United Spinal’s ‘Roll on Capitol Hill’ to Push for Better Access to Complex Rehab Technology

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Roll on Capitol Hill

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) and others with spinal cord injuries and disorders will speak at the United Spinal Association’s upcoming 6th Annual Roll on Capitol Hill, which takes place June 11-14 in Washington, D.C. Andrea Dalzell, Ms. Wheelchair New York 2015, will be among those advocating for greater access to complex rehabilitation technology.

Dalzell, 29, said the subject is “extremely important” to her.

“Twenty-five years in a wheelchair means that I have wear and tear on my shoulders and my body,” Dalzell, who was diagnosed with transverse myelitis at the age of 5, said in a news release. “People like me need customized wheelchair design to prevent injury, prevent wounds, and to keep us living independently.”

Transverse myelitis is a neurological condition in which the spinal cord is inflamed, leading to decreased electrical conductivity in the central nervous system.

Complex rehab technology includes adaptive seating systems, alternative positioning systems and other mobility devices that require thorough and exact evaluation, fitting and adjustment. This type of technology aims to meet the very specific and unique needs of people with spinal cord diseases, neural muscular illnesses and other disabilities that require more than a standard wheelchair.

Due to current Medicaid regulations, wheelchair users have a hard time acquiring these vital components, which is one reason Dalzell worries about the Senate’s potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), following the House’s narrow vote last week to kill ACA, also known as Obamacare.

“The reason why I am alive today is because of the ACA. In 2010 I had a stage 4 wound that would not heal. I was on basic Medicaid seeing regular doctors instead of specialists,” Dalzell said. “Even with a pre-existing condition I was not denied. It was only then I was able to see the specialist who performed my surgery and healed me.”

Roll on Capitol Hill is United Spinal’s annual legislative advocacy event that addresses issues that affect the health, independence and quality of life of people living with spinal cord injuries and disorders.

Dalzell, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and neuroscience from New York’s College of Staten Island, is now in nursing school. She said the annual event has taught her how to talk with legislators about policy issues affecting people like herself.

“It is well-known that the disability unemployment rate is almost triple that of the non-disabled population, and I believe that has a lot to do with the ability to access the equipment needed to even get to college and pursue a higher education and professional career,” Dalzell said. “In 2017, from education to the workplace to health care, we still haven’t figured out how to be inclusive and provide access to basic needs for all our citizens.”

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