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Disney Cracks Down on Disability Access Misuse, Threatens Lifetime Bans

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Disney resorts in California and Florida are enforcing stricter rules on the misuse of their disability program, and have warned of potential lifetime bans for violations.

This week, Disney introduced modifications to its Disability Access Services (DAS) program, designed to aid guests with neurodivergent conditions like autism. The popularity of the program has surged, leading to longer waits in attraction lines and congested Genie+ lanes.

The utilization of Disney’s DAS has increased threefold over the past five years, with evidence suggesting some are exploiting the system. Online videos promoting a “Disneyland line hack” to bypass long lines by exploiting DAS have spread widely.

Disney has warned that any guest found to have falsified their need for DAS will face permanent bans. The company stated, “Guests found to have made false statements to obtain DAS will be banned from Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. Additionally, any passes, tickets, or other purchases will not be refunded.”

While it’s not specified how Disney plans to detect fraudulent use, the parks are equipped with extensive security camera systems and guards to monitor suspicious activities.

Guests must now pre-register for DAS and consult with trained staff to assess their eligibility. Not all visitors with disabilities will require DAS.

For those currently using DAS, the program is valid for 60 days, or until their park visit ends. However, visits after May 18 at Disney World and June 20 at Disneyland will allow a 120-day use of the program.

A Walt Disney World Resort spokesperson told USA Today, “We are committed to ensuring all guests, including those with disabilities, have an excellent experience, which is why we offer various innovative support services.”

The updated program permits up to four companions per DAS user unless the group consists of family members, in which case the entire family can join together.

These changes aim to preserve the integrity of the program, which has become the most utilized service, and ensure it remains available for those genuinely in need. Disney also offers other disability accommodations like the Location Return Times program for mobility issues, ASL interpreters, braille guides, and sensory guides for attractions.

Click here to view original article at www.washingtonexaminer.com

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Celebrating Sibling Bonds: National Siblings Day and Disability

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National Siblings Day, celebrated each year on April 10th, is a day set aside to honor the unique relationships between siblings. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the bonds of love, friendship, and the deep connections that develop over a lifetime. For families with a sibling who has a disability, this day carries additional significance, offering a chance to acknowledge the distinctive experiences these relationships bring, as well as the mutual support and understanding that flourishes within them.

Understanding the Sibling Dynamic: Navigating Family Challenges

The sibling dynamic within families where one or more members have a disability can be deeply influenced by the practical realities of caregiving, financial pressures, and the distribution of parental attention. These factors can shape the experiences and relationships of all family members, often in complex ways.

The Impact of Caregiving

In many families, the caregiving responsibilities for a sibling with a disability can significantly impact daily routines, family interactions, and long-term planning. Siblings may take on caregiving roles from a young age, contributing to household responsibilities, assisting with the care of their sibling, or even making sacrifices in their own lives to accommodate the family’s needs. While these experiences can foster a deep sense of responsibility and maturity, they may also lead to feelings of pressure or loss of childhood spontaneity. Balancing these responsibilities with their own needs for growth, education, and socialization is a key challenge for siblings.

Financial Stresses and Their Effects

The financial impact of caring for a family member with a disability cannot be understated. The costs associated with medical care, therapy, adaptive equipment, and potentially modified living accommodations can place a significant strain on family finances. This financial pressure can affect the entire family’s lifestyle, opportunities, and stress levels. Siblings might witness the hard choices parents have to make regarding financial priorities, which can lead to feelings of guilt, worry, or resentment. Understanding the financial implications and learning to navigate these challenges is an essential part of the family’s journey.

Navigating Parental Attention

The distribution of parental attention is a delicate aspect of the sibling dynamic in families with a disability. Naturally, parents may need to devote more time, attention, and resources to the care of a child with a disability, which can lead to siblings feeling overlooked or secondary. It’s important for parents and caregivers to communicate openly with all their children, acknowledging the unique needs and contributions of each family member. Creating spaces for individual attention and recognition of each sibling’s achievements and challenges can help mitigate feelings of neglect and promote a more balanced family dynamic.

