Monthly Archives: October 2015

Accessories are Necessities – Action Alert


I am passing along the following action alert from the Dana and Christpher Reeve Foundation. This is an important issue which could impact people who use Medicare to fund wheelchairs. Accessories to wheelchairs aren’t “extras”, they are vital. Limiting access to appropriate equipment creates health issues, limits freedom, and in the end, costs more money.

Action Alert: A Message from the Dana & Christopher Reeve Foundation – Help Protect Access to Complex Rehabilitation Technology!

Background: Complex Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) includes the complex and individually configured wheelchairs and equipment used by people with paralysis and other mobility impairments. Unfortunately, CRT is provided under the Durable Medical Equipment benefit in Medicare. This has historically created problems, including rules that the equipment could only be useful “in the home,” and that CRT is not available to people transitioning from nursing facilities back home.

This problem got worse with the creation of the competitive bidding program. While Congress exempted CRT power chairs from the program, they did not exempt CRT manual chairs. The federal Medicare office has also expanded the program several times. Implementation of competitive bidding has already caused problems across the nation with access to CRT and appropriate chairs.back of person's head supported by wheelchair headrest

Most recently, Medicare announced that they would include in competitive bidding all “accessories” of manual and power chairs. This includes seating systems, head rests, tilt and lift, and more. This will take effect January 1, 2016. This change will exacerbate existing problems and further limit access to appropriate equipment.

Current Action: Disability advocates – including the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, working closely with NCIL, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Spinal Association, and the CRT providers in the National Coalition for Assistive Rehab Technology (NCART) – are working to address this problem with a two-pronged approach.

The Ensuring Access to Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act (H.R. 1516 / S. 1013) was introduced by Representatives Crowley (D-NY) and Sensenbrenner (R-WY) in the House and Senators Cochran (R-MS) and Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate. It would not only end competitive bidding for CRT, but would remove CRT from durable medical equipment entirely and end the “in the home” restriction. It would create a new benefit in Medicare for CRT with quality controls and a new, independent pricing system based on ensuring access.

H.R. 3229 – is a much smaller bill introduced by Representative Zeldin (R-NY) that would only solve the competitive bidding program. We are hoping to pass H.R. 3229 by January 1 to keep the problem from getting worse, then work on passing the larger bill.

Advocacy Campaign: We are launching an advocacy campaign to get more members of Congress to commit to supporting this bill. We worked with a company called Postcard that create a platform to where advocates can upload pictures, write messages, and create physical postcards to share the importance of CRT with Congress. Make your own postcard showing the importance of your chair, especially the “accessories” that are really necessities!


Costumes, Candy and Assistive Technology


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

I’ve been looking forward to this blog for weeks.  It’s becoming a bit of an annual event for the Michigan Assistive Technology Program, as we celebrate children (and the ingenius adults) who let their AT pride shine and incorporate their mobility equipment into their halloween costumes.  Check out last year’s blog “Trick or Treat and AT Fun!”  It seems as though every year the costumes get better, and more people are picking up on the idea.

Two young boys in dragon costumes that surround their wheelchairsIn fact, one family even started a non-profit, Magic Wheelchair , to provide memorable Halloween costumes for kids with disabilities.  With the help of volunteers and creative artists, they create dream costumes like Toothless from the DreamWorks film “How to Train Your Dragon”.

Some other favorite finds this year include: the flower garden, the bulldozer, and the the magic carpet ride.

a girl dressed as a princess lays upright in a bed of blue skies and clouds on a platform attached to her wheelchair resembling a magic carpet ride

Smiling girl in a wheelchair at the center of a square flower garden that surrounds her bodyA bulldozer with different attachments on a boy's wheelchair, he sits in the wheelchair with a hardhat and pumpkin bucket





We’ve come a long way from my childhood days when I covered myself and my wheelchair in a sheet and dressed as a ghost.

Remember, their are other ways to make Halloween fun and inclusive for everyone. If going door to door is a problem, check for events in your community that provide actvities and trick-or treating all in one place (and sometimes indoors).  For example, in Lansing, the Capital Area Center for Independent Living is holding their “Creepy, Crawly Haunted Hallways” event on October 29 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm (call 517-999-2760 for more details).

We wish you a safe, (hopefully) warm, and AT-filled Halloween!


