CRT stakeholders follow up on manual accessories

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Friday, June 29, 2018

WASHINGTON – Complex rehab technology stakeholders had another shot at advocating for accessories for complex manual wheelchairs during the United Spinal Association’s Roll on Capitol Hill June 24-June 27.

The association had about 150 wheelchair users, member advocates and partners on hand, raising awareness of critical issues during 216 visits with lawmakers—a record, said Alexandra Bennewith, vice president, government relations, for United Spinal.

Among the issues discussed: H.R. 3730 and S. 486, bills that would stop competitive bidding-related cuts for accessories for complex manual wheelchairs.

“Roll on Capitol Hill has been helpful to our messaging,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “The fact that we were here in late April and can now follow up two months later—it’s very timely and we appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with United Spinal.”

CRT stakeholders conducted more than 220 visits with lawmakers in April during the National CRT Leadership & Advocacy Conference.

The National CRT Leadership & Advocacy Conference helped to boost the number of co-sponsors for H.R. 3730 and S. 486 to 108 and 23, respectively. Bennewith and Clayback expect the numbers of co-sponsors to tick up again in the wake of ROCH.

“To have a 40% increase in the number of co-sponsors in a couple of months is a good sign,” Clayback said. “Our message has strong interest.”

But the “recipe” for getting the bills passed also means getting them attached to a larger piece of legislation, ideally before the August recess, Clayback says. One possible vehicle: upcoming legislation to address the opioid crisis.

“Our champions are telling us they’re looking for legislative opportunities to attach the bills,” he said. “That’s the status.”

While manual accessories were very much part of ROCH’s advocacy lineup, it certainly wasn’t the only issue. Wheelchair users, member advocates and partners also talked to Congress about protecting the rights of air travelers with disabilities; maximizing access to quality, affordable health care and community supports and services for people with disabilities; opposing the ADA Education and Reform Act; and supporting the rights of disabled veterans by advocating for veterans benefits and health care.

This year’s ROCH, the seventh, was the first with the tagline “Join the Rolling Revolution,” a nod to United Spinal’s efforts to not only expand but also better connect its 52 chapters and members in all states across the country.

“We want to continue to empower our members,” Bennewith said.