Sometimes the littlest things can be major obstacles for people with disabilities.
For Dawn Mendes, who suffers from a severe form of Osteoarthritis in her spine, the lip on the front door step of her Taunton home was just high enough to prevent her from taking her electric wheelchair out of the house. She could no longer take walks around the neighborhood with her daughters and when no help was available, Dawn spent a lot of time inside, by herself.
As Dawn’s Osteoarthritis progressed, using her hands to paint and type became harder and harder. Being productive is incredibly important to Dawn, a 5th degree black belt, hiker, writer and artist, who was forced to end her teaching carrier after 27 years. “Having a disability can be incredibly isolating if you are not aware of the resources available to you,” Dawn noted.
Fortunately the Rehabilitation Commission in Taunton, as well as a counselor at Independence Associates told Dawn about Easterseals MA and now, thanks to the Assistive Technology (AT) Program, Dawn now has several items on long-term loan so she can easily exit her home, write and create on a daily basis.
The AT Program changed her life. “I am so very grateful to Easterseals MA,” Dawn said. “Without my faith in God and Easterseals MA, my life would have consisted of lying on the couch and I would not have the opportunity to use my gifts or go on walks with my girls.”
Dawn is currently writing several books and designing their covers thanks the computer station and software programs provided the AT Program and set up by AT Specialist Jaimie Ballon. “Jaimie has an amazingly positive attitude, she has the astounding ability to be realistic, caring and empathetic all at the same time,” Dawn said. “She is a great support system, when I worry about my ability to continue writing and being creative, she calms me down and explains that the technology available through Easterseals MA can help me stay productive even as my condition worsens.”
Easterseals MA not only helped Dawn start living her life again, it also made a huge difference in her daughters lives, “My girls loved to go on walks around the lake we live on,” she said, “with crutches I could barely get down my driveway, but when my ramps were installed, we began enjoy the outdoors together again. I was able to go to parent teacher meetings and be part of their lives outside of the house. Easterseals MA not only expanded my life, but my children’s lives, too.”
Don Bradway bought a mini-van a few years ago, thinking it would be good on gas. But it turned out that his power wheelchair was cramped in it, which caused him to develop migraines.
Don is currently unable to work and he knew it would be difficult to get a traditional loan to replace the van. So the former Easterseals employee turned to the Massachusetts Assistive Technology Loan program for help with the financing. Through the program, managed by Easterseals, he received a loan with rates he could afford.
“It has made all the difference in the world,” Don said.
His new van gives this articulate, funny and very determined Worcester resident, who also plays on a power-wheelchair soccer team, the independent life he wants.
"The van allows me to get out to doctors appointments, go to concerts with friends, and catch some nightlife," he said.
A city van service is available but stops running at 9 p.m., just the time when bands begin playing at local clubs, he pointed out.
"That means if I go to a club, I'd have to take a van home at 8:30 p.m.," Don said. "Am I going to do that? I don't think so! Life doesn't end at 9 p.m."
Don, 44, is also working with an Easterseals technology specialist, Oren Kuhn, to master voice-recognition software. He's using the software to write a book about his life that details, as he put it, "the trials and tribulations I've gone through to get me where I am today."
"I with I had the software when I was in college, tying 10-and 15-page papers with one finger," the Quinsigamond Community College graduate said.
Don recalled that a counselor once told him he didn't have what it takes for college.
"Oh, really?" he replied. "Stand back!"
Don couldn't wait to call the counselor after his first semester in college. He had an important piece of news for him: "I made the Dean's list."
Several years ago, a brutal assault based on mistaken identity left Ben (not his real name) with serious, permanent injuries that left him unable to walk. In the months that followed he lost his entire retirement savings.
Ben had escaped from persecution in his country in the Middle East to live in freedom. Now he, his wife, mother and five children – three of whom have autism – are living in crisis.
When Ben lost his car, he applied for a loan to buy a van that was compatible with his power wheelchair, but bankruptcy had ruined his credit rating and numerous loan applications were rejected.
All that changed, however, when he discovered the Easterseals Assistive Technology Loan Program, which provides low-interest cash loans and equipment loans that enable people with disabilities and their families to live more independently.
Through the program, Ben not only got the car loan, but also ramps to make it easier for him to get his wheelchair in and out of his home in Springfield.
“Having dealt with discrimination, hate crimes and injustices that have affected my family, all of a sudden we’re dealing with Easterseals,” Ben said. “Now there is an organization that truly cares about us. Easterseals is totally humane, totally caring and color blind. This is one organization that truly believes in their mission.”
Ben is currently bedridden and unable to use his car loan. Easterseals has put the loan on hold for him until he is able to use his wheelchair again.
“It wasn’t just helping me with the process,” Ben added, “it was the tone of the voice, the professionalism and the speed of the process. Easterseals changed the quality of life for my family and gave us peace of mind – the greatest gift anyone can give. If every organization was the same as Easterseals, our society would be a better place.”
I am a brain injury survivor from acute carbon monoxide poisoning. The damage done to the area of my brain left me with a number of problems—in addition dealing with poisoning presents a whole new layer of medical complications in daily living.
God blessed me with the help of several carbon monoxide experts—who helped with specialized testing and most of highly specialized vision rehab treatment. The vision rehab has been a series of specialized glasses/lens to bring the brain back into alignment, help me with lighting issues, and helps to minimize the other problems I deal with. This includes leg buckling with mini-seizures after certain noises or dealing with excessive overstimulation increasing fatigue, muscle weakness or sudden drops in vitamins.