Building a Supportive Family Environment

Mother draws with children at home. Development of a child with cerebral palsy. Friendship caring kindness and love. Rehabilitation by creativity. Family with a disabled child.
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Fostering a supportive family environment is crucial for navigating the complexities of the sibling dynamic. This involves:

  • Open Communication: Encouraging open and honest discussions about feelings, frustrations, and needs can help siblings feel heard and valued.
  • Family Time: Prioritizing family activities that include all members can reinforce the bonds between siblings and create shared memories and experiences.
  • Individual Recognition: Celebrating each child’s achievements and acknowledging their unique challenges helps to ensure that all family members feel seen and appreciated.
  • External Support: Seeking support from external resources such as family therapy, support groups, and recreational programs for siblings can provide additional coping strategies and a sense of community.

Understanding the sibling dynamic within families where disability is a factor requires a nuanced appreciation of the challenges and opportunities these relationships present. By addressing the caregiving responsibilities, financial stresses, and the distribution of parental attention with sensitivity and support, families can strengthen their bonds and navigate the journey together.

Adult Siblings Transitioning to Caregivers

An older man with Downs Syndrome, hugs his older sister as they sit on a couch.
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As parents age or pass away, the responsibility of caring for an adult sibling with a disability often transitions to their adult siblings. This shift can be significant and comes with a unique set of challenges and responsibilities that requires careful planning, emotional adjustment, and ongoing support.

Navigating Legal and Financial Responsibilities

One of the first challenges that adult siblings may face involves legal and financial planning. It’s crucial to ensure that all legal documentation, such as guardianship, trusts, and wills, are in place and reflect the current and future needs of the sibling with a disability. Financial planning is equally important, as managing the costs associated with long-term care, including medical expenses, housing needs, and daily support, requires careful budgeting and resources. Accessing professional advice from legal and financial experts specialized in disability care can provide essential guidance.

Emotional and Practical Adjustments

Taking on the role of a primary caregiver for a sibling can be a significant emotional journey. Adult siblings may experience a range of feelings, from compassion and dedication to overwhelm and anxiety about their new responsibilities. Practically, this transition often requires adjustments to one’s lifestyle, employment, and personal relationships to accommodate the caregiving role. Support from other family members, friends, and community resources can be invaluable during this adjustment period.

Sustaining Personal Health and Well-being

It’s important for sibling caregivers to maintain their own health and well-being. This includes regular medical check-ups, mental health support, and time off from caregiving duties. Balancing caregiving with personal needs can help prevent caregiver burnout and ensure that the sibling relationship remains strong and positive.

Maintaining Family Relationships

Maintaining a healthy relationship with a sibling with a disability involves more than just caregiving; it’s about nurturing the sibling bond. This can be fostered by sharing experiences, reminiscing about shared childhood memories, and continuing to participate in enjoyable activities together. Ensuring that the sibling with a disability remains integrated within the wider family circle is crucial for their social and emotional well-being.

Transitioning to the role of caregiver for an adult sibling with a disability is a profound change that requires compassion, resilience, and support. By planning carefully, seeking appropriate resources, and maintaining their own health, adult siblings can manage this important role effectively while preserving the loving and supportive relationship that has likely spanned their entire lives.

Resources and Communities

A tender sibling mixed race scene as a curly-haired girl blows bubbles for her younger sister, both dressed in matching stripes, used for National Siblings day and sisterhood.
Shutterstock

Support for families where siblings have disabilities is crucial. A variety of resources and communities exist to assist. Search local, state, federal and online resources for:

  • Family Support Groups: Many organizations offer support groups for families, providing a space to share experiences and advice. These groups can be invaluable for siblings seeking understanding and community.
  • Educational Workshops and Events: Workshops focused on understanding disabilities, legal rights, and advocacy offer families and siblings tools to navigate their unique challenges effectively.
  • Recreational Programs: Programs designed for individuals with disabilities and their families can offer opportunities for fun, relaxation, and building relationships outside of the home environment.
  • Professional Caregivers: Employing professional caregivers can provide necessary respite and assist with daily caregiving tasks, reducing the burden on the sibling caregiver.
  • Community Resources: Local disability services organizations can offer various supports, including day programs, occupational therapy, and social activities, which can enhance the quality of life for the sibling with a disability.
  • The Sibling Support Project: A national program dedicated to the interests of brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental, and emotional needs.
  • The Arc: A community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

National Siblings Day provides an important moment to recognize the unique relationships between siblings, especially in the context of disability. It’s a time to honor the shared journey, the mutual support, and the deep bonds that are formed. These relationships are a powerful reflection of the diverse ways in which families come together and support one another through life’s journey, highlighting the value of understanding, patience, and unconditional support.

