Advocacy Help for AT


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP

There are a couple options to help you advocate for your needs for assistive technology (AT) or durable medical equipment (DME) in Michigan.

If you have a MI Health Link Plan (a combination of Medicare and Medicaid) the MI Health Link Ombudsman Program is here to help you access the DME you need if you have been denied coverage or are having trouble getting what you need. Call them directly—lawyers answer all the calls and are ready to help—at 888-746-6456.

If you need help getting AT or DME through your school system, community mental health, Medicare, Medicaid, or Michigan Rehabilitation Services (if employment related), contact Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services’ AT team at 800-288-5923.

The following is from Justice In Aging—please share your stories about trouble getting durable medical equipment (DME) from Medicare and Medicaid. Also share your ideas on fixing the access problems. The deadline is August 23.

Consumers with both Medicare and Medicaid face recurring problems getting approval for Durable Medical Equipment (DME), getting repairs, and finding reliable suppliers. DME includes many vital items, such as wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds, home oxygen equipment, and even diabetes test strips used with a glucose monitor. After dialogue with advocates about these problems, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued a Request for Information seeking more information about problems accessing these vital forms of equipment.

This is a very important opportunity to tell CMS what isn’t working and to improve access to DME. Please consider commenting and share this opportunity with others, both advocates and consumers, who can provide input to CMS.

The deadline for comments is August 23.

CMS noted some of the obstacles facing dual eligibles in getting access to DME including:

  • Conflicting DME approval processes for Medicare and Medicaid
  • DME access problems for people who have Medicaid first and then become eligible for Medicare
  • Getting coverage for repairs, particularly getting Medicare coverage for an item originally obtained through Medicaid
  • Differences between Medicare and Medicaid approved suppliers (many providers are approved for one program, but not the other)

The agency asked for examples of these problems, as well as suggestions for legislative and administrative measures that could remedy the issue.

The full list of CMS questions is here. It is very open-ended. We hope that policy advocates will talk about trends they see and specific policy changes that would help. We also hope that consumers who can recount first hand problems will respond (but since comments are public – please don’t include personal information such as a Medicare number).

File your comments on Directions on how to file are found here. It is simple. Comments can be short or long and do not need to be formal.

Please take advantage of this chance to help make DME more accessible to dual eligible beneficiaries!


Jaylen: A small changes, Big Differences Success Story


Jaylen holding the Wake Assure vibrating alarm clockMeet Jaylen: 17-years old, 2016 graduate of Southwestern Academy, attending Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. this summer majoring in management and marketing, future Gallaudet Bison baseball player, and he’s Deaf. In a society where people like to attach labels and stereotypes, Jaylen has many labels – each label shapes him, but no single one defines him. He visited The Disability Network to meet with Carrie Baugher, Assistive Technology Professional, to try out a variety of items that could benefit him while away at college from the Michigan Assistive Technology Program’s “small changes, Big Differences” kit. Classes will no longer be at 7:25 a.m. Monday through Friday like his high school classes. His class schedule will change throughout the day. A barrier existed in alerting him in waking up in the morning and alerting him throughout the day when he needs to go to class. The solution? Jaylen will use a vibrating alarm clock to wake up each morning and use the alarm clock’s strobe light adaptation during the afternoon to alert him when he needs to leave for class. Obstacles? Pfft. There are zero obstacles that can’t be overcome. Everything is achievable – ask Jaylen!

In need of assistive technology?  Would you like to see how a device works before you buy?  Check out our device demonstrations.



Surprising Things you May Not Know About Owning an Accessible Vehicle


by MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Laura in the driver's seat of her accessible v

Owning an accessible vehicle has afforded me a freedom I’ve never experienced before, even though I am still learning to drive.  Merely being a passenger in a vehicle that accommodates my powerchair has given me better access to healthcare, enabled me to perform my job duties more effectively, and allowed me to see parts of the country and do things I never thought possible.  I recognized that I am fortunate to have found a way to fund an accessible vehicle, as they can exceed $60,000 or more depending on the type of equipment needed. This leads me to my first surprising aspect of owning an accessible vehicle:

