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WHEN JACKmail, a business that Sally Richards set up for her profoundly disabled son, Jackson West, hit two years she couldn’t believe it and now, it’s in its twelfth year, she’s amazed.
Sally, 65, of Yarralumla, spent many sleepless nights worrying about her son’s future before creating JACKmail, a courier service that offers mail pickup and delivery for businesses in the inner-south of Canberra.
Jackson, 32, has Phelan-McDermid syndrome, a small deletion of chromosome 22, and because of this needs support in everything that he does.
“I knew that nobody was going to give him a job, but I thought that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have a job,” she says.
Early one morning Sally started to list the things that Jackson can do.
“He is able to carry objects, he loves going in the car and he loves music,” she says.
“Those four very simple things: mobility, strong hands, love of music and love of driving are the elements I focused on to develop a business for him.
“The work had to be regular and predictable as this job has a deeper focus of forming relationships and of people getting to know Jackson very well. I wanted him to be missed if he didn’t turn up to work.”
And nearly 12 years down the track, Sally says Jackson is missed when he’s not there to deliver the mail.
“More importantly, he is not seen as a passive receiver of funding, support, time, energy and resources,” she says.
“He is seen as a contributor, a worker, a man about town, a man with a business, a uniform, a car, a colleague, a purpose and an income.”
Jackson’s support worker and JACKmail’s driver, Sandor Collins, 45, agrees and says Jackson often makes people’s day.
“Jackson’s smile’s infectious. Whenever you hand a mail bag to him, he loves it. He knows his job and takes it,” he says.
“I think a lot of the businesses would rather use JACKmail because they’re proud of the fact that they’re helping Jackson and he’s helping them.”
While it’s been a long and difficult journey for Sally and Jackson, Sally is overwhelmed by the quality of life JACKmail has given him.
“It’s hard to know what’s caused it, but basically over the years Jackson has become more responsive, more social and happier,” she says.
“My goal was always for Jackson to have a life of his own. People with disability are often seen as people that use up energy and resources so it’s important people see him in a positive life, too.”
Sally says Jackson now has a legitimate and valued place in the ACT business community.
“People greet him; not just people in the offices he delivers to, but people in the street, the JACKmail car is distinctive and he has quite a reputation in Canberra,” she says.
While Sally loves how the JACKmail model is helping Jackson, she says businesses sometimes move to a new suburb out of the JACKmail area of business or, in one case, they moved their mail operations to another city.
“We now have an opening to take on several new customers and would love to hear from any business in the south of Canberra who could use the services of JACKmail,” she says.
Interested businesses in the inner-south can call Sally on 0402 418974.