Consumers to providers: Help recruit more of us

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

WASHINGTON – What’s the best way to increase the number of consumer advocates for complex rehab and assistive technology? Partnerships, says consumer Molly Hale.

CRT providers and others that touch the disabilities community, like independent living centers, need to create partnerships with their customers, actively recruiting them to the cause, she says.

“They need to give them a package that says, ‘Here’s what’s going on; here’s a script for a phone call or email to send to your senator or representatives,’” she said. “Because we need partnerships to get this thing moving.”

Hale was one of five consumers and caregivers who participated in a panel at the National CRT Leadership & Advocacy Conference at the Hyatt Regency on April 25. Thirty wheelchair users, in all, participated in the conference.

A larger number of consumer advocates is needed to really move the needle on the industry’s efforts to, among other things, create a separate benefit for complex rehab technology, Hale says.

“It’s the numbers that matter,” she said. “Our stories are sweet, but then there’s a shutdown, because legislation moves by the 500 people who make phone calls.”

Hale’s husband, Jeramy Hale, also participated in the panel to emphasize the role of not only consumers but also their caregivers, family members and friends in advocacy.

“That’s a large group of people that you can also tap into,” he said.

Consumer Melissa Mitchell says providers that recruit customers as advocates are taking an important step toward recognizing their role in fostering the health and independence of wheelchair users.

“They’re more than just providers but an arm, really, of the independent living movement,” she said. “I used six functions on my chair this morning just to work my way into my pantyhose.”