A high-profile wheelchair user will take part in the United Spinal Association’s Roll on Capitol Hill again to impress on Congress the importance of helping people with cerebral palsy and other conditions attain independence and a better quality of life.
Andrea Dalzell, 29, who was Ms. Wheelchair New York in 2015, and other advocates for the disabled with speak with lawmakers June 11-14 about legislation to assist those with CP and spinal cord problems. This will be the sixth annual Roll on Capitol Hill.
Dalzell will urge members of the New York congressional delegation to ensure that people in the state with CP and spinal disabilities are able to obtain the right kind of wheelchairs and other rehabilitation technology.
“Complex rehab technology is extremely important to me. Twenty-five years in a wheelchair means that I have wear and tear on my shoulders and my body,” Dalzell, who was diagnosed with transverse myelitis at the age of 5, said in a press release. “People like me need customized wheelchair design to prevent injury, prevent wounds, and to keep us living independently.”
Complex rehab technology includes individually adapted manual and power wheelchair systems and other equipment that disabled people need to maintain their well-being, independence and participation in society. The devices include wheelchair control, seating and positioning features that are not bells and whistles, but necessities.
In addition to those with CP and spinal problems, users of the technology include people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), muscular dystrophy (MD) and traumatic brain injuries.
Dozell wants to do something about Medicare guidelines making access to the technology difficult. She is also concerned about the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, which became law in 2010.
“The reason why I am alive today is because of the ACA,” she said. “In 2010 I had a stage 4 wound that would not heal. I was on basic Medicaid seeing regular doctors instead of specialists.”
She was able to receive the life-saving treatment she needed, she said, only because her mother was able to add her to her ACA healthcare plan. At that point, “I was able to see the specialist who performed my surgery and healed me,” Dalzell said.
A lot of American health insurance plans deny coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions, but the ACA does not.
Roll on Capitol Hill has become a valuable platform for United Spinal Association advocates to speak directly with their congressional representatives.
Dalzell, who has a degree in biology and neuroscience from the College of Staten Island, said she is glad to be returning to the Roll this year to represent disabled people struggling to maintain their independence.
The event has allowed her to share ideas and engage in dialogue that could help generate solutions to the disabled’s challenges, she said. In addition, she has met women mentors who have given her new confidence as a wheelchair user, she said.
“It is well known that the disability unemployment rate is almost triple that of the non-disabled population, and I believe that has a lot to do with the ability to access the equipment needed to even get to college and pursue a higher education and professional career,” Dalzell said. “There’s a great need to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities across society. In 2017, from education to the workplace to health care, we still haven’t figured out how to be inclusive and provide access to basic needs for all our citizens.”