By Brenda Henige, Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF) Coordinator, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Michigan staff
There are so many types of assistive technology, or AT, available today, which improve the daily functioning, quality of life, and independence of individuals with disabilities. One example of AT is a modified vehicle. Residents of Michigan who have a disability or their family members can apply to borrow money from the Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF) to obtain needed equipment or tools (assistive technology or AT), modified vehicles or modifications to a vehicle, or home modifications for accessibility through this program. A person can apply to borrow funds to modify his or her own vehicle or apply to borrow monies for a new or used modified vehicle. For such a purchase, it is common for applicants to seek financial assistance through other means such as grants. A wealth of information and resources may be found in the blog article, Funding Your Accessible Vehicle by Laura Hall, as well as in other areas of Michigan’s Assistive Technology Program (MATP) on the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition website.
For the MATLF program, an individual must have enough money in his or her monthly budget to repay the loan, be creditworthy, and have a reasonable debt to income ratio. An individual may apply to borrow up to $30,000 and there is no minimum amount required to borrow since modified vehicles may cost much less than the maximum allowed. The length of the loan will depend on factors such as the total amount borrowed and the expected useful life of the modified vehicle or other assistive technology. An applicant can request a pre-approval amount for a modified vehicle or can submit a price quote for a specific modified vehicle or modification.
Here are two situations where a loan from the MATLF program assisted individuals with purchasing modified vehicles to illustrate how obtaining a modified vehicle may impact a person’s life:
A woman sought a loan to purchase a modified vehicle which would allow her to obtain a van with a wheelchair ramp, for her electric wheelchair. She has a lot of back, leg, and nerve issues, and her husband has cerebral palsy, and he could not help her in getting into the vehicle and getting her manual wheelchair out of the vehicle was difficult for him. She said that this is the first time that she needed a modified vehicle, and She commented that she is “part of the world again”,” saying she was able to go to a White Caps minor league baseball game, which was the first time in six years since she was able to go to one. She said that using MATLF to purchase a modified vehicle changed her life in many ways. She also said that she regained her social life, and was not lying in bed forever anymore, and became able to go out to accomplish her own shopping, explaining that she is now able to shop for her own personal items like clothing. She stated that the loan application process was pretty easy, and complimented UCP of Michigan’s website, for its overview of what information is needed, the loan application process, and outlining how long it should take, that the information was straightforward. She worked with Clock Mobility, who she said was aware of our application process and time requirements, they told her about us, and she selected a vehicle. She made sure it would meet her needs, and ensured that she would be able to get in and out of it on her own.
Another individual applied for pre-approval of $10,000, for a loan to purchase a used modified vehicle due to having inclusion body myositis and its limitations. He needed a van with a ramp. He had some medical debt and was working to repay it. He got behind due to his medical problems. He determined an amount he could afford to borrow for a modified vehicle and for the associated monthly loan payment, allowing money in his budget for auto insurance and unexpected expenses. He was approved and began shopping for a modified vehicle. He thought he found a modified vehicle to use the loan for, but when he tried getting into and out of the vehicle, it did not work for him because the ramp was rated for less weight than what his wheelchair and he weighed together. This highlights the importance of making sure that the vehicle’s modifications will serve the individual’s needs. The next vehicle he found worked for him and it cost around $5,000, and he said that it is easy to get in and out of. With this vehicle, his wife is able to transport him both short and long distances, for daily activities and medical specialists that are in locations around the state.
When shopping for a modified vehicle, Make sure that you try out potential vehicles and modifications to ensure that they are suitable for your needs. There are a variety of types of modifications, including lifts, ramps, and hand controls – and they have various features and limitations and purposes. MATP has a recorded webinar about modified vehicles: Customize Your Ride!
Borrowing money through an MATLF loan enables individuals to acquire needed assistive technology, including modified vehicles, which really can positively impact their daily life. Please contact me for more information on the loan program and the application process at 517-203-1200, ext. 303 or at 1-800-828-2714, ext. 303. You may also view loan fund information by going to our website.