This article contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through our links, we may earn a commission from Amazon and other retailers, at no cost to you.

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Special Needs Trusts: Protect Your Child’s Financial Future (NOLO Special Needs Trusts)
  • Urbatsch Attorney, Kevin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages – 09/26/2023 (Publication Date) – NOLO (Publisher)
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Multiple Dimensions of Caregiving and Disability (Caregiving: Research • Practice • Policy)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Talley (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 236 Pages – 06/28/2012 (Publication Date) – Springer (Publisher)
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Sibshops: Workshops for Siblings of Children with Support Needs
  • Meyer M.Ed., Don (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages – 11/28/2023 (Publication Date) – Brookes Publishing (Publisher)

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A Closer Look at Parkinson’s Awareness Month: Statistics, Support, and Resources

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April serves as a beacon of hope and a call to action for the approximately one million Americans currently living with Parkinson’s disease, as well as their caregivers, healthcare providers, and advocates. Parkinson’s Awareness Month aims not only to raise awareness about this neurodegenerative disorder but also to foster support and propel research efforts toward finding a cure.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine. This leads to hallmark symptoms such as tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia (slowness of movement). The disease can also manifest through a wide array of non-motor symptoms, including mood disorders, sleep disruptions, and cognitive challenges.

Impact of Parkinson’s Disease

The impact of Parkinson’s disease extends far beyond its physical symptoms. Nearly one million Americans live with Parkinson’s, and this number is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. The emotional, social, and economic toll on patients and their families is significant, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive support services and ongoing research for better treatments and a cure.

Resources for Information and Help

  • Parkinson’s Foundation: Provides extensive information on Parkinson’s, the latest research findings, and resources for patients and caregivers.
  • Michael J. Fox Foundation: A leading organization focused on Parkinson’s research, offering resources for those affected by the disease and opportunities to support research efforts.
  • American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA): Provides resources and information on education, support and research funding.

Local Support Groups: Finding a local support group for Parkinson’s disease can be an essential support services, offering both practical advice and emotional support. Here are several strategies to help someone find local support groups:

  1. Contact National Organizations: Start with national Parkinson’s disease organizations such as the Parkinson’s Foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, or the American Parkinson Disease Association. These organizations often have directories or can direct you to local support groups and resources.
  2. Use Online Resources: Websites and online platforms can be valuable resources. For instance, the Parkinson’s Foundation has a searchable map of local resources, including support groups. Similarly, the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s website offers tools to find support groups and educational events.
  3. Consult Healthcare Providers: Neurologists, movement disorder specialists, and healthcare teams experienced in treating Parkinson’s disease may have information about local support groups. They can recommend groups that their other patients have found helpful.
  4. Explore Local Community Centers: Community centers, hospitals, and clinics often host or know of local support group meetings. These can sometimes be found by visiting their websites or calling their offices directly.
  5. Check Social Media and Forums: Social media platforms and forums dedicated to Parkinson’s disease can provide leads on local support groups. Facebook groups, Reddit communities, and platforms like PatientsLikeMe can connect you with others who might know of local resources.
  6. Use Library and Bulletin Boards: Local libraries and community bulletin boards can occasionally have information about support group meetings. It’s worth checking these places, as community events are often advertised in such locations.
  7. Contact Local Universities and Medical Schools: Some universities and medical schools with neurology departments may conduct support groups or can direct you to local resources.
  8. Network with Others: If you know other individuals with Parkinson’s disease, ask them about the support groups they attend. Personal recommendations can be incredibly helpful.

