Pathways to Employment Mentoring Program


United Spinal Association’s Pathways to Employment (PTE) program supports the pursuit of new job opportunities and a successful career for people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) by providing the tools and support necessary to successfully overcome barriers to gainful employment.

The Need

Only 12% of people with SCI are employed one year post-injury and only 33% in post injury year 30. In 2017, 18.7% of persons with a disability were employed. In contrast, the employment rate for those with no disability was 65.7% (per DOL, Bureau of Labor Statistics).

When people experience SCI, they are faced with many unique challenges. One of the biggest challenges is making a successful return to work – to either their previous job or changing career paths to find an entirely new job. Achieving meaningful employment enables a person to live independently and is an integral part of the social, economic, mental and physical well-being of people with disabilities.

A person living with SCI may need to find new ways to enter the job market, acquire a job, and/or maintain employment. At the same time a person needs to learn how to take advantage of various programs and services that encourage and support the employment of people with disabilities.

Our Goal

United Spinal’s PTE program partners with employers to place people with SCI in workplace jobs and provides trained peer mentors, resources, and professional support to facilitate return to work, including information about benefits and the transition to employment.

In 2015, United Spinal began piloting the PTE program in Pennsylvania and added New York and New Jersey in 2016. We are now in the process of expanding the program nationwide. We are working closely with the state’s vocational rehabilitation services to take advantage of any available work incentive programs, including on-the-job training, salary incentive programs, and others.

With Support From

Craig H. Neilson

— Partner Employers

CVS Health
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
American Airlines
Pratt & Whitney
NTI, Inc.

Job Seeker Resources

If you are a person living with SCI who would like to return to work, we can help you! After SCI there is so much to think about. Everyone wants to participate in their lives as much as they can and regain their independence. But some of the challenges of living with SCI can seem insurmountable. This includes returning to work.

The Pathways to Employment program will give you the opportunity to:

  • Interact with someone who has successfully adjusted to working with a disability
  • Gain practical information on resources, benefits, and work incentive programs
  • Develop an employment plan
  • Prepare for job interviews
  • Learn self-advocacy skills
  • Acquire reasonable accommodations

United Spinal will pair you with a trained peer mentor to work with. Your peer mentor is a person with SCI who is or was recently employed, and has experienced many of the things you will go through on your pathway to employment.

Request Assistance Going Back to Work

Mentors can help peers set work goals and develop strategies to approach the return-to-work process to achieve those goals. Working mentors can provide encouragement and set examples of success in the pathway to employment. The sharing and reciprocal learning provides value to both the mentor and mentee, in the form of renewed hope, social support, self-advocacy, and a renewed sense of confidence.

Pathways to Employment Podcast
Pathways to Employment Podcast (Part 2)
Pathways to Employment Podcast (Part 3)
Disability Employment Podcast
The Job Interview Webinar
Benefits and Incentives for Working with SCI Webinar
Working with SCI Webinar


Back to WorkBack to Work – Step by Step
Interview Tips
How to Request Reasonable Accommodations
Finding a Job: Federal Government Employment
Finding a Job: Federal Contractor Employment

Employment Guides

Federal Resources
New Jersey Resources
New York Resources
Pennsylvania Resources

Employment Survey

Pathway to Employment Survey

Knowledge Books

Information about employment rights, preparing your resume, interview tips, job banks to look for your next job, federal and state employment resources.

Employer Resources

Are you interested in hiring people with SCI?

Employers can submit job descriptions to the PTE Program Director, and we will work on a match with our program participants. If jobs are not located in the pilot states, the PTE program will forward the job descriptions to United Spinal’s chapters and support groups in the area where the position is available.

Employers who partner with the PTE program will:

  • Acquire a source and a plan for hiring people with disabilities to help meet requirements of the Rehab Act
  • Find potential employees with disabilities to hire who want to work, are prepared to work, and have support from a mentor
  • Gain practical information on resources, benefits, and available work incentive programs.


The Pathways to Employment program offers a training presentation and curriculum designed for hiring managers, recruiters, human resources and executive leadership that provides guidance and resources related to the recruitment and onboarding processes to ensure staff is aware of legal considerations, helpful information on interacting with people with disabilities, tips for successful interviews and accommodation request assistance.

In-person or virtual trainings available.

Session time is 2 hours. Additional elements can be added to expand curriculum if your company is looking for a more intense, interactive session.

Expected Outcomes
• Identify potential barriers in current recruitment and onboarding processes
• Describe practical elements of successful interviews with people with disabilities
• Discuss approaches to accommodation requests


Interview Tips


Disability Employment Podcast Episode

If you are an employer interested in learning about training opportunities, please contact:

Abby Ross
718-803-3782 ext. 7207