Is it OK for one college student to hire another to do laundry?

My daughter is starting her 2nd year of college 190 miles away from home. Some of you may remember that Doe is disabled – she has Cerebral Palsy and walks with crutches, or uses a wheelchair or motorized scooter. In addition to the walking problem, she also has some fine motor problems.

Last year was her first time away from home and, overall, she did quite well taking care of herself. However, one ongoing problem she had was with doing laundry. The nearest laundry room on campus is in the dorm building next to hers, down in the basement. No matter how hard she tried (and we tried several different things), we never found a really workable solution to her getting more than one load of laundry at a time to the laundry room. She finally settled on putting one load at a time into her backpack and carrying it across to the laundry room. She’d get that load started, then go get the second load and bring it across.

Also, there is no good place in the laundry room for her to fold her clean clothes. There is a counter, but it is rather high for her to use comfortably (she is only 4’9") and because she has to use one arm for a crutch, it only leaves her only one hand to fold. She really needs to sit on the floor or a bed to fold laundry – neither of these are a possibility in this laundry room, obviously. So, she’d end up stuffing her first load in her backpack, unfolded, carry it back to her room and dump it out, then back to the laundry room to grab the second load. Given this treatment, her clothes were always badly wrinkled.

Finally, there was the question of her sheets. There is just no way she can put sheets on a bed properly. Again, she tried several different methods, but it’s just beyond her physically. In the end, she just skipped changing her sheets – the only time they got changed was when I, or someone else in the family, came to visit her. Once she went 6 weeks without changing them. Gross, but there was no help for it.

So, this year she had a brainstorm – she would ask around and find a fellow student who was willing to serve as her laundress (for pay, of course). She thought she would pay $20 (providing her own laundry detergent and softener) for someone to strip and remake her bed, and wash and fold her clothes and sheets each week. This would mean that Doe had clean sheets each week, and her clothes would be neater and better maintained. And the other girl would get an extra $80 a month for adding just a little extra effort to work she’s doing for herself anyway.

My mom and I went up there to visit her today and she asked us what we thought of this plan. We did her laundry while we were there, and seeing what she’s up against, we both felt that her plan was a great idea. However, when I mentioned it to my husband on the phone, he seemed to dislike the idea – we had a bad connection, but he seemed to think it was tacky or weird or something…

So how about it, Dopers? Is this a strange idea, or perfectly reasonable? Would you have considered doing something like this when you were in college yourself? I’m especially interested in the opinions of current college students.

I don’t see anything wierd about it at all. If she were more able-bodied, it might smack of entitlement or something, but if it’s that difficult for her, and she can afford it, I don’t see anything at all wrong with paying another student to help her out. Although she might want to look at what services the school offers handicapped students. She might be able to get someone to do it for her for free.

Of course it’s ok. At work, our staff has to share some cleaning responsibilities for the common fridge and microwave. Some of us hire another staff guy, who has an outside cleaning business, to do our share of the cleaning. He goes off the company clock, goes onto our clock, does our work and goes back on the company clock. Nobody has any problem with it, and the fact that you are students rather than employees is irrelevant.

I don’t think it’s weird or tacky. It would be tacky if she was trying to guilt a friend or roommate to do it because of her disability, but if she’s offering cash it’s just an odd* job for someone. If someone finds it strange, they won’t apply for the job.

*odd job as in small task, not as in weird thing to do

People that don’t have problems getting around pay to have laundry done. It seems silly to worry about what some oddball person will think. Are you sure this isn’t because your husband thinks she needs to prove something to everybody. Side with your daughter, and then she won’t go ahead and implement her solution for this behind your backs. She worked this out like an adult, now don’t take away from that.

NOTE: The following is an uniformed opinion and is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer, or YOUR lawyer.

Actually the school might be required by law to provide a reasonable accomodation for her – at their own cost . Its part of her access to education that she lives comfortably, especially if oncampus living is promoted by the school an integral part of the educational process (which both W&M & UVa do as a matter of policy, I’m just guessing based on your location) but even if it isn’t. Dorm living could be a “benefit” she is not currently receiving equal to non-handicapped students.