  1. There are no “van grants”, but there are resources to help.  The Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) receives several calls a week from people asking where to find a grant for fund an accessible vehicle.  Unfortunately, there are not any grants that will fund the entire vehicle, but there are many resources that can help you to offset or manage the cost of an accessible vehicle.  For more on this, check out my blog “Funding your Accessible Vehicle”
  2. The cost of an accessible vehicle can be a write off on your taxes.  The IRS allows you to deduct qualified medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income for the year. Your adjusted gross income (AGI) is your taxable income minus any adjustments to income such as deductions, contributions to a traditional IRA and student loan interest.  If you have a disability or a dependent with a disability, an accessible vehicle is certainly a qualified medical expense.
  3. Free Parking square from Monopoly board game Reduced Registration Fees and Free Parking.  The Michigan Secretary of State offers reduced registration fees for….”a van owned by a wheelchair user or by a person who transports a member of his or her household who uses a wheelchair is eligible for a 50 percent reduction in the standard annual registration fee (additional service fees, such as those for personalizing the plate or for purchasing and renewing a fundraising version, are excluded from the discount). The van is not required to have wheelchair lift equipment. It can be a full-size window van, such as a Ford Econoline or Chevy Express, or a minivan, such as a Dodge Caravan or Toyota Sienna”.  You may also be able to obtain a yellow sticker that entitles you to free parking at meters, in parking lots/garages, etc. if your disability prevents you from accessing meters and toll booths.  To qualify, the person with a disability must be a licensed driver and a physician must complete part 3 on the application for a disability parking placard or disability parking plate
  4. Guidosystem's Electric Over Ring Accelerator allows both hands to remain on the wheel

    Guidosystem’s Electric Over Ring Accelerator allows both hands to remain on the wheel

    A wide range of assistive technology is available to enable a person to drive. Advances in adaptive driving technology enable people with even very limited movement ability to drive independently.   Adaptive driving equipment goes far beyond just controlling the vehicle but also includes safety restraint systems, transfer seating systems, and auxiliary (wipers, turn signals, etc) controls.  An assessment by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) is the best way to ensure you’re getting the equipment that best meets your needs.  A CDRS will evaluate your abilities on and off the road and make recommendations based on your individual needs.  Some CDRS’ also provide driver’s training and act as a third party road tester for the State of Michigan.

Want more information on accessible vehicles?  Check out our “Customize Your Ride” webinar on the topic!


Retirement Musings


By MATP Staff Member Cathy McAdam

Thank you MDRC!

As I finalize my retirement plans, I want to thank MDRC for the growth and changes assistive technology (AT) has made in my personal and professional life. I first became acquainted with MDRC as a member of the Wayne county Assistive Technology Council, advocating for increased awareness and active promotion for the use of AT for the people we served at the Rehabilitation institute of Michigan (RIM). I remember being showed how a computer program could help with hands free dialing of a phone, turning on lights and other cool ways to control your environment if you couldn’t do it manually.

An AT Skeptic

In the early 90’s I was dabbling with computers and software for blind users (with DOS), but found it frustrating, and didn’t think it was something I needed to do my job. (I was using a type writer, and had a live in person reader, to manage charts, and a Dictaphone to write reports.) However, Being part of a group learning about innovations in assistive technology got me thinking and increasingly curious about options for myself as well as my clients.

history of assistive technology for the blind

Changing Views

The council began looking at full access to our local library.   We started with physical access, and later worked to increased awareness of the need for computer access across disabilities. I had by this time, 1999, started a small business, and along with a former RIM colleague approached MDRC to assist us in furthering full access to library services.

This project helped me appreciate the value of real system change in maintaining and promoting ongoing use of assistive technology.  Two of the libraries we worked with continue to offer introductory training for computer use for the blind/low vision trainers. And, several of the volunteer tutors from that project, now, have professional jobs in this field.

AT Immersion

As for me, I immersed myself in learning how to use a computer and the software then available for “windows”, as I now needed to manage daily correspondences, write tutorials, grant applications, and workshop curriculum. Emailing correspondence was no longer a luxury. (Now I could send drafts to my secretary who prettied them up and sent them back by email!)  I spoke frequently of the power of AT when presenting career development workshops for college students with disabilities, as I better appreciated the potential AT had in gaining and maintaining a job.

Later, returning to MDRC based on several focus groups we began looking at issues for communication across disabilities, particularly in emergency situations. Coordinating a kit of products for demonstrations in this area as well as a low vision kit of products has taught me a great deal.

Keeping up with the growth of technologies over the last 17 years of my small business and part time work with MDRC has been fun, challenging, and definitely rewarding. In the 90’s I used the Kurzweil reading machine, now an app on my phone, to scan and read typed materials.

Along with a desktop computer, I use a bluetooth key board to work with an iPod, and a braille display helps me with detailed information for “hands on” reviews.

I think as I approach my 70th year, I’ve joined the computer geeks! Now I get to retire and play with many of the new items, apps, and always changing computer software. I’ll have time to put a music library together, save some of those old/treasured tape recordings to a digital format, read books with electronic braille while listening to my new fountain in the background, and maybe do some more writing!