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work with no arms
April 27, 2010 10:33 AM   Subscribe

What kind of jobs exist that don't require the use of one's arms or hands?

Asking for a friend:

Say that an individual has an repetitive stress injury that prevents the individual from using a computer, lifting heavy objects, or basically using arms or hands at all for work. The individual has a BA in American Studies, has two years of experience working as a teacher/TA (but no certification), three years of experience working as a radio DJ, and is generally interested in art and culture.

What kind of jobs are possible for that person to do (either within the person's specialties/interests or in general)?

Interested in both general answers, and answers particular to the DC area. Not really looking for answers about recovery from RSI because, well, the person is working on it but lack of health insurance limits options.
posted by three bear minimum to Work & Money (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Museum guide? Working at a gallery?
posted by Spacelegoman at 10:44 AM on April 27, 2010


Soccer?

Seriously though, this will be tough. Can they use their hands at all? Like to send emails? Otherwise, all I can think of are jobs in the tour guide vein, or perhaps voice-over work?
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:47 AM on April 27, 2010


Walmart greeter? Restaurant host (i.e. seating people, not waiting tables)? Driving?
posted by bunnycup at 11:34 AM on April 27, 2010


Can she drive with her specific RSI? Because that would open up employment as a chauffeur or cabbie.

There are higher end retail clothing stores where the sales people only sell. They don't do stock during slow periods and they don't ring up the purchase because there are cashiers. They just sell. You might have to lift a sweater or pair of pants from a shelf.

Nothing is coming to mind within her specialties.
posted by pixlboi at 11:34 AM on April 27, 2010


I know a woman whose RSI injury prevents her from most computer use. She works as a lawyer and uses a speech-to-text program. However, I think she has some limited ability to use her hands, so she can edit and open programs with the mouse.

How severe is the disability in this case? Is it a complete limit?
posted by prefpara at 11:57 AM on April 27, 2010


Also, I know someone who uses a mouse which is essentially an enormous sphere. My understanding is that this is easier on RSI injuries. Is that an option for your friend?
posted by prefpara at 11:58 AM on April 27, 2010


I heard once about a multiple amputee that was a speech pathologist. That would require more education, but could be a landing spot. But that's probably just one example of a range of jobs where the main tools are the brain and the mouth. Maybe think about things that might appeal in the advisory/counsel-y category.
posted by Askr at 12:01 PM on April 27, 2010


I know of several people who do 'normal' office jobs without the use of their hands (or much use). They just use text-to-speech software and voice-activated software to control their computers. I'm sure most jobs, especially those that don't involve manual labour can be adjusted to have minimal use of her hands (and since she's educated, and based on her interests and experience, she would qualify easily for non-labour type jobs). Maybe she could talk to an occupational therapist to help her learn these tools at home before getting a job? I don't really see what the limitation is unless she has absolutely no use of her arms/hands, but even then there are ways to work with what she has.
posted by 1000monkeys at 12:04 PM on April 27, 2010


Also, if she is deemed to have a disability, she is probably covered under the Americans with Disabilities act so as long as she works for a somewhat larger company, then I believe that they would have to work with her to make accommodations.

Disclaimer: IANAAmerican :) You might want to verify the above yourself.
posted by 1000monkeys at 12:07 PM on April 27, 2010


I worked as a tutor for some point in time, and most of the writing I did was really optional and something that could be talked through. Your friend has plenty of qualification for this, individual tutoring doesn't have the same demands of writing that a teacher deals with, and it's something that your friend would likely find fulfilling.
posted by Saydur at 12:20 PM on April 27, 2010


Toastmaster? Motivational speaker etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:33 PM on April 27, 2010


Hmm. From what I was told, friend experiences pain with basically any use of the computer. As far as mousing, I think that my friend has tried a computer mouse, trackpads, and tablets and neither has really been optimal for the arm situation. Typing is definitely out, which gets rid of email from possibilities.

The issue that friend sees with alternative computer arrangements (speech-to-text, voice activated things) is that many job listings indicate things along the lines of "individual must be capable in using Microsoft Word," which friend feels might disqualify them from the job, because while friend knows how to and has extensively used MS Word and all sorts of software in the past, right now friend can't and doesn't yet have proficiency in alternative computer arrangements.

I'll look into occupational therapists (didn't actually know that those existed), and the the ADA.
posted by three bear minimum at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2010


Can she write? When I'm tutoring my university courses the only thing I use my arms for is marking assignments, which is done with a pen. Even then it's more tick tick, write a two, than writing actual sentences as I can go over any wrong answers verbally with the class. I do have to enter the grades into the university computer system but it only takes two minutes, I could easily get someone else to do it. Plus I find moving around the class while teaching helps keep me mobile (I teach lab classes) and evens out the stiffness I get from too much computer use the rest of the time. Lecturing would be even better, then you can hire a grad student to do the marking.
posted by shelleycat at 1:27 PM on April 27, 2010


The issue that friend sees with alternative computer arrangements (speech-to-text, voice activated things) is that many job listings indicate things along the lines of "individual must be capable in using Microsoft Word," which friend feels might disqualify them from the job, because while friend knows how to and has extensively used MS Word and all sorts of software in the past, right now friend can't and doesn't yet have proficiency in alternative computer arrangements.

If friend learns how to be capable using Microsoft Word via voice recognition software, they would be qualified and (IANAL) an employer would be required to make reasonable accommodations for them. It shouldn't be too hard for friend to learn how to do that.
posted by callmejay at 1:55 PM on April 27, 2010


Also, I wouldn't mention the disability until there is an offer and possibly not until actually hired, as long as reasonable accommodations are possible. No sense in giving them a reason to find an excuse not to hire your friend.

When I was interviewing for jobs years ago when I had bad RSI problems I didn't mention it until I got an offer. Then I asked if I could start 2 months later after I had surgery and therapy and they allowed it.

Point of hope for your friend: while I still have some RSI, I've been a professional programmer for years and it doesn't affect my job at all -- it got mostly better.
posted by callmejay at 1:59 PM on April 27, 2010


Probably not what he or she would want, but what about phone sex operator? A hands-free headset, and they would just need to be able to answer the phone and talk.
posted by fings at 2:15 PM on April 27, 2010


Does her state have a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or similar? Perhaps part of the Division of Labor or whatever they call it in her state.

Also, I found this site which might be a good general place to start.
posted by Madamina at 2:18 PM on April 27, 2010


Call centre employee...less sexy than fings' suggestion, but equally hands-free!
posted by Pomo at 3:38 PM on April 27, 2010


Jobs where they could use something other than their hands and arms to control a computer.

HeadMouseĀ®

Head and Eye Input

The NoHands Mouseā„¢

Hands Free Computing would give her a lot more job options.

There's also some freeware or shareware mouse-based text input software where the user steers the mouse pointer to letters and words, but I don't recall the name of it at the moment. She could use it with one of these devices to replace a keyboard.
posted by yohko at 10:18 PM on April 27, 2010


David Pogue, author and technology columnist for the NYT, has a similar set of problems, but as a tech writer, not using a computer isn't an option. He uses Dragon Naturally Speaking for the bulk of his work, and a wacky keyboard for when he actually needs to type. These may be options for your friend. In particular, the wacky keyboard is something that could probably be used in most office environments even if dictation software would be awkward or impractical.
posted by miskatonic at 9:22 AM on April 29, 2010


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