34 Code of Federal Regulations Section 104.4

(a) General. No qualified handicapped person shall, on the basis of
handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of,
or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or
activitiy which receives or benefits from Federal financial assistance.

(b) Discriminatory actions prohibited. (1) A recipient, in providing
any aid, benefit, or service, may not, directly or through contractual,
licensing, or other arrangements, on the basis of handicap:
(i) Deny a qualified handicapped person the opportunity to
participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit, or service;
(ii) Afford a qualified handicapped person an opportunity to
participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit, or service that is not
equal to that afforded others;
(iii) Provide a qualified handicapped person with an aid, benefit,
or service that is not as effective as that provided to others;
(iv) Provide different or separate aid, benefits, or services to
handicapped persons or to any class of handicapped persons unless such
action is necessary to provide qualified handicapped persons with aid,
benefits, or services that are as effective as those provided to others;
(v) Aid or perpetuate discrimination against a qualified handicapped
person by providing significant assistance to an agency, organization,
or person that discriminates on the basis of handicap in providing any
aid, benefit, or service to beneficiaries of the recipients program;
(vi) Deny a qualified handicapped person the opportunity to
participate as a member of planning or advisory boards; or
(vii) Otherwise limit a qualified handicapped person in the
enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage, or opportunity enjoyed by
others receiving an aid, benefit, or service.
(2) For purposes of this part, aids, benefits, and services, to be
equally effective, are not required to produce the identical result or
level of achievement for handicapped and nonhandicapped persons, but
must afford handicapped persons equal opportunity to obtain the same
result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of
achievement, in the most integrated setting appropriate to the person’s

edited to add: without getting too much into it, the above code applies to all institutions which received Federal money for education; ie nearly all Universities in the U.S. regardless of status as a state or private institution

It isn’t weird. I ironed ROTC uniforms and shined shoes in college for my dormmates. I had to do my own anyway and I really needed cash. There was a controversy at Harvard a few years back where some students started a highly efficient maid service and built up a large clientele. There was all kinds of ethical debates as blah, blah, blah. Finally, they realized how stupid it is to intellectualize those sorts of things. It was just kids doing odd jobs on a larger scale that may help them later.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it really shouldn’t be necessary in on-campus housing. **Hello Again ** has the right idea. If the process can be made manageable with a cart and a lower shelf, or other fairly minor adaptations, there is a good chance the school needs to provide that as a reasonable accommodation.

Where as I think some things would be done like supplying a table at seat height, I don’t think they’ll be required to make her bed. As for transporting the clothes that distance, the other students are likely limited to not much more at one time, unless they purchase something to cart it there.

What Hello Again said too.

But aside from that, no it’s not weird at all. College campuses are the first bastion of rampant capitalism. You can find someone to pay to do just about anything for you, laundry included.

Heck, as far back as the 70’s, I had three roommates in an apartment that covered my rent, in return for my being the House Cook. I had some sort of dinner ready for everyone to eat at some point in the evening - even if it boiled hot dogs and chips. They never had to worry what’s for dinner, and eventually, I got to be a pretty good, on the cheap cook. I STILL make the same marinara recipe I taught myself then.

And 2 of us paid the girls in the apartment next door to do our laundry.

I think it’s a great idea! There’s sure to be someone on campus who could use the extra cash, and it will be better for your daughter to have clean sheets and neater clothes.

Did you ask your husband why he thought it wasn’t a good idea?

I can’t see any possible objection to this even if your daughter was physically able to do her laundry with no problem. Doing laundry is hardly part of the academic experience so it’s just hiring somebody to do a job. Back when I was in school, it was common to pay other students to type up your papers for you (this was back before word processors were common). Or if I paid some neighbourhood kid to mow my lawn.

The only problem I can see with it would be a weird situation where if, say, I had a disabled roommate who offered to pay me to do their laundry, I would pretty much feel honor-bound to offer to do it for free, and grow to resent it. Because “roommate” is closer to “friend” than “business associate” and for me, at least, one does not do business with friends. One may exchange favors, but you never reduce it to dollars and cents. I know you didn’t say anything about roommates, but I want to preemptively say I think it’s a good idea not to start there, even though it may seem obvious. The student should be someone she has some distance from.