Stickshifts and Safety Belts


Aimee Sterk headshotBy Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

My relationship with my husband had it roots in cars. Stickshifts and Safetybelts was our dating theme song. We spent a lot of time in our cars–he lived 45 minutes away–and we liked to go on drives together. We very much appreciated his bench-seated (though also stick-shifted) Ford Ranger.

Then, in the last two weeks, we’ve both decided to buy new vehicles. With almost a half a million combined miles, our cars were ready for retirement.

As I sat through the not-always-enjoyable process of negotiating a price on the vehicle I want (and finally at a dealer I liked), I thought about assistive technology (AT) I use in my car and other AT devices for cars.

Michele Seybert of United Cerebral Palsy Michigan, did a great, extensive, webinar for us on vehicle modifications, but I’m thinking more of  easy-to-install modifications for people that need AT to help them drive and get in and out of the car. Michele briefly covered some of these items in her webinar as well.

The Handybar is a sturdy handle with a downward pointing beak that extends about 4 inches. It fits snuggly into the U shaped metal piece in the car door frame that the lock engages with. When the door is opened, the device wedges into this closed U shape metal piece, providing a stable, strong handle from which to push yourself to a standing position.a man getting out of the car using the handybar

close up of a handybar

I frequently demonstrate the swivel seat which is a round cushion on a lazy susan bearing that helps people swing their feet in and out of the car (sometimes a plastic grocery bag can do the trick for this too).swivel seat

At a recent presentation, a woman said she keeps long kitchen tongs in her car so she can reach things on the other side of the car or things she has dropped.long handled kitchen tongs with silicone grips and pinchers

I use a Bucky in my car to help support my lower back which helps my chronic upper back pain. It is a buckwheat filled lumbar pillow.a man sitting behind the wheel of a car with a Bucky pillow peaking out from behind his back

One of our demonstrations sites, Disability Network West Michigan, in Muskegon, recently worked with a person that needed an extended seat belt so she could fit her seatbelt around her body safely and comfortably. Karen, the AT person at Disability Network, was told that extended seatbelts are illegal. They did some checking with the local police and this is not the case. She also learned that you don’t have to purchase the extenders made by the car manufacturer. There are other options online that are much more affordable.extended seat belt

Several years ago, my friend Carolyn shared with me that some vehicle manufacturers were selling people expensive key turning aids. People with hand-strength disabilities, especially arthritis, have a hard time with the pinching and turning motion required to turn on some cars (some cars now turn on with a button). There are far more affordable alternatives to the vehicle manufacturer devices called key turners. They give a bigger handle to grip and provide leverage.a key turner with two keys in it. One is folded back toward the grip for storage, the other is extended for use

My new car, a Toyota RAV4, will have Bluetooth capacity to allow me to use my phone hands-free. This will help my upper back pain as well as provide better safety while driving. The RAV4 is also easier to get into and out of than my old car, a Honda Civic–I’m really looking forward to my new ride!

What devices help you to drive or ride in a car? What works well for you? What has not worked?




By MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdam

This blog is supposed to be about AT, and you will find some AT info sprinkled in and you’ll be reading about baseball; it’s not a blog about baseball. It’s really a blog about attitudes, perceptions and biases.

Even before learning about adaptive technology I’ve been a big baseball fan.  ATbat app logoI’ll start by telling you that the AtBat app is very accessible for those of us who love the game of baseball! Also, Toronto actually carries sports that are often video described, an interest for the American team play offs!

So what’s this about bias? Have you heard of Jessica Mendosa? I was thrilled to hear thishead shot of Jessica woman announcer broadcasting one of the wild card games on TV: ESPN. Using my accessible twitter program, the qube accessible twitter, I found this article about Jessica Mendoza.

I first heard Suzyn Waldman, on a radio broadcast of a Yankee’s game, but hearing women announcers for baseball is indeed a rare occurrence.

Sadly, I was shocked at the bias against woman announcers while others, especially the women noted in this article, understood the ground breaking stance they took and proudly moved forward.

Doc Andrews, “a little person”, said he broke into sports announcing on the radio where he wasn’t “seen” then, after a long radio career, he was able to move on to TV. In Jessica’s case, bias rose up from what was heard, or maybe not heard, as her words were blocked out by bias.

If we can’t even have a woman accepted as the capable commentator she is, how do we breach the disability biases still prevalent today? Doc Andrews and Jesica might say, one person at a time!

So maybe my take away is that all the best assistive technology only starts a process. We must be open to see and hear beyond gender disabilities and so many other differences, weather using assistive technology or not.

So, sports fans, what do you think?