How HME providers can change disability stereotypes
LARGO, Fla. - Douglas Towne wants HME providers to play a bigger part in a shift in attitudes about disability. His company, the Disability Relations Group, specializes in building relationships, image management and public policy facilitation. He recently explained the shift he's been seeing to HME News.
HME News: What is changing about society's feelings toward disability?
Douglas Towne: There are two philosophies of disabilities. The old one is the medical model, which says that people with disabilities are ill and need to be taken care of. The other is the independent living model, which says that people with disabilities have the right to live, learn, work and play independently as they choose. I promote a third philosophy-- personal achievement. All that has gone before has laid the groundwork for people with disabilities to be able to achieve whatever they want to achieve.
HME: Why is society's attitude changing?
Towne: The disability community is fast becoming 25% of the population. And technology is evolving every day and providing new ways of getting things done. The other thing that's changing is you have a lot of baby boomers still in the middle of their professional careers but finding themselves with a disability. Their attitude, their family's, and those of people they know, changes. Your readers also go a long way toward making that change possible. (HME) technology has changed tremendously. I point to the fact that it's now referred to as "home" rather than "durable" medical equipment. It's not about the hospital wheelchair anymore. It's about a personal mobility device.
HME: What is the next step in the attitude shift?
Towne: It's not perfect, I think we're winning the political argument, the inclusion argument--now it's up to people with disabilities to prove what they can achieve.
HME: How can HME providers help dispel the stereotype that people with disabilities are ill?
Towne: I'm waiting for you guys to take the next leap and take the word "medical" out-- make it independent living equipment. Because that's the next evolution. And I think that HME providers could reach out to the disability organizations around them, get involved. There's a lot of ways to support organizations other than just cash. They could also hire more people with disabilities. If they went to their local center for independent living or the Disability Achievement Center, they'd get all kinds of assistance with that.