Monday, April 19, 2010

Connecticut man's new website guides people with disabilities to discounts, money-saving programs

From The Hartford Courant in Connecticut:

After raising three children, David Squar and his wife were about to downsize and buy a smaller home.

Looking over the real estate contract, Squar noticed a question in "tiny type" asking whether the house was being purchased to accommodate a disabled person.

The answer was yes. Squar's wife has multiple sclerosis, and they planned to remodel their new home to make it wheelchair-accessible.

Checking the box, it turned out, saves the couple about $1,200 a year in property taxes.

Not even Squar, a longtime escrow agent, had been aware of the discount, which made him wonder if there were other discounts he had overlooked.

As a result of his research, Squar recently launched, which lists more than 30 types of discounts for the disabled in 50 states, including property tax relief, federal and state income tax disability deductions, and utility discounts. Members pay $25 a year per state for access to the information.

" Connecticut has some great programs," said Squar, a Los Angeles resident. "We felt we'd be doing really well if we could save $100 a month. At this point, we're saving about $1,600 a month."

One of the oldest free services in the U.S. is the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (pictured). Established in 1931, it's actually a network of libraries that includes the Connecticut State Library branch in Rocky Hill. It lends books and magazines in Braille and recorded format, and the necessary playback equipment, free, to any Connecticut adult or child who's can't read regular print because of a visual or physical disability. The free service is also available to anyone who's temporarily disabled, said Mary Minow, one of the library's reader advisers.

The Connecticut branch has a collection of more than 289,000 items. "We have a catalog that's comparable to a regular library," Minow said.

On a recent morning, Rosie Morline of Rocky Hill, a longtime patron and now a volunteer, inspected a stack of newly returned cassette tapes for damage.

"I discovered the library years ago through the Board of Education," said Morline, 55, who was accompanied by her guide dog, Adora. "If I meet someone who's been newly blinded, I will tell them about the library."

Materials are delivered and returned free of charge by the U.S. Postal Service.

"Many people have told us that, if not for this service, their lives would have been so much the poorer," Minow said.