Thursday, March 10, 2016

TBI: Leveling the Playing Field

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of disability in the Unite States. According to the Center for Desease Control (CDC), TBI accounted for more than 50,000 deaths in the United States. It is important to see that not all TBIs result in death. Many result either in short or long term disabilities. These disabilities may be physical, emotional, and/or cognitive. As a Veteran with TBI, I have experienced that physical and cognitive tend to be noted more easily than the emotional disability. These disabilities may result in a severe impact in the lives of those suriving the injury, as well as that of their caregivers and/or support network (i.e families).

It is written in the Declaration of Independence "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. In order to guide this write up, I want to highlight a few things. The Declaration of Independence is clear in stating “all men”; it does not exclude anyone because of a disability. Also it states the rights of “Life” and “Pursuit of Happiness”. I understand this that it refers to life as one that is fulfilled, and that all of us can pursue our dreams, whatever they are.

Our life dreams and goals may be shattered after a TBI. Through my own personal walk with longterm disabilities, I have found out that one can redefine and reframe ones life, to include these goals and dreams. For some, they want or need to return to work. Many times this may require returning to school for training on new skills.

Today, I bear good news to all those affected by TBI. Attaining gainful employment it is possible! Attaining education is possible! The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects our rights to receive “Reasonable Accommodations”. A great resource for accommodations can be found in the Job Accommodation Network. These accommodations can be obtain both, in school and work.

In the past, I have heard people with disabilities express hesitation in requesting accommodations because of concerns of how others may perceive them. In school, I used accommodations and never felt that other saw me different. On the other hand, the accommodations granted to me were extremely instrumental in achieving a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling and subsequently in becoming a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. This accommodations leveled the playing field for me.

Never be ashamed because of your disabilities. Use all resources available to live a fulfilled life. Keep dreaming and pursue your happiness!