Remember, while finding the right support group can take time, it’s worth the effort for the camaraderie and understanding these groups provide. If attending in-person meetings is challenging, consider looking for virtual support groups, which can also offer significant support and information.

Get Involved word cloud on a white background.
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Get Involved

With over 60,000 Americans diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, the importance of Parkinson’s Awareness Month has never been more evident. The month encourages participation in awareness activities, support for research funding, and advocacy for policy change to improve the lives of those affected by Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month plays a crucial role in spotlighting the challenges faced by those living with Parkinson’s disease and the ongoing efforts toward better treatments and a cure. By engaging in educational efforts, supporting research, and providing support, we can all contribute to a brighter future for individuals affected by Parkinson’s disease.

Seize the opportunity to educate yourself and others about Parkinson’s disease, advocate for those affected, and support vital research and support initiatives. Your involvement can make a meaningful difference in the lives of nearly one million Americans living with Parkinson’s and pave the way for groundbreaking advances in treatment and care.

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Bipartisan Push to End Subminimum Wage for Workers with Disabilities in Georgia

Georgia is poised to become a notable example in the movement to end the subminimum wage for disabled workers, with a significant legislative effort led by Republicans, a departure from the commonly Democrat-led initiatives in this arena. The state’s recent legislative actions include the passage of a bill by the Georgia House aiming to abolish the practice that allows employers to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage, affecting some 40,000 individuals across the country. This bill, championed by GOP state Rep. Sharon Cooper alongside bipartisan support, highlights a shift in the political landscape concerning disability rights.

Historically, the allowance for subminimum wages for disabled workers dates back to 1938, with the establishment of the federal minimum wage law. This exception has been increasingly contested due to its exploitation of disabled workers, who in some cases earn as little as 22 cents an hour in sheltered workshops. These workshops have been criticized for their business model, which includes paying executives high salaries while exploiting disabled employees.

Georgia’s approach to phasing out the subminimum wage is particularly aggressive, aiming to eliminate 50 percent of the certificates that permit these wages within the first year of the law’s enactment, with a complete phase-out by the second year. This method contrasts with the more gradual three to five-year phase-out period seen in other states.

The initiative in Georgia also reflects a broader political shift. Disability rights, once a bipartisan cause as evidenced by the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law by a Republican president, have increasingly become associated with progressive policies and Democrat leadership. However, the bipartisan support for the Georgia bill, especially its leadership under a Republican, offers a potential model for re-engaging Republicans in disability rights at both the state and federal levels, according to advocates Julie Christensen and Dom Kelly. This initiative stands out against a backdrop of fractious state politics, particularly concerning other contentious issues like LGBTQ+ rights and voting rights.

Click here to view entire and original article at www.motherjones.com

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Advocacy Group Sues New York State Education Department Over Withheld Abuse Documents

Disability Rights New York, a prominent advocacy group for individuals with disabilities, has initiated legal action against the New York State Education Department. The lawsuit arises from the Education Department’s refusal to release documents critical for the group’s investigation into allegations of abuse, neglect, and civil rights violations at a private residential school for students with autism. The advocacy group claims to have received multiple complaints alleging severe mistreatment of students, including physical abuse and being forced to endure inhumane living conditions, such as sleeping on urine-soaked mattresses. Some complaints also mention students displaying unexplained injuries and being denied essential medical care, alongside reports of staff being discouraged from seeking emergency services.

The investigation began after the group filed a Freedom of Information Law request in September, seeking documents from the Education Department. The department hesitated to provide complete information, leading to legal challenges by Disability Rights New York. The group’s initial legal petition was dismissed due to procedural issues, but it has since been refiled.

During a visit to the school, investigators observed concerning conditions, including pervasive odors of urine and restrictive physical barriers that seemed to limit student mobility and freedom excessively. Despite the alarming preliminary findings and previous complaints to the Education Department, the lawsuit contends that the department has not been cooperative in providing the necessary documents for a thorough investigation.

