United Spinal President/CEO Urges Support of Complex Rehab Act

In his keynote address at the 2012 Continuing Education and Legislative Advocacy (CELA) conference in mid-April, United Spinal Association’s president and CEO Paul J. Tobin talked about the history of equal rights and inclusion for people with disabilities and urged attendees to support new complex rehab legislation.

The conference brought together wheelchair users, mobility equipment suppliers and manufacturers, and clinicians and also served as a forum for advocating for access to complex rehab technology, which includes manual and power wheelchairs that are customized to a user’s medical and functional needs.

“People with disabilities succeed when we speak for ourselves,” Tobin said.

During the presentation, Tobin pointed out the contradiction between current federal policies that urge inclusion in society, such as accessible mass transit and pools and Ticket to Work, and the fact that the Medicare system only approves and pays for equipment that keeps people with disabilities in their homes.

Tobin said the solution lies in the creation of a separate benefits category for complex rehab technology via the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act of 2012. This bill would remove complex rehab from the durable medical equipment benefit, establish standards to ensure the equipment is provided by professionals and permanently exempt complex rehab from competitive bidding. Most importantly, the legislation would remove the “in the home” restriction.

Tobin charged consumers to take action by reaching out to local policymakers to share personal stories about the impact of complex rehab technology. Tobin also called on attendees to join United Spinal Association’s UsersFirst movement that advocates for access to mobility equipment.

“If we have limited access to the vehicles essential to our independence and livelihood, we could potentially lose everything,” Tobin said. “We lose our ability to fight back against discriminatory practices, archaic policies, inaccessible housing and transportation, or any number of other barriers we are confronted with in our daily lives. Our long journey toward equality and independence will essentially be cut short.”

The CELA conference took place in Arlington, Va., April 17-19. View Tobin’s CELA presentation here.