Life with MS

Working Around MS

By MS Focus Staff

“I have MS. I have to quit my job.”

Philip Rumrill hears that statement often in his job as Professor of Rehabilitation Counseling and Director of the Center for Disabilities Studies at Kent State University in Ohio. 

Yet unemployment is actually the last option someone with MS should consider when determining how to cope with career limitations.

The first step, Rumrill says, is to determine what accommodations in time management and technical assistance would keep the employee in the same position within the same company. 

If that is not possible, the second choice is to stay with the same employer but in a different position. Keeping benefits intact and maintaining work friendships provides consistency.

Doing the same job for a different employer is the goal if a change of employers is necessary. Short of unemployment, a different job in a different field is the last option Rumrill suggests.

To help people with MS determine what other jobs they might qualify for and enjoy, Rumrill refers them to the Job Accommodation Network at  JAN is a free service that provides information on job accommodations and the employment provisions of the Americans with Disibilities Act (ADA) guarantees certain rights for qualified individuals who work for companies with at least 15 employees.)

Feeling like you must stop working is a common knee-jerk reaction after being diagnosed with MS, but Rumrill advises to exhaust all options first, because many people later have a change of heart and learn that returning to the job market can be very difficult.

Also, being out of work and worrying about paying bills can be just as stressful as working with a disability, he says. 

Only 25 to 40 percent of people who have MS are employed, according to Rumrill, a number he says is far too low.

:Employment Issues and MS (Demos 2008) by Philip D. Rumrill
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(Last reviewed 7/2009)