The Education Department has remained silent on the allegations and the ongoing litigation, while Disability Rights New York argues that its federal and state authority mandates access to facilities and documents necessary to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. The group’s broader mission is to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not mistreated or kept hidden from public scrutiny. This lawsuit underscores the tension between the group’s advocacy efforts and the state’s regulatory frameworks, highlighting the challenges faced in safeguarding the rights and well-being of individuals with disabilities in private educational settings.

Click here to view full and original article by www.timesunion.com

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Minnesota Parents Helping People With Intellectual Disabilities Get College Degrees

In 2019, Mary Hauff and fellow parents founded the Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium to advocate for students with intellectual disabilities, like her daughter Jean. Their efforts led to the allocation of $2 million, by the Minnesota Legislature in 2023, for inclusive higher education, ensuring equal access and meaningful credentials for these students.

Most of the funds will support colleges in enhancing enrollment opportunities, with $500,000 allocated to a technical assistance center at the University of Minnesota operated by the consortium. Despite nearly 200 colleges in Minnesota, only three are designated for specific programs benefiting students with intellectual disabilities, highlighting the need for broader support.

Intellectual disability, characterized by challenges in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, often manifests before the age of 18. Research indicates that students with intellectual disabilities who attend college are more likely to secure employment, earn higher wages, and live independently. The initiative in Minnesota aligns with national efforts, such as the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which aims to improve college access for students with intellectual disabilities.

Other states, like Kentucky, have also invested in similar programs, reflecting a growing trend nationwide. In Minnesota, the technical assistance center at the University of Minnesota serves as a hub for expertise and support, with input from an advisory committee that includes 50% student representation with intellectual disabilities.

Colleges and universities in Minnesota will soon have the opportunity to apply for grants to enhance accessibility, with funding available for developing or improving programs supporting students with intellectual disabilities. The Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium is actively assisting institutions in preparing for these grants and federal designations for financial aid, aiming to broaden educational opportunities and support for students with intellectual disabilities across the state…

Click here for the full and original article by www.mprnews.org

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Veterans’ Disability Benefits for Burn Pit Injury Update

For a considerable time, veterans enduring respiratory issues due to exposure to hazardous air and burning waste during their military service have faced hurdles in obtaining disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The VA lacks a specific diagnostic code for constrictive bronchiolitis (CB), a condition associated with military deployments in Southwest Asia, Afghanistan, and Djibouti post-9/11. Most medical conditions veterans experience are assessed using a four-digit code and percentage rating, determining the compensation reflecting their disability severity, crucial for compensating for lost working time due to their condition’s severity.

Due to the absence of a designated diagnostic code, most veterans with CB receive a zero disability rating and are ineligible for compensation. However, a forthcoming update to the system promises to introduce such a code, simplifying the process for veterans to receive benefits.

Joshua Jacobs, the Under Secretary for Benefits, assured that the VA is actively pursuing this update, considering it a top priority. Additionally, there are discussions about potentially adding a diagnostic code for constrictive bronchiolitis or a broader term encompassing related respiratory conditions.

Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health, elaborated on these options at a conference, indicating a potential decision between a specific code for CB or a broader term covering multiple respiratory conditions.

Anticipated revisions are expected to be published by September 30, 2024, marking the end of the fiscal year, according to insiders familiar with the discussions.

Though only a few hundred veterans have been diagnosed with CB, a fraction compared to more common respiratory ailments like COPD and asthma, diagnosing CB requires invasive lung biopsies, unlike traditional tests…

Click here for the full and original article by Dan Sagalyn at www.pbs.org

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How to Find and Finance Wheelchair Accessible Vans

Navigating the world of accessible vans can be both a gateway to freedom and a source of frustration for individuals with mobility challenges and their families. Accessible vans are not merely vehicles; they are lifelines that facilitate independence, community involvement, and the joy of exploration.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides comprehensive information on adapted vehicles for individuals with disabilities, outlining how vehicles can be modified or equipped with adaptive technologies to meet specific driving needs. It covers a range of topics including cost-saving opportunities, licensing requirements, finding qualified driver rehabilitation specialists, and ensuring the safe operation of adapted vehicles.

