Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Clay Freeman, who fought for better pay for personal attendants, dies

From New Mobility magazine, which named Clay Freeman its Person of the Year for 2008. Here's a post from June 2008 about his fight to raise the pay of personal attendants.

Clay Teckmeyer “Tecky” Freeman, whose struggle with the state of Oregon over PCA issues earned him recognition as New Mobility’s 2008 Person of the Year, passed away suddenly Feb. 1. He was 34.

Born in McMinnville, Ore., Freeman was injured at age 22 in a diving accident, sustaining a high-level spinal cord injury that left him vent-dependent and requiring 24-hour personal care.

Despite his injury, he moved into his own apartment and began pursuing a university degree. As the costs of his personal care mounted, however, it became more difficult for him to hire and keep quality PCAs. He spent years fighting the state over providing adequate funds for them. Eventually, his case attracted the attention of Philadelphia-based disability rights attorney Steve Gold.

“Clay was a fighter who appeared numerous times before state agencies to argue for increased salaries for his PCAs,” says Gold. On Sept. 29, 2008, Freeman reached a settlement with Oregon’s Department of Health Services that is considered a landmark for access to state-funded PCA services by vent users and others with severe disabilities.

“I’m convinced there will be half a dozen cases all over the U.S. just like Clay Freeman’s,” says Gold.