Monday, May 19, 2008

Long delays in wheelchair repairs trap disabled people

Paula Wolff

The NY Daily News did an important story May 18 with its focus on the problems people who use wheelchairs face when needed repairs to those wheelchairs can sometimes take several months, or even a year.

Paula Wolff, 55, who is legally blind and has neurological ailments, explained: "It's not like with a car, you call AAA and they come and fix it!

"There continues to be issues with getting parts, getting repairs," said Wolff, who is the direct services supervisor for the NY Center for Independence of the Disabled.

The Daily News reported that Wolff "has been waiting nine months for her chair to be repaired using private insurance. She's getting around with a rickety backup she bought five years ago, which has only one foot rest and is held together in part with duct tape."

Disability advocates say "there are still major delays despite attempts to streamline the state's once-abysmal office for Medicaid equipment claims."

"I can't even begin to tell you how many people have waited for months or a year because of delays in this process," said Ellen McHugh, lead coordinator for Parent to Parent of New York State, an advocacy group for disabled children. "It's still a desperate mess."

The one bad thing about this important story -- they used the inaccurate term "wheelchair-bound" in the headline.