Additionally, you will find information on financial assistance programs, insurance coverage, and manufacturer rebates for vehicle modifications, aiming to support individuals in maintaining mobility and independence through adapted driving solutions. You can search their database to find out if a mobility equipment dealer is registered with NHTSA. For more detailed information, visit NHTSA’s Adapted Vehicles page.

Understanding Accessible Vans

Accessible vans, often modified versions of standard passenger vans, are equipped with various features designed to accommodate individuals who use wheelchairs or have other mobility challenges. These modifications may include ramps or lifts for wheelchair access, hand controls for drivers, and altered seating configurations to ensure comfort and safety for all passengers.

Key Features to Consider

  • Ramp vs. Lift: Decide whether a ramp or a lift best suits your needs based on the wheelchair user’s preferences, the vehicle’s parking environments, and budget constraints.
  • Side vs. Rear Entry: Your choice will affect parking convenience and interior space utilization.
  • Driving Adaptations: From hand controls to touchpad systems, ensure the vehicle can be operated safely by the intended driver.
  • Interior Space and Seating: Consider the amount of space inside the van for both the wheelchair user and additional passengers.

Where to Find Accessible Vans

Finding the right accessible van involves research and patience. Here are some starting points:

Dealers Specializing in Accessible Vans

Many dealers focus specifically on accessible vehicles and offer a wide range of new and used vans, complete with various modifications to meet different needs. They can also provide valuable advice and customization services.

  • MobilityWorks (www.mobilityworks.com): Offers a nationwide inventory of accessible vans and provides detailed information on different models and modifications.
  • BraunAbility (www.braunability.com): Known for manufacturing and selling high-quality accessible vans and mobility equipment.
  • The Mobility Van Store (www.themobilityvanstore.com): Offers new and pre-owned  accessible minivans.

Shutterstock

Online Marketplaces

Online platforms can be a great resource for comparing prices and features from the comfort of your home.

  • The Mobility Resource (www.themobilityresource.com): An online marketplace featuring a wide range of accessible vehicles from dealers across the country.
  • eBay Motors (www.ebay.com/motors): Offers listings for used accessible vans, allowing you to bid or buy outright.

Local and Online Classifieds

Don’t overlook the possibility of finding a used accessible van through local classified ads or websites like Craigslist. You might find a great deal from a private seller in your area. Take precautions and have the vehicle fully inspected prior to purchase.

Shutterstock

Financing Accessible Vans

The cost of accessible vans can be a significant barrier for many families. However, several financing options and assistance programs can help manage these costs.

Grants and Assistance Programs

Numerous non-profit organizations and government programs offer grants and financial assistance to individuals requiring accessible transportation:

  • The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) (www.nmeda.com): Provides information on financial assistance programs and reputable dealers.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov): Offers assistance for veterans requiring vehicle modifications for service-connected disabilities.

Loans and Financing Options

Many banks, credit unions, and specialty finance companies offer loans specifically for the purchase and modification of accessible vans. Interest rates and terms vary, so shop around to find the best deal for your situation.

  • MobilityWorks Financing: Works with several lenders to offer competitive financing options for accessible vehicles.
  • BraunAbility provides the following financing and funding information on their website:

A state-by-state list of nonprofit funding organizations

Veterans programs

Manufacturer reimbursement programs 

Ideas for crowdfunding opportunities

Manufacturer Rebates and Programs

Some vehicle manufacturers offer rebates for modifications made to make their vehicles accessible. Check with automakers directly to see if they have any programs that could help offset your costs.

Maintenance and Warranty

Ensure your accessible van comes with a comprehensive warranty covering both the vehicle and the modifications. Regular maintenance by qualified professionals who understand accessible vehicles is crucial to ensure safety and longevity.

Test Drives and Inspections

Before finalizing your purchase, insist on a test drive and consider getting an independent inspection from a mechanic familiar with accessible vehicles. This can help you avoid costly issues down the line.

Transitioning to Your New Van

After purchasing your accessible van, consider additional resources such as driving training for adapted vehicles and community support groups for individuals with mobility challenges. These resources can be invaluable as you adapt to your new vehicle.

