Saturday, September 14, 2013

Disabled And Disregarded: Petition Raises Awareness


You would expect a van for disabled veterans would include a lift or ramp for wheelchair bound vets.


Advocates for the disabled Debra Buell and Michael Sherman circulated a petition Friday evening during the Battle of Plattsburgh event in downtown Plattsburgh to address this problem.

After the intent of the petition was explained, a signer would typically respond: "I didn't know that.  I thought those vans helped out all disabled vets."

Recently a local radio station, WOKO-FM, held a fundraiser for a new DAV (Disabled American Veterans) van to transport vets for medical appointments at the Albany VA Center.  While the station raised the much-needed funds, Debra observed, it was unaware that the van was not equipped with either a ramp or lift.  This meant only ambulatory vets could get free rides on the van.

At Trinity Park in downtown Plattsburgh advocates Michael Sherman (left) and Debra Buell discuss collecting signatures for a petition to raise awareness about a transportation problem some disabled veterans face. 

Vets dependent upon wheelchairs for mobility, she said, are forced to use ambulances at great cost.  Despite fundraisers to cover the ambulance bills, these vets still can't make all of their appointments.  The situation has existed for about ten years, she added.

According to her research the under-equipped vans are a nationwide problem, not one just in this region.

Debra said copies of the petition would be delivered not only locally but also to state and national entities responsible for the needs of disabled vets.   For example, the local, state and national DAV were on the mailing list as well as county, state and federal representatives.

Michael Sherman added that it was common sense for the vans to have ramps or lifts added.  The people who signed the petition, he said, agreed with him.

Debra said the petition was online on Twitter and the online response was positive, electronic signatures from people up and down the eastern seaboard.   The first step was awareness, she explained, that would hopefully lead to fixing the problem.

For more information, contact the North Country Center for Independence at (518) 563-9058.

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