Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Education is the Key to Success: Employment -- Part I

People with disabilities make up the largest minority in the United States as well as in the entire world. Anyone, at anytime, can become a part of the disability minority. However, people with disabilities are underrepresented and often unheard. Even though the way people with disabilities are perceived and treated has greatly improved throughout the past forty years, ableism still has a strong presence here in the United States; the best way to eliminate this poor treatment of people with disabilities is to eliminate ignorance through education.
One major area that still is a barrier to people with disabilities is acquiring a job. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, only 17.1 percent of people with disabilities were employed, while 64.6 percent of people without a disability had a job. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 12.5 percent; this contrasts with the unemployment rate for people without a disability which was only 5.9 percent. These statistics are drastically unacceptable and have not changed much over the years.

One of the things continuing to hold back the disabled community is the employer. An employer is not going to hire someone if they, the employer, believe the potential employee is going to be a liability or an extra expense. Many buildings are still not fully accessible or equipped with necessary adaptive equipment, making it potentially more expensive to hire someone with a disability than a person who is not disabled. If a person needs an accommodation to be successful at their job (i.e. a ramp to enter the building, an adaptive phone or computer), an employer is likely to look at this as an extra expense; businesses do not like extra expenses (who does?).
This is where education comes into play. Having the knowledge of what equipment and resources exist is important; having the connections to acquire accommodations without having to pay for them out of pocket is pertinent to the success of the disabled community. If a person with a disability is qualified, they should not be penalized for needing an accommodation to fulfill a job; no one should be denied employment that they can do simply due to ignorance or a lack of modifications. A person with a disability who is qualified for a job should have just as much of a chance of getting hired as anyone else applying for that same job. Accommodations should not subtract from a resume. 
Ableism and ignorance still have an unnerving amount of influence in the treatment of people with disabilities. With education in the workforce, we can begin to erase the misconceptions and poor treatment of people with disabilities. Society needs to know that people with disabilities are people, and should be treated as so. Hopefully one day the statistics will reflect the abilities of the "disabled" community.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Functional and Flattering: Jeans by Endless Ability

I ordered my first piece of adaptive clothing, and I am so glad that I did! I bought a pair of jeans from Endless Ability, and boy am I obsessed!

Endless Ability, an adaptive clothing company, was created by Chelsie Hill; she embraced her biggest insecurity -- her legs -- and started Endless Ability to supply people who use wheelchairs with an alternative to conventional jeans. And let me tell you, these jeans are amazing!

I have never found a pair of jeans that have fit me so well. First off, the legs are not loose around my stick-like legs; they are tight as skinny jeans should be. And unlike any other pair of skinny jeans I have owned, they are also super easy to pull up. The best part about these jeans is once they are pulled up, they stay up! I have always had an issue with pants slipping down when I slide back in my chair or transfer. I also love how the jeans were made with elastic-like material, which eases the putting on process without loosing the stylish, sleek look of the pant. The pockets are also situated higher than on a typical pair of jeans so that the wearer no longer has to sit on them (which can be uncomfortable/cause skin issues) and can actually use them. These jeans are so functional and comfortable, but yet still flattering and super cute.

I love my new jeans; they are my favorite pair of pants. Thank you, Chelsie Hill, for embracing your insecurity for the better by starting Endless Ability and inventing these fabulous jeans! I will for sure be investing in another pair in the future!

Kyann sitting in her manual chair wearing her jeans from Endless Ability 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Traveling in (Disguised) Style: Accessible Vehicle 411 -- Part II

When purchasing an accessible vehicle, financing is not the only thing that the consumer has to consider. Where to buy an accessible car is the first dilemma. Where to purchase an accessible vehicle is not like simply picking what brand of car you want to buy and then going to that dealer; the average dealer does not sell accessible vehicles. Up until recently, the consumer either had to go to a dealer that specifically converted and sold cars (which were and still are few and far between), or scroll through adds hoping to find that one accessible car nearby. These are still the two main ways to find an accessible vehicle, but now participating Honda dealerships and Costcos have begun to sell modified vehicles as well.

