Wanted for CRT cause: Able-bodied recruits

Friday, August 2, 2019

YARMOUTH, Maine – Three wheelchair users, with help from NRRTS, will stage a virtual town hall meeting Aug. 13 to enlist able-bodied people to their cause of preserving access to complex rehab technology.

Wheelchair users make a huge impact on members of Congress, but there aren’t enough of them to push the needle, so they need to cast a wider net, says Kyle Romano, one of the wheelchair users who will speak during the town hall.

“Our education efforts need to be toward a population that’s larger than ours, so we have a larger voting weight,” said Romano, the marketing and social media coordinator for Custom Mobility in Largo, Fla. “That’s what’s going to translate to larger support for our issues.”

Wheelchair users Bobbi Kay Lewis and Jenny Siegle will also speak during the town hall, the first in a series with the tagline “CRT users and able-bodied people unite.” They will discuss legislative efforts like H.R. 2293, a bill to stop CMS from applying bid pricing to complex rehab manual wheelchairs, and share their user experiences.

The idea for the town hall came after Romano had a successful visit with staffers in the office of Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., during the National CRT Leadership & Advocacy Conference in May and then hosted David Thompson from the office for a subsequent site visit at Custom Mobility. Romano discovered Thompson’s mom was a nurse growing up, so “health care has been near and dear to his heart.”

“After visiting with us, he had a good idea of why this technology is so imperative to our lives,” Romano said. “We got a confirmation a week later that Rep. Crist had signed on to H.R. 2293.”

While the primary goal of the town hall is to educate able-bodied users, Romano hopes it also inspires other wheelchair users to flex their advocacy muscles.

“We want to put the onus on our population to actually go out and fight for these things, because this is almost like a Civil Rights issue, because we are a minority,” he said. “So it is also a call to arms.”

NRRTS, which will provide the webcast platform for the town hall, would like to “clone” Romano, Lewis and Siegle, says Executive Director Weesie Walker.

“They’re all prime examples of what CRT can do,” she said. “If we can get each participant to follow their lead and call or email their member, just to raise awareness, it will make a difference.”