The glasses are not covered by insurance, Medicare, etc. and yet are essential rehab assistant devices. There are only a handful of specialized neuro-optometrists in the entire country using this specialized and highly successful treatment. For 12 years, I have been receiving this treatment at a significant cost and Easter Seals has given me two loans over the past few years for the glasses.
These glasses have been life-saving and life-affirming for my life and recovery. While there is no official cure for CO poisoning, the chance to have vision restored, balance, and walking helped, has been and was essential to be able to improve in the many other rehab treatments. For instance, being able to read again helped me with the PT, speech, and OT therapies. Correcting the vision/balance/depth perception has led to improving daily living—everything from going into a grocery store and finding items on a shelf to reducing anxiety pertaining to doing so. By correcting the vision, it has helped me to adjust to the hearing issues—which takes great effort and planning in daily living.
God Bless all of you for helping not just myself but so many others in our needs for medical and assistive devices—all of you are angels on earth and we couldn’t make without you.
I really love the Ottlight portable task lamp. It is my favorite! The lamp helps me to read the newspaper while I am sitting in my favorite chair. I can move the lamp to the kitchen to do my bills. I hope to soon use it to complete my favorite activity of jigsaw puzzles. The magnifier helps me to complete puzzles, read my church bulletin, and sort my mail.
Without this device, I would need assistance to do these tasks. Now I can do these things without asking for help. Thank you to Easter Seals for helping me.
I have Repetitive Strain Injury in my upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands. This is a chronic condition that causes pain in these parts of my body when I use a computer keyboard or mouse. If I push through the pain, my arms become stiff and clumsy and I have difficulty completing or am unable to complete activities of daily living like dressing, eating, etc.
I received the SmartNav 4 through Easter Seal’s Long Term Device Loan Program. The SmartNav is a camera mouse that allows me to move the computer’s mouse cursor by turning my head. I live on a very limited income and could not have purchased the device on my own. Every single day I am grateful to have access to the device through the Long Term Device Loan Program. I can’t imagine going back to life without it.
The SmartNav has been life-changing. For the first time in years, I have minimal pain in my upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands. With the device, I am able to efficiently complete the responsibilities of my job; independently complete computer-based personal tasks like paying bills and responding to emails; and even use the computer to do fun things like make my podcast and watch movies. Now that I have the SmartNav, I don’t end up pushing through pain to get computer-based responsibilities done. And I don’t live in constant fear of the periodic limitations to my ability to independently complete activities of daily living that occurred before I had access to the device.
The Long Term Device Loan Program is an incredible program that has dramatically improved my quality of life, increased my independence, and expanded my life choices. It stills feels too good to be true!
My oldest sister often told the story of how I came home from the hospital talking in full sentences. Whether true or not, I always liked to talk. My ability to communicate was an important contributor to my success. Then at age 66, after several bouts with pneumonia, it was determined that I would need a tracheostomy. With the trach, for the first time in my life, I could not speak. It was awful. After a long time, I was able to master the speaking valve and enjoyed immensely my ability to talk to my son, my daughter, my friends and my beloved partner, Betsy. It was short-lived as I developed a fistula in my esophagus and aspirated into my lungs, requiring the cuff of my trach to be fully inflated at all times. Once again, I could not speak. After some time and the good fortune of having speech therapist Shayna Smith, I began using text to speech. Betsy was ecstatic as for some reason she never picked up the ability to read lips.
We never fought but her frustration when I didn’t write or type clearly illustrated her disdain with me. Well, for me it was an improvement but any euphoria was short-lived as I type slowly and experienced how most people did not have patience for very long. Any conversation with more than one person found me typing while they were changing subjects. In one important meeting with the vendor for my home equipment that was critical for me, once again by the time I got done typing, a new topic was being discussed. I remember breaking down and having a good cry after the meeting was over. The next day, I decided that an electrolarynx might be the solution. I had disregarded them as too expensive for my non-existent cash flow. However, I thought maybe I could find a way and so I called on Shayna. Miraculously, she found that Easter Seals provided loaners that individuals could try for free to make sure of compatibility.
Bingo, immediate success. I had a voice again. Then Shayna informed me that Easter Seals had a program, that if I qualified would provide a leased unit at no cost to me. Off we went and shortly my very own unit arrived fifteen minutes before I was taken by ambulance to the emergency room to replace my g-j tube that had malfunctioned. Well I talked all the way to the hospital where you can imagine how much my new voice made my visit much less stressful. So many good stories since. Every day, I talk to Shayna. I talk to my nurses. I talk to my doctors. I talk to my friends. I talk to my kids. I went to the eye doctor and managed the “which looks best #1 or #2”. Best of all, I talk to Betsy. Yes, thank you Easter Seals. For me, your program is truly a “Life Changer”.
THANK YOU EASTER SEALS, THANK YOU FOR MY ELECTROLARYNX!
“As you may or may not know the sticker shock of a new or used handicap accessible vehicle would choke anyone up. It was not until it was suggested to us to reach out to our local Massachusetts Easter Seals who might be able to help us through the finance process and that is when we spoke with Steven.
Steven was very kind, thorough, caring and compassionate throughout the entire process. He kept in touch with us every step of the way and made the process extremely easy and stress-free. We got the BEST rate and the BEST service through the Easter Seals and we recommend everyone go through them! Thank you again for all your help.”
“I was able to go to the Great Wolf Lodge with my daughter and grandchildren for my birthday. Thanks to Easterseals and the Long Term Device Loan Program for helping me get the ramp needed to move my scooter into my van. A great big THANK YOU!!