Another dilemma arrises when the consumer needs to get their converted car worked on. There are not many places that have the ability or willingness to work on the converted parts of the car. I was not informed of this until it was too late. When I purchased my van, we drove five hours to Kersey Mobility in Sumner, Washington, to what we thought was the closest modified vehicle dealership. We later found out there was a dealership, Absolute Mobility Center, in Woodinville, Washington, only two hours away. When I needed my van serviced, Absolute Mobility would not help me simply because I DID NOT BUY MY VAN THERE. They lost my business; I will never buy a vehicle from them.

We called the dealer in Woodinville because we needed the ramp repaired which required a certain part that only an accessible vehicle dealer is able to acquire. We called the dealer in Sumner, told them what we needed, they said they had the part, so we made an appointment. We drove all the to Sumner just to find out that that the dealer had given that part away the day before; someone else needed that part and they (the dealer) said that they were not guaranteed that we were going to show. We needed that part and we made an appointment; there was no reason for the dealer to assume that we would not show. What terrible customer service! They wasted our time and money, and showed us that they believed they did not need us, that we needed them. They lost our business as well.

My van is currently missing the front right fin (a fin that is only on converted vans), and the once automatic ramp is now manually operated. Both of these are easy fixes, but our family mechanic is not able to acquire either of the parts to fix our van; the companies that convert vans have monopolized these parts. We are stuck; the closest dealership will not service us, and even if we make an appointment at the dealership (from which we purchased our van), we could drive five hours just to be disappointed again. Fortunately, both of these fixes are not necessary; my van still gets me from place to place, and that is all that really matters.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Traveling in (Disguised) Style: Accessible Vehicle 411 -- Part I

Think of your dream car. What is it worth? Maybe $50,000.00, $60,000.00, or maybe even $70,000.00? Now imagine that you go to purchase this dream car and instead of that car, it is a minivan; a minivan that costs $60,000.00. This is what many people face when they wish to purchase an accessible vehicle.

The average accessible car tends to be $20,000.00 to $40,000.00 more than their non-accessible counterpart. On average, a new 2016 Honda Odyssey is going for $30,000.00, where an accessible 2016 Honda Odyssey is going for $66,000.00. This is almost the equivalent cost of a new Jaguar or Porsche! A new 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan rings up at about $26,000.00, while the modified version costs $45,000.00. This is about the same price as a new Audi.

Over the years, the types of cars converted has drastically increased which has broadened the choice available to the consumer. First there were the large passenger vans, then the minivans came onto the market. Now there are accessible cars that range from as small as the Kia Soul to as large as a Ford truck. There is even an SUV that is now on the market that is specifically designed as an accessible vehicle (no conversion needed): the MV-1. This new array of accessible cars has made it possible for the consumer to not have to sacrifice as much as their choice for accessibility.

As the types of accessible vehicles have increased, the ability to afford an accessible vehicle has increased as well; cars that cost less than a minivan before the conversion typically still cost less after the conversion. There is also the factor that more fuel efficient cars are also being made accessible which translates into a lower gas expense. However, this does not mean that there is a "cheap" accessible car; this is quite the contrary.

Vans are no longer the only type of accessible vehicles that cost twice as much as the regular counterpart. A new 2016 Kia Soul costs about $18,000.00, while the new 2016 accessible Kia Soul is $30,000.00. Yes, this is way less than a Honda Odyssey or even a Dodge Grand Caravan, not to mention the gas mileage, but there are the drawbacks of minimal seating and the fact that the consumer still has to spend almost twice as much for the same exact car.

The MV-1 is a little more expensive than the Kia Soul and as of now there are not any used MV-1s (it has not been on the market long enough for there to be any used cars). This SUV, has been designed as an accessible vehicle; it does not have a regular counterpart. The MV-1 costs about $31,000.00. This is also way cheaper than a minivan (with a similar number of seats and gas mileage). The MV-1 also has the perk of not being a converted vehicle; this means that the integrity of the vehicle is not diminished due to cutting the frame. When it comes to accessible vehicles, the MV-1 is relatively well priced, but to the average American household, $31,000.00 is still a pretty steep price for a car.

