It’s so cool that this came up! I’m disabled myself, it’s why I can’t work anymore (I’m a retired veterinarian). My case is very different though, because my hands are the limiting factor. I was bitten at work in late 2017 (my right hand- blood spurting and everything ), and it developed into CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) that then spread to my other hand.
I’m not going to take up peoples’ time explaining what CRPS is, as I can’t imagine it’d be too interesting to non-medical folk. The main thing is that both my hands are always painful. It never goes away, I never get completely used to it. I have a caregiver that comes once every 2-5 weeks that helps me with taking out the garbage, vacuuming, litter pan of my cat, laundry, etc. My hands are also a bit swollen and red and shiny, which is embarrassing, but doesn’t really affect my reptile-keeping.
I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments, as I’ve kept reptiles for about 20 years, but was only injured a few years ago. Now, I have to plan how I’m going to do things much further in advance. It’s kind of hard to find the sweet spot where I’m using my hands enough that there won’t be any serious muscle atrophy and loss of function, but I’m not doing so much that I won’t be able to move at all the next day.
For example, let’s say it’s time to top up all the gecko water dishes. I have to take a second to think about what water container to do it with, and how heavy it will be full of water. Then I think about whether I can rest part of the ‘watering can’ on a forearm (which doesn’t hurt much), and if any squeezing is involved.
Thus far, I have found this works the best:
Though I hate that I have to squeeze it, it doesn’t require much pressure, and it’s good to use those muscles sometimes, to prevent contraction/atrophy. The angle works perfectly, so I can shoot water into the dish even if I have an excited gecko jumping up and down (it’s so cute- some of them have taken to jumping at the stream, or drinking from it like a dog!).
The other thing that happens a lot is that I can only do so much before I have to take a break (unless it’s an emergent situation, of course), so I am trying to get better about pacing myself. Basically, I toodle around with my reptiles & their feeders and maintenance all day, on and off.
Oh and another thing! I have to think very carefully about which pain meds I have or have not taken before doing something. Though I don’t take opiates, I do take medications that affect concentration at times, especially in the evenings (when I know I won’t need to drive anywhere for a given day).
I didn’t take this quite as seriously as I should have at first, and once (only time in my life thus far) I put a leopard gecko back into the wrong enclosure. Trust me, two old lady geckos over 15 years old who have lived alone most of their lives do NOT like having visitors, and one of my girls lost part of her tail. I am lucky it wasn’t more serious.
Oh, and another thing is that it has affected which animals I’m able to keep. For years I’d dreamed of getting a blood python later in life, but now I know it’s almost certainly not a good idea.
The effect is also indirect- because I can’t work, while still having to pay off my veterinary school loans, I’m not in a great situation financially. So I have to be content with a small apartment with no air conditioning, which limits which species I can keep. Thus my Uroplatus dreams are on hold, potentially permanently. I am one of those ‘if you can’t afford the vet, you can’t afford the pet’ people, so my financial situation also limits how many pets I can have at a given time. I want to be able to care for each one as a beloved pet.
Oh, and last thing- I’m not able to do the intensive cleaning of my guys’ cages anymore. I can do daily stuff, or maybe one cage intensively cleaned as needed, but I can’t just ‘soldier through’ a day of cleaning- eventually the pain gets so bad that I can’t focus on what I’m doing at all, and I start dropping things.
Thus, though it was a major blow to my pride, I had to suck it up and talk with my caregiver about it. Fortunately, she is awesome, and is totally ok doing the deep cleaning, so long as I hold the geckos. It even gives me an opportunity to give them a mini-exam.
Just some random thoughts from another differently-abled person.