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Lawyer's community allows him independence with disability

When an unexpected injury occurs, the future can be frightening. There are numerous disabilities that can impede an individual's ability to work. For Pittsburgh residents who are facing vision or hearing problems, physical impairments or psychological disorders that prevent you from being able to work, there are options available for you.

For example, for over two decades, one man has been living with a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He receives Social Security Disability benefits for injuries along with Supplemental Security Income, but the $750 they bring in each month is not enough to get by on.

The man is a 45-year-old lawyer who, despite everything, continues to work in family law. In order to continue working but stay below the poverty level, he provides his services pro bono. In order to qualify for Medicaid, his income must stay below 85 percent of the federal poverty level.

A diving accident June 12, 1986, caused the man's paralysis. He is unable to get in and out of bed on his own. He is unable to dress himself, go to the bathroom, and eat or drink without help. When something unexpected happens, he has to wait for his attendants to come and help him.

Thanks to a local nonprofit, Services for Independent Living, he gets six hours of attendant care each day. A county social services agency helps him keep his medicine cabinet stocked and, when his wheelchair broke last December, they provided extra attendant care until the wheelchair was fixed.

Community efforts have allowed him to have a relatively independent life. In 2007, his friends and family worked with the community to buy a handicapped-accessible van for him. He even has a phone that he can use with his mouth, though sometimes he says he accidently "breath-dials" his friends while he is sleeping.

Source: Columbia Missourian, "Assistance helps attorney live independently" Hilary Niles, Feb. 3, 2012

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