When purchasing an accessible vehicle, used is an option. However, why should the average consumer be forced to buy used when they could theoretically afford a new car? The consumer is forced to buy used simply because they cannot physically access a new -- but cheaper -- typical car. This means that when a person who is simply seeking mobility cannot afford a new converted car, they are stuck buying a used one (for typically the same price as a new non-converted car).

The ridiculous pricing of accessible vehicles does not end with the price itself, but continues with the financing. There are car loans, and then there are accessible loans; the loans that the bank gives out when they do not understand the cost of the car that the loan is for. Back in 2006 when my family purchased a used 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan, the cost totaled $20,000.00 more than the van itself was actually worth. To the bank, this did not compute. Instead of receiving a car loan with the typical interest of about four to five percent (at that time), we received a loan with the interest of 10.99 percent. Our other choice, in purchasing the used van, was to take a second mortgage on our house, and I know multiple families who have done this. If we were to have purchased a luxury item -- such as a camper, boat or plane -- we could have received an interest rate of just one percent. But, a $36,000.00 used minivan is not considered a luxury item (nor should it be).

Accessibility should not be treated as a luxury (and in this case, it is not even considered that), but a necessity. A necessity should not cost extra, and definitely should not cost as much as a Porsche. Modified vehicles need to be more affordable so they can be purchased by more who would like to do so. People who need an accessible vehicle, need it to get from point A to point B, that is it. An accessible vehicle is not for pleasure, it is not for status, it is simply for equal access and mobility. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Medical Supply Companies, Medicaid, and the Madness: And the Wheelchair Debacle Keeps on Spinning

It has been a while since I have written, but that does not mean nothing has been happening. To recap what was going on the last time I wrote, Redman, the company from which I purchased my power chair, claimed that my insurance did not pay them the complete amount that my chair was worth. Since then, I have been told by my insurance company that they did pay what they said they would. I was told that it had to do with Redman being out of network.

To my understanding (per Redman's information), Redman was considered in network. When any company is in network with an insurance company, the insurance company has to pay one price; however, when a company is out of network with the insurance company, the insurance company can pay a completely different price -- usually lower or not at all -- than if the said company was in network. Upon receiving the information that Redman was considered out of network with my insurance, I filed an appeal to my insurance company to pay the price Redman desires. That appeal has been denied, and I am now in the process of filing a second appeal.

So who is telling the truth? I have no idea. I do not know who or what to believe. All I know is that the cost of my power chair could still fall on my shoulders, that me continuing to have my power chair continues to be in jeopardy. This also indicates that my insurance does not really care about the wellbeing of their members, and Redman is not so different from other companies that sell wheelchairs after all.

To anyone purchasing a wheelchair (or any piece of medical equipment) through an insurance company, make sure you know the wheelchair supplier is in network with your insurance. It will be one less headache that you will have to deal with during this crazy process. This means you cannot take the medical supply company at their word, you must talk with your insurance company as well. I trusted the supplier, like I had the four times I purchased a power chair before, and for that I was stung.

Just once, I would love to be able to order a chair hassle free, receive my chair in a timely manner, have it be exactly what I ordered, and then not have to worry about anything post delivery (minus the upkeep). Just once. That's all I ask.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Medical Supply Companies, Medicaid, and the Madness: A Continuation of the Wheelchair Debacle

Yesterday, I received two phone calls, one regarding my old power chair, one regarding the new.