When I was looking for a local dry cleaner a couple of months ago, I stumbled onto a website for a service that does laundry for students. Apparently it’s not very uncommon for kids not to do their own laundry, so it’s hard to think of it as weird or tacky when there are really businesses centered around the idea.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all. I actually have a friend who’s disabled and can’t really do laundry on his own without encountering a lot of problems. So he just hired a friend of his to do his laundry. Both parties are happy. My friend gets his laundry done, neatly folded and put away for him, and his friend gets some extra cash as pocket money.

I wish someone would have paid me to do their laundry in college! I really could have used the money!

Well, here’s how I see it. College kids (in general) need a little extra money. The work is not hard or demanding (heck, I would do it for some friends here at this school for free, but I don’t live on campus) and the situation deems that something needs to be done.

I think a quick call to the “Office of Whoever deals with disabled/handicap students” would possibly help. The people at ours are pretty awesome. They are there to help, so use it if needed.

Brendon Small

I wouldn’t see anything exploitative or wrong.

And $20/week is great. One of my friends didn’t feel like doing laundry one week and paid me $5 to do the laundry and fold it up for him. $20/a week sounds great. Although, as has been mentioned, the college probably should be making some accomodations for this sort of thing.

I’m a college student, and I would jump at the chance to do that for $20 a week. Heck, I’d do it for the warm fuzzy feeling and the chance to get to know someone, especially if she were my neighbor. I’ll bet someone near her will be thrilled to throw your daughter’s laundry in with their own and get paid for it.

$20 a week would have paid for at least one nights worth of fun in the dorms for me. I would want to do it for free for a handicapped friend, but would probably be overcome by poverty and settle on $10 or $15 a week. Besides, I use to drive all of the handicapped people all around our campus on a specially designed van. I probably would have been giving her rides everywhere anyways.

She has a physical limitation, and is making up for that on her own terms. I see nothing wrong with that. Now, if she were being taken advantage of in any way, I’m sure the culprit would be forced to deal with several very angry dorm mates.

Could it be that your husband feels that your daughter is being taken advantage of financially? Might he think that there is some sort of dependence involved that he doesn’t approve of?

Wow – thanks for all the responses. I called my daughter just a few minutes ago, to let her know that the Dopers say her idea is in the clear. It turns out she’s already found someone. She went to dinner with some friends last night and mentioned the idea to them. All her friends volunteered to do it for free (we had anticipated this and Doe had already decided what to say). She said, “Nope – it’s too big a job and too ongoing for me to ask anyone to do it as a favor. The only way I’ll take the help is if I can pay for it.” And one of her friends, who is chronically short of funds, said she’d be happy to do it.

Doe is really excited about it – she knows the girl very well (they were next door neighbors last year), and trusts her, so no weirdness there. And, she knows that the $80 a month will come in really handy for this girl – Cory works in the summer and during vacations and saves her money and that is all the spending money she really has for the school year.

To respond to a few of the other posts: Doe would not consider making this an accomodation issue. She goes to a very small woman’s college and she is their first physically disabled live-in student (there have been a few others, but they all lived off-campus). They have been very helpful about accessibility – and there are some things (ramps, auto-opening doors, a single room with access to a handicapped shower) that she has had to ask for. For other things she prefers to find her own solution, realizing that in ‘real life’ (which is what college is preparing her for) that is what she will have to do.

I am proud of her for coming up with this plan. She has always had a tendancy to try to Do It All and refuse help, even when it was really needed. Living alone has taught her that she has to prioritize what she spends her energy on. Last year laundry took her 3 hours or more (with all the walking back and forth) and left her exhausted for the rest of the day. That’s a silly use of her time and energy, when she can just pay someone to do it for her. This year, especially, she needs to be mindful of taking care of herself. She is taking 5 classes, one with an honors variance; and working as a research assistant for one (and, possibly, two) professors.

Oh, and it turns out that my husband was just objecting to the idea that she might post some flyers on campus looking for a laundress – he didn’t think that was a good idea. He’s fine with the plan otherwise.