Acquiring an accessible van can significantly enhance the quality of life for individuals with mobility challenges and their families. While the process may seem daunting at first, understanding your options and knowing where to find financial assistance can make it a manageable journey. By doing thorough research and reaching out to the right resources, you can find the perfect accessible van that meets your needs and unlocks a world of independence and opportunity.

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Limb Loss Awareness Month: Advancements in Prosthetics and Resources

April marks a significant period dedicated to enhancing public awareness about limb loss and limb difference. Limb Loss Awareness Month serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by individuals living with limb loss and the remarkable advancements in prosthetics that have transformed lives. This observance also highlights the importance of accessible resources and support systems that provide care, information, and advocacy for individuals with limb loss. In this article, we will delve into the history of Limb Loss Awareness Month, explore the evolution of prosthetic technology, and provide a guide to essential U.S. resources for those affected by limb loss.

The History of Limb Loss Awareness Month

Limb Loss Awareness Month was established in 2010, by the Amputee Coalition, a national non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people who have experienced limb loss or limb difference. The Amputee Coalition has been at the forefront of limb loss advocacy, education, and support, working to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the limb loss community and to promote greater inclusivity and accessibility. The initiative aims to highlight the resilience of individuals living with limb loss, educate the public on prevention and recovery, and advocate for advanced prosthetic technology and healthcare policies that improve quality of life for amputees. Through various activities, events, and educational campaigns during April, Limb Loss Awareness Month serves as a key part of the Amputee Coalition’s efforts to create a more informed and supportive society.

Advances in Prosthetic Technology

The Evolution of Prosthetics

From ancient wooden limbs to the sophisticated, computer-assisted devices of today, prosthetic technology has undergone an extraordinary evolution. Early prosthetics were primarily designed to hide disabilities and were not functional. However, as understanding and technology advanced, so did the design and functionality of prosthetic limbs, making them more comfortable, adaptable, and life-like.

Wooden prosthetic exhibit in Egypt. Remarkable example of ancient Egyptians using wooden prosthetics to replace missing toes. Credit Shutterstock.

Credit JSTOR Daily

The Impact of Modern Technology

The last few decades have seen revolutionary advancements in prosthetics, including myoelectric arms that respond to muscle movements, microprocessor-controlled knees that adapt to walking speed and terrain, and 3D-printed limbs that provide affordability and customization. These innovations have significantly improved mobility, independence, and quality of life for individuals with limb loss.

Resources for Individuals with Limb Loss

Navigating life after limb loss can be challenging, but numerous organizations and resources in the U.S. offer support, information, and advocacy. Here are some key resources:

Amputee Coalition

The Amputee Coalition is a national non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people affected by limb loss to achieve their full potential through education, support, and advocacy. They offer a wide range of resources, including a national peer support network.

National Limb Loss Resource Center

Funded by the Administration for Community Living, the National Limb Loss Resource Center provides comprehensive information and resources for people with limb loss and their families, healthcare providers, and insurance professionals.

Veterans Affairs Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service

For veterans, the VA offers prosthetic and sensory aids to eligible individuals, providing access to a range of services and equipment designed to enhance mobility and quality of life. To learn more visit: http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/index.asp

Prosthetics and Orthotics Programs

In the United States, there are several highly regarded prosthetics and orthotics programs dedicated to training professionals in the field and providing cutting-edge patient care. These programs often offer both educational opportunities for those looking to enter the profession and clinical services for individuals in need of prosthetic or orthotic devices. Here’s a list of some specific programs:

Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Program Highlights: NUPOC offers a Master of Prosthetics and Orthotics (MPO) degree and is known for its strong clinical and research components.
  • Website: www.nupoc.northwestern.edu/

University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

  • Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Program Highlights: The program provides a Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) and is recognized for its research initiatives and clinical partnerships.
  • Website: www.shrs.pitt.edu/rst

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

  • Location: Dallas, Texas
  • Program Highlights: UT Southwestern offers a Prosthetics-Orthotics Program with a combined Master of Prosthetics-Orthotics (MPO) degree, emphasizing evidence-based practice and interdisciplinary learning.
  • Website: www.utsouthwestern.edu

