How HME providers can change disability stereotypes

Thursday, August 25, 2011

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.



I believe that the word "Home" was changed for "Durable" to help CMS not necessarily the stereotype of persons with disabilities. I am a T10 SCI and have problems with CMS because they want wheelchairs to be for in HOME use only. What CMS does not realize yet is that as the population of people with disabilities increases, so does the population of people with disabilities in the job industry. Just because we are "dis"abled, does not mean we are NOT able. By limiting the funding of my wheelchair to only include in HOME use is limiting my ability to be an actively participating, tax paying, working member of this society by limiting me to getting from my bed to my bathroom and my bed to the kitchen. <br />
If I am able to propel a "hospital" wheelchair around my house, that is all CMS is going to pay for. Once I have upper extremity weakness, pain, etc. and am no longer able to push that "hospital" wheelchair around my house to use the restroom or get food, then they will pay for a K0005 "ultra-lightweight wheelchair" that could still weigh upwards of 40# depending on the wheels, cushion, backrest, side guards, etc... If I am unable to propel a K-5 in my house they most likely won&#39;t cover a K-9 custom "ultra-lightweight" wheelchair that has less adjustability, less weight, etc than the K-5, rather CMS is going to say that I now require a power wheelchair for in home use. Great. <br />
In my case I am in a K-5 chair now and in need of a K-9 for daily use...DENIED. I am unable to push the K-5 on the carpeting in my house and many other places that I go on a daily basis (school, physical therapy, etc.) so am now in the process of getting evaluated, measured, etc. for a power wheelchair for "in home" use. Needless to say, this power wheelchair will take me much farther than the walls of my house, it will allow me to live the life that a normal 24 year old lives. I will go to school, church, physical therapy, go to the movies, the mall, etc just like any other HUMAN without a disability. <br />
They put the word HOME in Home Medical Equipment so that CMS could justify that it was for in HOME use, not for DURABLE use in the community. As we all know, getting from the bed to the bathroom or the kitchen is a necessity, but "getting your wheelchair into and out of your car is a convenience not a necessity" (directly quoted by my insurance company).