Headlines — Colorful Wheelchairs; Aid For Medical Bills

Circa 2008


Move into the fast lane in a wheelchair with arresting colors and improved strength. Made of an advanced composite material, they’re available in Cobalt Blue, Razor Red, Triton Yellow and Pearl White. The new collection, called the Spartech X-CORE SX, also has stronger ribs inside each spoke and aircraftgrade aluminum hubs for better performance.

“The wheelchair is an important part of a user’s life, and we are providing them with the most vibrant and lively colors for greater overall visual impact and individuality,” said Spartech Sales Engineer, Jon Mason.

Though wheelchairs have been available in colors for some time now, it’s usually added after-market through painting. Conversely, Spartech’s colors are molded in to deliver a brilliance that resists scratches, weather and general wear and tear.

Nick Hambrick, co-owner of New Solutions, a wheelchair parts distributor in San Bernardino, CA, noted that “Spartech is taking a monumental step forward in helping the end customer personalize their wheelchair.”

Spartech X-CORE SX’s three-spoke wheels have been re-engineered with four key performance enhancements. The brand’s patented manufacturing process allows engineers to optimize the product’s shock-absorbing qualities, which controls both vertical stiffness (ride comfort) and lateral stiffness (handling and cornering). Each spoke is strengthened with an internal rib inside the spoke. Aircraft-quality aluminum hubs sealed with advanced epoxy make for greater security.

These stylish wheels are available worldwide from both Spartech and other distributors; the Pearl White option is available for a limited time from distributor New Solutions.


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In the midst of a tightening economy and high prices for food and gas, the national non-profit HealthWell Foundation announced that it has awarded financial help to the largest number of underinsured patients in any one month since it was founded. In fact, the numbers for recent months have been the highest in the foundation’s history. During Spring 2008, HealthWell awarded grants to more than 3,200 patients in one month, 3,300 the next month, and 3,377 the month following that one. The organization was on track to aid more than 30,000 patients in 2008 with money needed to pay for crucial treatments.

“There are far too many underinsured Americans who struggle to meet their out-of-pocket treatment expenses,” said Lisa Wack, HealthWell’s executive director. “But we are pleased that we are here to assist as many in need as we can. We have provided assistance to tens of thousands of people, and we are grateful to the generous donors who have made it possible.”

Based in Gaithersburg, MD, HealthWell Foundation is an independent charitable organization that provides financial support to patients who have some medical coverage, but still have difficulty making medical ends meet. Since it was established, HealthWell has given grants to more than 50,000 underinsured individuals who face a variety of life-threatening and life-altering illnesses.

Recently, soaring food and fuel costs have added to working families’ already weighty financial loads. According to a 2007 WageWorks study, even working Americans with health insurance defer medical visits and cut back on prescriptions to manage rising costs. Nearly one-quarter of survey respondents who had employee-sponsored health insurance, said that they had cut back on prescription medicine in the previous year because of cost.

High out-of-pocket expenses are especially problematic for underinsured Americans who have a serious or chronic disease. Many of them rely on prescription drugs to control their conditions, but are forced to choose whether to pay for crucial treatment or other necessities such as rent, groceries or utility bills. HealthWell assists these patients who are squeezed in the middle: Not poor enough to qualify for most assistance programs, but not wealthy enough to cover the expenses themselves.

HealthWell is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit association that provides financial assistance to cover prescription drug coinsurance costs, co-payments and deductibles, health insurance premiums and other select out-of-pocket healthcare costs. The foundation factors in individual financial, medical and insurance situations when determining eligibility.


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A school and the legendary architect who designed it will share a prestigious accessible architecture and design award. The Indian Community School of Milwaukee and Antoine Predock, FAIA, are the 2008 recipients of the Barrier-Free America Award, presented by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).

“All-access is good for all people, and the Indian Community School of Milwaukee is an inspiring example of this principle in practice,” said Randy L. Pleva, Sr., who is national president of the PVA. “Through their hard work, architects and their clients can play an extremely important role in removing the barriers that people with disabilities face everywhere, every day—an advance that improves everyone’s quality of life.”

The award acknowledges and promotes leadership, innovation and action in the architectural and design communities. This year’s winning design is noteworthy for the following reasons:

• Access was a core value in the design of the school from the beginning.

• Accessible features are seamlessly integrated into the school design. For example, the building follows the rolling landscape. Where floor level changes occur, special connecting nodes with ramps, illuminated by daylight, are used as gathering areas, places for storytelling, and small teaching spaces.

• Accessible movement is paramount throughout the school, both vertically and horizontally, with stairs and elevator circulation routes that are inclusive and balanced, and wider corridors and main areas that amply accommodate groups of people with disabilities.

World-renowned architect Antoine Predock, FAIA, is known for projects that range from the famed Turtle Creek House, built in 1993 for bird enthusiasts along a prehistoric trail in Texas, and the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, to a new ballpark for the San Diego Padres that gives one a feeling more of a garden than a sports complex.

