with tasks that have consistency while people with physical disabilities are more likely to have jobs that do not require heavy lifting or involve strenuous tasks.

Speaking at a disability awareness event at SPAWAR

Speaking at a disability awareness event at SPAWAR

While there is no hard and fast rule about which jobs a person can perform, the availability of assistive technology has made it easier to complete certain tasks. I’ve used programs like Dragon NaturallySpeaking to help with typing and have used apps on my phone to record audio or take notes.

My job at the Space and Naval Warfare Command (SPAWAR) has provided other reasonable accomodations including automatic door openers throughout the building and a spacious cubicle to maneuver my wheelchair. SPAWAR is committed to increasing diversity and has created a team to review hiring policies and procedures for people with disabilities. I’m grateful to be employed by this organization and excited for the ability to help others within the disability workforce.

Take a look at the “Who I Am” video created by the U.S. Department of Labor that recognizes and celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Closing out the month of September

This past weekend has been filled with events and activities for individuals  with disabilities. From the Wheels to Surf event at Folly Beach to the Adaptive Recreation Expo, people of all disabilities enjoyed a weekend full of fun in the sun, sand and surf.

My friend Charlie, who has Cerebral Palsy, had a great time this weekend. His parents made a video of Charlie surfing, and they allowed me to share it on my blog. I’m looking forward to surfing next year.

As we close out the month of September and Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month, I appreciate all of my blog followers who have liked, commented and shared my posts. But, I also want to bring awareness to sickle cell disease.

September is National Sickle Disease Awareness Month!

Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month LogoMy mother, Dr. Sherron Jackson, is a physician at the Medical University of South Carolina where she takes care of children with sickle cell disease. The disorder causes red blood cells to clump in the blood stream causing pain in the bones and joints.

Medications are used to mange the symptoms allowing patients to live longer and increase their quality of life. I have grown up knowing many of my mom’s patients who have become successful in our community.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living beyond the wheelchair

More often than not, I hear people use the phrase, “confined to a wheelchair.” First, people are not confined or restrained to their chairs. Second, our chairs are only used as a mobility aide. I try to correct people and tell them it’s better to say “a person who uses a wheelchair.”

As part of spinal cord injury awareness month, the Golden State Chapter of the United Spinal Association created the #morethanmychair. People have been posting pictures and videos across a variety of social media platforms showing all of the amazing talents and abilities.

This past weekend, members of the Myrtle Beach Chapter of the South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association participated in adaptive surfing. The folks in the Charleston area will get to partake in the surfing fun this Saturday at the Folly Beach Pier.

Such activities as surfing, playing tennis and wall climbing are examples of activities regardless of their disabilities. The video below is from when I went wall climbing at the Abilities Expo in Atlanta.

For those who are new to living with a disability, don’t be afraid to live beyond your wheelchair. You will gain confidence in yourself and provide encouragement to others.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The pros and cons of spasticity

The spinal cord’s primary function is to communicate with the brain to control the body. However, when those communication signals are lost, certain parts of the body can no longer be voluntarily controlled. As a result of paralysis, spasticity, or shaking, of the muscles occurs.

My injury level is C5-C6, which causes paralysis from the chest down. The muscles in my lower trunk and legs often have a mind of their own, which can cause my legs to jump off the footrest of my wheelchair.

spinal cord injuryThe spasms vary in duration and severity. Sometimes they last for a few seconds while others happen for a couple minutes. My spasms occur mostly when I’m laying down. Since I sit in my wheelchair all day, it takes several minutes for the muscles to relax. The spams aren’t painful, but they can be annoying and uncomfortable.

Although spasticity can be frustrating, there are some benefits. I’ve noticed that when I have a lot of spasms, it usually is an indication of two problems: 1) a pressure sore on the lower half of my body or; 2) a urinary tract infection. Due to the lack of sensation below my injury level, I can’t tell when something is wrong. Therefore, the spasms can serve as an indicator that something serious is happening.

Medication is available to control the spasticity, but I only take medicine if the spasms interfere with daily activities. For those with chronic spasticity, a medicine pump can be placed under the skin to give frequent doses.

To learn more about spasticity in spinal cord injury, visit the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation website.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A glimpse into living with spinal cord injury

September is spinal cord injury (SCI) awareness month. Living with SCI presents additional challenges, but we won’t let that stop us from enjoying life. SCI does not only affect a particular race, gender or socio-economic status; it can affect anyone at any stage of their life.

To celebrate SCI Awareness Month, New Mobility Magazine featured four wheelers in their current issue. These folks are of different walks of life (or wheels of life), but are still living life with ambition and purpose. Read their stories at http://www.newmobility.com/2015/09/life-of-four-wheelers/.

Plus, if you haven’t seen the mini documentary about me created by MUSC, you can view it at https://tuesdaytalkwithalex.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/a-day-in-the-life-of-alex-jackson/.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gaining strength through the Trauma Survivors Network

Trauma Survivors Network Logo

Adjusting to life after a traumatic accident is challenging. From dealing with the wheelchair to creating interpersonal relationships, every aspect of life is affected by the new injury. Grieving and acceptance are also part of the process, but learning to survive in spite of the disability is one of the biggest results.

The Trauma Survivors Network (TSN), as part of the American Trauma Society, provides resources for those recovering from trauma. Through peer visitation and peer support groups, newly-injured people can talk with others who are going through similar situations. There is also a program called Family Class for caregivers to handle the many emotions of trauma.

Another program offered by TSN is called NextSteps. This class is based on the principles of the self-management approach, allowing the person with the disability to play the most important role in his or her recovery.

The online, six-week course of NextSteps begins Thursday, Sept. 3. To register and learn more about the free course, visit http://nextstepsonline.org/.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gearing up for the Adaptive Recreation Weekend September 26-27

It’s almost time to get ready for the Adaptive Recreation Weekend hosted by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission.

On Saturday, Sept. 26, an adaptive surfing clinic will be held from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Folly Beach County Park. Come out and enjoy a day in the sand and surf. The event is free, but pre-registration is required.

Continue the fun Sunday, Sept. 27 from noon until 5 p.m. at James Island County Park for the adaptive recreation expo! Vendors will be on hand along with opportunities to participate in archery, fishing, yoga and wall climbing.

Last year’s expo was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to all of the excitement this year. Hope to see you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment