unemployed and paralyzed.
June 20, 2008 7:41 AM   Subscribe

What can an unemployed quadriplegic do to supplement his income?

I do chores in the evening for a 38 year old C6-C7 quadriplegic man who has trouble paying his bills every month. His former position selling ferns at the local farmer's market was not available this season and he misses the sense of purpose as well as the income. I recently taught him to use a computer but he can't afford internet (he has free dial-up). He has limited use of his arms and is self-mobile but has almost no dexterity. For instance, he can handle paper money but not change. I plan to investigate the Vocational Rehabilitation Office but would like some other input. The only idea he's had is to learn to paint then sell his art. I'm skeptical of this idea--it's possible to get art supplies donated, but he has no artistic background.

Links to useful paralysis sites might be helpful. Thanks for the input.
posted by levijk to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A home-based phone job would make sense in this situation -- customer service, technical support. The latter, however, may be an issue because it requires technical training in most instances.

While I have no immediate experience, I know that companies hire virtual customer service reps who work from home. This cuts down on costs associated with physical call centers.

There is a ton of information on Google, which could actually be a bad thing. Similar searches are bringing up a wealth of sketchy work-at-home "opportunities," so tread be aware in your research process. People are mentioning Alpine Access in a couple of work-from-home forums.
posted by nitsuj at 8:01 AM on June 20, 2008

If he is sincere about painting there is the association of mouth and foot painters that assist artists by representing and selling their art.

Wiki entry
posted by Gungho at 8:14 AM on June 20, 2008

It sounds like he could work the front desk at many places, like a health club, Y, park district building. Most places like that just need a physical presence to monitor comings and goings and answer questions. Since he can use a computer, he may have to handle payments for memberships and whatnot. It sounds like he can handle the phones ok.

Similarly, what about the information kiosks at a mall? Again, nothing physical required except maybe handing out maps or brochures.

Also check into Goodwill Industries. Helping the disabled find employment is what they do.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:14 AM on June 20, 2008

Does he receive Supplemental Security Income?
posted by junkbox at 8:17 AM on June 20, 2008

In my city, movie theatres hire physically/mentally disabled people to tear the patron's purchased ticket stub as they enter the cinema.
posted by yoyoceramic at 8:36 AM on June 20, 2008

I have a friend who is a quadriplegic, and he'd struggled for years with the same question. The difficulty is that once he starts making a decent living somewhere else, his disability assistance gets cut substantially, or he loses it.

Now, one could say that this is fair. But the amount of medical care that my friend requires on a regular basis is insane at times, and isn't guaranteed to be covered through health insurance elsewhere, if he were lucky enough to get it with income coming in on the side. And the amount of income he would need to pick up the slack of the lack of insurance would need to be in the six figures, easily, to just eek by.

So this creates one of two temptations for people in his situation: don't push to get ahead financially, as it just isn't going to work. Or lie, and keep the money on the side without reporting it. My friend would rather not do the latter, so he's caught in a situation that forces him to live on the meager income of disability assistance.

I'm not sure if this is what your friend is dealing with at all, but it's definitely a variable to throw into the mix.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:50 AM on June 20, 2008

To answer your question a bit more directly, my friend was always fond of telling me that there are two instruments that quadriplegics can play: the trombone and the harmonica. You don't need manual dexterity to play either of these. I'm not sure if your friend has any musical talent, or is willing to learn, but he could play in a band.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:55 AM on June 20, 2008

He should do direct marketing over the telephone.
posted by ChabonJabon at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2008

I would suggest looking into developing some form of micro enterprise. Your state's department of rehabilitation might offer both financial supports for starting a business and additional information about managing disability benefits. Encouraging individuals with disabilities to create their own businesses is a hot topic in the field at the moment.

You can also check out the Plan to Achieve Self-Support that is an SSI provision.

Your local protection and advocacy office should also be able to offer some good advice and assistance about employment options.
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 9:37 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Maybe he could tutor students from his home. From what you've described, it seems like he could potentially help a child with reading and writing skills, by correcting the child as s/he reads aloud, discussing the content, reading the child's writing and suggesting corrections, etc.

Similarly, he could potentially get extra income by watching some well-behaved youngsters after school in his own home.
posted by xo at 9:50 AM on June 20, 2008

I recently got a friend a job proofing a court reporter's work. I was in a arbitration and the court reporter and I were chatting during a break and she complained about how hard it is to find a good proofreader. The pay isn't great (I think about .35/page) but hours are completely flexible and my friend gets the copy emailed or mailed to her and then can email or express mail it back (depending on length). She likes it so much she's contacted other court reporters in her area (through yellow pages) and has picked up a couple more clients. Transcripts can run into hundreds of pages so it does add up.

The work took some getting used to for my friend because you can't correct grammar or word usage, etc. since the transcript must be a literal reproduction of people's statements. So, mostly she's checking for spelling errors and punctuation.
posted by agatha_magatha at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2008

Following from yoyoceramic's movie theatre suggestion, my local theatre has a disabled girl as a greeter. Greeters are everywhere, so he shouldn't just limit himself to theatres.
posted by rhinny at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2008

The only idea he's had is to learn to paint then sell his art. I'm skeptical of this idea--it's possible to get art supplies donated, but he has no artistic background.

while making a living selling art can be difficult, not having an artistic background should not prevent anyone from making work, unless, say, your plan is to sell ultra-realist figurative landscapes, immediately.

if this is something he wants to do, I'd encourage it. a daily habit of painting is a wonderfully meditative experience; if he feels like he needs a sense of purpose, any sort of art process will bring this to him almost immediately. His particular situation will not prevent him from making work and may in fact make it more interesting as he develops techniques to overcome his lack of dexterity. Look at (obvs) Chuck Close for an example of painting with limited mobility.

However, you are correct that it is likely he will be extremely frustrated if he approaches this project as merely a get-rich-quick scheme.
posted by fishfucker at 1:30 PM on June 20, 2008

When I worked at Borders, we had someone in a wheelchair who came in for a few hours M-F to strip covers off of magazines. I think he may have had limited arm strength, but enough to pull off a cover and put it in a box. I believe he got his job through an agency that places people with various disabilities. It wouldn't be full time, but it would be something.
posted by booksherpa at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2008

Maybe he could shred documents for people or businesses. I used to work at a place where we generated barrels of paperwork that needed to be shredded and we'd send it out somewhere to have it done. I would totally pay someone to shred all my old bills and credit card solicitations.

One of my friends used to make extra money by working for a visually impaired attorney...she'd go to his office and read documents and mail to him. I'll bet your friend could do something like this, perhaps even tape recording himself reading stuff from his home.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:11 PM on June 20, 2008

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