California State University, Dominguez Hills

  • Location: Carson, California
  • Program Highlights: Offers a Bachelor of Science and a Certificate in Orthotics and Prosthetics, focusing on preparing students for clinical practice and certification.
  • Website: www.csudh.edu/oandp/

Salus University

  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Program Highlights: Offers a Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics, focusing on preparing students for clinical practice and certification.
  • Website: www.salus.edu

University of Hartford

  • Location: West Hartford, Connecticut
  • Program Highlights: Offers a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics. There is also a five-year combined BS/MSPO program.
  • Website: www.hartford.edu

University of Central Florida

  • Location: Orlando, Florida
  • Program Highlights: UCF is recognized for its innovative approach to prosthetics and orthotics through its Limb Loss Research and Innovation Center. While UCF itself does not offer a specific degree program exclusively focused on prosthetics and orthotics like some of the other institutions mentioned, its involvement in the field is significant through research and development efforts, particularly in the area of bionic limbs and advanced prosthetic technologies.
  • Website: www.ucf.edu/

Credit University of Central Florida – Limbitless Solutions

Limb Loss Research and Innovation at UCF

UCF’s Limb Loss Research and Innovation initiative is notable for its cutting-edge work in creating affordable, advanced prosthetic limbs. The initiative gained widespread recognition for its development of bionic arms for children, often at a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics. This work has been spearheaded by the College of Engineering and Computer Science, showcasing UCF’s commitment to leveraging technology for social good.

Limb Loss Awareness Month serves as a vital reminder of the resilience, achievements, and needs of individuals living with limb differences. By supporting this observance, we contribute to a more inclusive society that recognizes the potential in every individual, regardless of physical challenges. As we continue to witness advancements in prosthetic technology, the future holds even greater promise for enhancing the lives of those affected by limb loss.

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From Service to Support: The Rise in Disability Benefits for Women Veterans

On March 21, 2024, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revealed that it’s now providing disability compensation benefits to an unprecedented number of female Veterans. Currently, 702,557 women Veterans benefit from these services, marking a 26% increase from five years prior. These women, on average, possess a 68% combined disability rating and receive approximately $26,809 annually in compensation. Notably, 89.2% of female Veterans who apply for these benefits are successful, reflecting the VA’s commitment to this rapidly growing group within its care.

The surge in benefits and services for female Veterans is attributed to the PACT Act, significantly broadening health care and benefits for millions of Veterans exposed to various hazards during service. The VA’s focus on expanding access for female Veterans is part of a wider effort to ensure all Veterans receive the care and benefits they’ve rightfully earned.

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tanya Bradsher, the first female Veteran to hold the position, emphasized that the VA aims to eradicate past barriers to care and benefits for women Veterans. With record-breaking numbers as a starting point, the VA’s goal is clear: no rest until every woman Veteran turns to the VA for support.

Outreach

Efforts to reach out to female Veterans include hosting outreach events nationwide, encouraging them to apply for benefits through VA.gov or by calling 1-800-MYVA411. This outreach coincides with Women’s History Month, during which the VA’s regional offices are actively participating in 139 events focused on women Veterans. These initiatives have led to significant increases in women Veterans availing themselves of education benefits and securing well-paying jobs, with women Veterans receiving a disproportionate share of Post 9/11 education and Veteran Readiness and Employment benefits in 2023.

The last two years have seen substantial expansions in VA healthcare for women, including enhanced breast cancer screenings, reproductive health services, and maternity care coordination. The PACT Act has played a crucial role in increasing enrollments in VA healthcare among women Veterans. Moreover, the VA recently inaugurated its first Women Veterans Experience Action Center, aiding over 340 women Veterans. The VA, alongside the Department of Defense, is also initiating a Women’s Health Research collaborative to further women’s health research and care.

With designated Veteran Coordinators and Women Veterans Program Managers at every VA regional office and medical center, the VA ensures that female Veterans have dedicated support for their unique needs. The Women Veterans Call Center also offers personalized assistance, highlighting the VA’s comprehensive approach to servicing women Veterans.

For more details on VA disability benefits and women’s health care, visit the VA’s benefits website and the women’s health care page at https://www.womenshealth.va.gov/.

Read the original VA press release here.

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