The first call entailed my dotor's office explaining that the medical supply company (MSC), Bellevue Healthcare (BH), asked for a prescription for the second joystick that they ordered for my old chair. This is absolutely ridiculous as my doctor had already written a prescription for the first joystick that BH had ordered to fix my chair. BH ordered the wrong joystick, and then had to order the correct joystick. Yes, they did order two joysticks, but the second should be on them. BH should not be allowed to ask for a second prescription. With a second prescription, BH will be able to bill my insurance -- a second time -- to cover the cost of their mistake; they were already paid for the first. This means that my doctor has to take the time to write and send a second prescription. This also means that my insurace is possibly going to double pay for BH's mistake, but it is possible that they will not. I already have my new chair, so why should they be obligated to fulfill the  cost of a joystick for an old chair, definitely if they already recently paid for one. Furthermore, this means that BH could demand that my joystick -- the second one that they had to order due to their mistake -- be paid for. I do not wish to be stuck with the bill, and if I just do not pay it, my credit could be on the line. BH made the mistake of ordering the wrong joystick; they should not be able to place the burden on my insurance nor myself; they should have to eat the cost.

The second call came from Redman, the wheelchair company from which I purchased my new power chair. Redman called to inform me that my insurance company did not pay anything close to what they said they would. My chair was preapproved. This means my insurance agreed to the cost of my chair even before it was ordered. Even though Redman gave my insurance an insanely high quote, my insurance agreed to pay the price and they should follow through with their agreement. Redman, like any other business, wants to be paid in full, especially because they were already told they would be. Just like I do not want to be stuck with the bill for the second joystick (on my old chair), I really do not want to get stuck with the bill for my new power chair. And unlike the joystick, I cannot afford to pay for the cost of this chair. This is why I have insurance!

Both Medicaid and my private insurance have thrown wrenches in the process of obtaining a working power chair, and now continue to make waves even after I have received both my "fixed" and new chairs. I thought the long process was over; I was wrong. Yes, I have a working chair, but knowing companies are continuing to take advantage of the consumer is concerning. These are issues that should not have to be dealt with, but as long as these problems are here, I might as well continue to rock the boat.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Progress Takes Time: Making the World More Accessible One Step at A Time

A couple weeks back, the parking lot of the building that Max Higbee (where I interned) rents was paved. All of the lines were repainted -- except the diagonal lines that indicate the access isle that is to accompany the accessible parking spot. Without the access isle, the "accessible" spot is no longer accessible to many who need that space to exit and enter their car. The international access symbol was repainted in the spot; however, this parking spot -- even with the international access symbol painted on the ground -- was not legally an accessible spot as the sign that is supposed to be at the front of the spot was missing. The line-lacking access isle was also blocked by a bike rack. The access isle was not intended to be a parking spot for bikes.  

The accessible parking spot in the parking lot at Max Higbee Center.The parking lot has recently been repaved, but the sign at the front of the spot (indicating that it is an accessible spot) and the diagonal lines (indicating the access isle) are both missing. There is also a bike rack in the supposed access isle.  

I acquired the e-mail address of Max Higbee Center's landlord. I first introduced myself, and then stated my case. In my e-mail I wrote,

"I noticed that the parking lot in front of Max Higbee and behind the Upfront has recently been paved. The handicap accessible spot caught my attention in that the access isle is no longer indicated with diagonal white stripes. I saw that the lines indicating the parking spots have already been repainted. Has it been planned for the diagonal white stripes to be repainted as well? 

I also have noticed that the bike rack sits partially in the access isle. This does not leave an adequate amount of space for someone who needs the access isle to exit and enter their car. 

Another technicality with the handicap parking spot is that even though the international access symbol has been repainted in the spot, the spot is not legally an accessible spot as it does not have the sign at the front indicating that it is an accessible spot. There is a for lease sign in about the place that the handicap parking sign should be."

The next day, I received a politically correct response of, "I'll look into it." Two weeks went by, and nothing had progressed any further. I asked my advisor to please check the progress of completing the accessible spot. She did. 

A total of (only) three weeks have now passed. I am thrilled to announce that the indicating sign has been rehung on the wall at the front of the accessible spot, and the bike rack has been moved. The diagonal lines have yet to be repainted, but progress has been made. Today, as I was leaving Max Higbee, there was a vehicle parked in the space where the diagonal lines are meant to be, but without that indication, how was the driver to know? This just shows that the lines are there for a reason, and in time, will be painted once again (hopefully without much more pursuit). 

Small steps over time will lead to large progress in the long run.