Disabilities

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For Students with Disabilities, Getting to Class is Tough

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UC Santa Cruz senior, Ariana Rojas, opens a door to a campus building. Rojas is the president of Disability Alliance, a student group pushing to get automatic door switches installed on doors throughout campus to make entrances like this one accessible to students with disabilities. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: For students with disabilities, getting to class can be a hurdle, especially when the school campus spans dramatic elevation changes. As part of our first-person series called Vital Signs, this month we explore how the environment affects health. UC Santa Cruz senior, Ariana Rojas talks about her experience navigating her unique campus. A car accident when she was younger left her with arthritis and chronic pain that limit her ability to climb stairs and even to walk without pain.

By Ariana Rojas

Imagine a lot of buildings in the middle of the forest. And like the mountains, there’s uphills and downhills and those hills can get very steep.

Freshman year, I would force myself to get up in the morning. [I would say to myself,] ‘Go, let’s go. You can do it. We can walk up these hills.’

When I would reach the very end, I would be in terrible pain.

I couldn’t bear the idea of relying on the Disability Van Service on campus. It just wasn’t helping me out. At times, I would find myself having to wait an additional 15 minutes into my class. [I would think to myself,] ‘Okay, I’m late. I’m late.’ You don’t feel independent. Continue reading

Advocates Want State to Delay Health Transition for Elderly and Disabled

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Next month, a federal pilot program aimed at improving care for the most vulnerable is set to start rolling out in some California counties.

Cal MediConnect is supposed to help seniors and disabled people in seven California counties get better coordinated health services — from in-home caregivers to physicians. Those who are affected will automatically be rolled into the program. They have the opportunity, though, to make choices about where and how they will get their care.

But some advocates say information about making those choices has been unclear and is coming too late.

With four counties set to roll out the program in April and May, they are calling on the state to put the program on hold.

“We sent (the state) a letter with five other organizations saying there should be a delay,” said Amber Cutler, a staff attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center. “They are always putting out fires (with this) and have no time to prepare to prevent problems. That is particularly troublesome when thinking about adding Los Angeles and Alameda in July. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected.” Continue reading

People with Disabilities Face Complex Choices under Obamacare

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Eric Whitney, Kaiser Health News

We’ve heard a lot about how Obamacare will allow “apples-to-apples” comparisons of health plans. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to meet what are called essential health benefits which outline what health insurance companies must now cover. But there’s a catch: Insurance firms still have some wiggle room as to specific therapies they’ll cover within some of those essential health benefits categories. And the way insurers interpret the rules could turn out to be a big deal for people with disabilities who need ongoing therapy to improve their day-to-day lives.

People who want to have specific therapies covered are going to have to slog through some fine print.
Take a look, for example,  at Bryce Vernon. He is a 20-year-old film student in Los Angeles who has cerebral palsy. He speaks only with the aid of a special computer mounted to his wheelchair that tracks his eye movements. Using his eyes, Vernon can indicate on a screen what letters and words he wants the computer’s voice to say.

It’s amazing technology, and Vernon gets a lot more out of it with help from speech-language pathologist Jill Tullman.

“Now Bryce, I want to show you this super cool random button I think you’re going to love,” Tullman tells him during a therapy session at a special camp for young people who use the technology. Vernon’s parents paid out-of-pocket for him to attend the camp. Continue reading