The Indian Community School of Milwaukee (ICS), privately owned and operated, is an urban, inter-tribal school educating American Indian children from kindergarten through 8th grade. Serving the Indian community of metro Milwaukee for more than 30 years, ICS has provided a unique learning experience. American Indian spirituality, languages, ceremonies, cultural identity and pride are major components of the children’s education. The school serves 309 children from 12 different tribes.

Previous recipients of the award include: Cesar Pelli for his accessible design of Washington, DC’s Ronald Reagan National Airport; Bob Vila for educating the public about the importance of accessible design solutions through his television show; and Marca Bristo, president and CEO of Access Living for the organization’s Chicago-based headquarters. Everyone can play a role in creating a barrier-free America.

“Encourage the architects and designers in your community to imagine how a person with disabilities will experience the buildings and spaces they have in mind.” Mr. Pleva urged. “This heightened sense of awareness and empathy will not only improve the quality of buildings and spaces for people with disabilities, but for everyone.”



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Most consumers are just now becoming aware of the mandated transition from analog to digital broadcasting scheduled for February of 2009, and how it will affect the TV viewing that they rely on daily. Blind or deaf consumers who purchase digital TV sets, and subscribe to cable, satellite or fiber-optic TV services have expressed frustration with set-up, reception and compatibility problems regarding access services (captioning and video description), few of which are understood or even documented by manufacturers and retailers.

In addition, people who want to continue receiving free over-the-air broadcasts using their analog sets and an antenna,must purchase a set-top converter box to do so, while figuring out how to make captions and descriptions work for them. The WGBH-Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) previously published an overview of problems confronting deaf or hard-of-hearing people trying to access captions via digitical television (DTV) or through a converter box. More information on the transition can be found on NCAM’s website listed below.

NCAM is part of the Media Access Group at WGBH, which also includes The Caption Center, established in 1972, and Descriptive Video Service, founded in 1990.

This new paper focuses on challenges facing blind or low vision viewers who require video description to enjoy and fully comprehend TV programming. Topics covered include:

• Set-top Converter Boxes

• Accessible Menus

• Tips for Finding Video Description in DTV

• Troubleshooting

• Technicals Note about Program and System Information Protocol

This paper, along with much more information about the DTV conversion from a variety of resources, can be found at NCAM’s DTV Access site.



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The Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) has received a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs contract to establish amputee peer visitation programs at all 21 VA Veterans Integrated Service Networks. The coalition will conduct “train the trainer” seminars and integrate its peer visitation model at VA hospitals across the country.

The Amputee Coalition’s military peer visitor program, initiallyestablished at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, and Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, TX, was also introduced last year at the U.S. Naval Medical Center in San Diego.

In another program funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Amputee Coalition of America is creating materials for both the veterans of the first and second Iraq wars who have Polytrauma/Blast Related Injuries, and those who care for them. The coalition has also received private funding to evaluate the effectiveness of the caregiver peer visitor program.

“The Amputee Coalition’s peer visitation program is rated as an effective intervention for military and civilian individuals with limb loss. In a satisfaction survey at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the amputee peer visitor program was rated second overall, out of 32 post amputation interventions, by veterans of both Iraq wars,” said Paddy Rossbach, CEO of the Amputee Coalition of America.

A survey of civilians following a peer visit found that:

•100 percent reported that peer visitation was helpful with their adjustment to limb loss

• 88 percent rated the overall quality of peer visits as excellent

• 85 percent learned where to find additional information about limb loss

• 73 percent felt better informed as a result of the peer visit

In addition to limb loss,“the Amputee Coalition’s peer visitor program is designed to assist individuals and their families coping with a variety of injuries and disease, including spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, burns, and sensory impairments,” said Rossbach.


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The Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS), whose housing and service programs help more than 20,000 of New York City’s homeless, disabled and low income households annually, is making a difference in the fight to end homelessness by bringing professional psychiatric care to the streets.

Arugably the only program in the nation dedicated to bringing these professionals where they are needed most, CUCS’s Project for Psychiatric Outreach to the Homeless (PPOH), helps 40 percent to 50 percent of adults in the city’s shelters and up to 75 percent of New Yorkers on the streets who are living with chronic mental illness. PPOH psychiatrists understand that the traditional office-based model is ineffective with this group, and instead go to where they have the greatest access to homeless people: streets, drop-in centers and shelters. The objectives of the program include stabilizing clients’ psychiatric conditions so they can move into housing, and providing a foundation for clients to achieve long-term goals.

To achieve its mission, PPOH also helps more than 50 local organizations that serve homeless adults who would otherwise not be able to afford psychiatric care for clients. PPOH offers consultation and technical assistance to staff at program sites, trains future community psychiatrists and advances the emerging field of community psychiatry.

“We are very proud of PPOH’s accomplishments working with homeless adults and homeless service organizations throughout the city toward the common goal of ending homelessness,” remarked Tony Hannigan, executive director of the CUCS.

Since its start, 95 percent of formerly homeless PPOH clients who live in permanent housing remain stably housed. In addition, 30 percent of their homeless clients in transitional housing at the start of each year, are placed in permanent housing by year’s end, and 25 percent of their non-sheltered clients move into permanent housing.


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