individual with functional limitations. Experience and training serve as the basis for occupational planning. Those with easily transferable skills are more likely to return to work than those who have narrow job experience and who, because of their functional limitations, cannot return to their previous employment. Thus people who were involved in physically demanding occupations usually are less able to return to their former job than those who were engaged in sedentary, white-collar jobs prior to the initiation of the disabling condition. Another key variable influencing employability is the attitude of the previous employer. Some employers are willing to make major work-site modifications, whereas others are quite rigid in their requirements for conformance to usual job descriptions.
The opportunity for independent community living and access to work for people with disabling conditions often are influenced by the characteristics of the climate (e.g., typical weather patterns), as well as of the social environment (e.g., social attitudes and programs). Frequent snow and limitations in its removal, for example, can influence the mobility of a physically restricted individual. Another example is the fact that urban areas often have social support programs for persons with major disabling conditions than do relatively isolated rural areas.
Some advocacy groups have noted an apparent migration of individuals with disabling conditions from relatively rural to more urban areas that offer more support and opportunity. At times, those with disabling conditions are able to enhance their independence by moving to an area with a different and less restrictive environment or climate. However, the net effect of such moves is a function of many variables, including the individual's social support system, as well as factors related to the regional environment.
The relationship between risk factors, such as health, education, socioeconomic status, and psychosocial status, and the disabling process needs to be elucidated.
In considering the disabling process, it is important to recognize that persons can have multiple chronic conditions, multiple functional problems, and even multiple disabilities because each role that an individual normally performs produces an opportunity for disability to manifest. Thus an independent disabling condition can develop in a person who already has one. A more likely situation, however, is one in which additional disabling conditions result as a consequence of a primary disabling condition. An example