Careers for Amputees

Career options for amputees, as for many other people, depend primarily on their skills, talents, abilities and education.
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An amputation is a life-changing event, and while people hope to never deal with that situation, sometimes you wonder what kind of work amputees might be able to do. The answer is -- it depends on the situation, but many amputees have gone back to their former occupation or taken on new and sometimes surprising jobs. Amputees have been models, athletes, lawyers, actors, musicians and firefighters, according to a February 2008 article in “Disabled World.”

No Limits

    An amputated finger or even a hand might not prevent you from performing well in many occupations. Even one-handed concert pianists have been performing since 1846, when composer Carl Czerny created his Opus 735, “Two Studies for the Left Hand Alone,” according to an article in the May-June 2008 “Journal of Hand Surgery.” More extensive amputations could have an impact on some careers. In today’s world, however, employers must make reasonable accommodations, such as work station modifications, for disabled employees, which also opens occupational doors.

The Amputation Makes a Difference

    The type and level of an amputation affects what people can do afterward, according to “Amputation, Prosthesis Use and Phantom Limb Pain – An Interdisciplinary Perspective." Upper limb amputations make it more difficult for people to perform tasks that involve grasping, lifting, pushing, pulling, writing, typing or the use of hand tools. Amputees who have lost a leg will have difficulty with occupations that require standing, walking, running, kicking and turning, although a well-fitted prosthesis can make a difference. Oscar Pistorius, for example, is a career athlete and sprinter who had both legs amputated below the knee before he had learned to walk. Pistorius uses bilateral metal below-knee prostheses. In both cases, driving and carrying objects are more difficult for amputees.

Vocational Rehabilitation

    Although it might not seem like an advantage at the time, an amputation offers the possibility of vocational rehabilitation, according to “Amputation, Prosthesis Use and Phantom Limb Pain – An Interdisciplinary Perspective." An amputee who can't or doesn't want to return to his former career can receive career counseling, education and other assistance in getting back to work. The book also notes that the correct prosthesis and proper training in prosthetic use and adapted body mechanics make a difference in an individual’s ability to return to work.

Endless Possibilities

    “Disabled World” notes a number of amputees engaged in widely disparate careers. Heather Mills is an English activist whose left leg was amputated below the knee after a motorcycle accident. Bethany Hamilton lost an arm to a shark attack but returned to surfing with plans to become a professional surfer. Edward Kennedy Jr. lost his right leg to cancer while still a teenager and went on to become a lawyer. Rick Allen, a drummer with the Def Leopard band, lost his left arm after an automobile accident but continued to perform with the band. Like Pistorius, Aimee Mullins was born without fibulas. Mullins is an actress, athlete and model. Aviva Drescher, who lost her left leg below the knee after a farming accident, earned a master's degree in French literature and went on to get a law degree.

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