I would rather this blog post be discussion on my paratriathlon training and insight into transitions between swimming, cycling, and running, but alas, that is still grudgingly taking the back-burner position. Life is one-step at a time, or at least that’s how I’d like it to be. My take is that there are multiple paths being traversed, each of which I am trying to break down into the one step at a time process. For those old-school game nerds, or chess enthusiasts, it’s turn-based, and with the exception of those stricken with from dumb-luck, those planning more than the immediate turn at hand, tend to prosper.
On the topic of transitioning to driving with hand controls: Another big, well, a couple of big steps have been accomplished. We sold our FJ Cruiser this last weekend, which was sad as we had loved the vehicle and it held a certain spot in our hearts as being the first new car we have been able to drive home. Generally, vehicles are a poor investment. Fortunately, the resale value and market for this particular vehicle has held up pretty well allowing us to do alright on the sale and netting a decent amount to put into the hand control expenses and/or a downpayment on the replacement vehicle. There’s another step. Our decision to sell the FJ was based on the fact that hand controls are a pricey enough endeavor that we wanted to make sure they were being setup in the right long-term vehicle that better met my needs. Well, the FJ was great, but wasn’t quite big enough to easily haul my trike inside, and the hitch rack I engineered into working for the trike is not something that I can put-on/take-off myself as needed and I have to rely on Greta helping with that anytime I need to transport the trike to the shop, further away ride, or future race event. And then there is the new addition of needing to haul the recumbent trike, race wheelchair, and regular wheelchair…
So what would work better? Well, after much research, I think that a truck, with a canopy/topper, is the way to go for my active lifestyle (ambitious lifestyle, at least), accessibility needs, and gear hauling. Certainly I don’t need a huge truck, especially with a work commute and mpg efficiency to consider, so with the new model year line-up at hand, I decided on a Toyota Tacoma. In my opinion, car dealerships are one of those necessary evils that I try to avoid as I’ve had more than a few sour experiences. Seriously people, when are you going to realize that being a decent human goes miles beyond the typical car salesperson tactics that are so prevalent? Well, being fed-up after one visit in particular dealership at the beginning of trying to sell the FJ and get an incoming Tacoma reserved, I went online and emailed contacts from 7 different local Toyota dealerships with the same request for the exact truck I was looking for. The responses were mostly par for the course in terms of my car dealership experiences, some outright ridiculous, others better, and at my two week deadline given to all, I had a winner picked that has now secured the exact truck I had requested with an estimated arrival of mid-November and price agreement locked-down. There’s one set of steps, almost complete.
The other portion of this transition to hand controls involves my long-winded process with Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation. Certainly I could have gotten the prescription for hand controls from one of my doctors and then gone straight to a local provider for purchase and installation, if I were in a position to pay 100% out of pocket. Toyota has a program that will actually reimburse me up to $1000 for hand control expense/installation within one year of purchasing one of their new vehicles (which I fully plan to use). Now the most basic hand control setup and installation runs, as far as I’ve figured so far, not much over $1000 dollars, so if that worked, bam, there it is.
I’m still relatively new to this world, but my feeling is, just like the journey I’ve gone through in getting the right wheelchair, while the most basic and least expensive option might technically work to get you from a to b, if it’s not fitted to be a true extension of yourself, you’re going to end up hating every bit of it and wanting to use it as little as possible. My mind could yet be swayed on what will work best for me, in terms of hand controls, but after thoroughly researching what’s actually available on the market (much of it is sadly very old technology), I’m trying to cannonball towards one of the more advanced systems that may cost closer to $8000-$9000.
Yesterday I met with another voc-rehab counselor (my original counselor was great, so great that she moved up to the next level job elsewhere, and yesterday I met the new temporary counselor, who was very nice, but also informed me I would likely be moved to another counselor before this process was complete) to try and keep this cannonball from dropping out of the air and the next step has been initiated there. We are working out schedules so I can see an evaluator (whom I just got off the phone with) that goes through the various configurations with me then makes the recommendation for what will work best. From there, voc-rehab goes through their internal proposal and approval process of what they will provide financial support for, and then we finally get moved to whomever wins the bid for provider/installer (really it ends up being Performance Mobility, in this area).
The whole financial needs assessment and what Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation will assist with, is a bit interesting and apparently not as clear-cut as their brochure describes. For one thing, I am not at all like their typical case as I already have a job, a pretty great job, but I am engaging their services because I’d like to keep that job and being able to safely drive to and from that job, is crucial (unless they allow me to permanently work from home, which is unlikely).
Based on the financial needs assessment, as a family, we fall into the upper level of their financial bracket. Going off of this, if approved/qualified (all hypothetical at this point), VR would cover any expense after $3700 contribution on my part, if hand controls were purchased/installed this year (If this goes to next year, it’ll be $3700 + 10% of our family income). I asked if there is a cap/upper limit, as in, the hand control system (Kempf or Guidosimplex digital accelerator rings) I have gotten a quotes for are around $8000-$9000 installed, would the scenario then be: I contribute $3700, VR contributes $5200? And here is the answer:
“Yeah Kipp, that is essentially correct. There are some exceptions to the policy, both positive and negative. For example, an exception can be made, with written approval of the Branch Manager, in the event of extenuating circumstances. This is taken from the policy manual:
“Exceptions or adjustments are allowed for extenuating circumstances that negatively affect the individual’s ability to participate in the cost of the rehabilitation program. Exceptions or adjustments may also be authorized if requiring the expected financial contribution will result in an undue delay in the rehabilitation program. For example, the participant may have unusually high or increasing family expenses or have become disabled or lost employment or income subsequent to the time period covered by their most recent tax return. If there are extenuating circumstances that justify an exception, the VR counselor may delay or waive all or part of the participant’s financial contribution.”
The other exception would be regarding an upgrade. VR will provide minimum services to meet the rehabilitation need; we look for the least cost option to address the barrier to employment. So, if the specific Kempf system (or similar) was not prescribed as being necessary to meet your needs, (for example, a right-angle MPS system at a cost of $1000 was recommended instead), and you chose the more expensive system, you may have to pay the difference. This is the policy around that:
“At times a participant may prefer an upgrade, enhancement, optional feature, or more expensive vendor of essentially the same equipment or item available from a less expensive vendor. If this preference is not required to satisfy the vocational rehabilitation goals that justify the expenditure, OVRS and the participant may agree that the participant will pay the difference in cost between the preferred service or item and the service or item available that satisfies the vocational rehabilitation goals that justify the expenditure. In this situation, participant payment is required (regardless of whether the Financial Needs Test requires participant contribution) and any participant payments in this situation do not count toward the participant’s mandated financial contribution. “
I also looked at the policy around vehicle modifications.
“Automotive adaptive control devices include mechanical or electrical devices added to a standard motor vehicle to enable an individual with mobility restrictions to operate the accelerator, foot brake, turn signals, dimmer switch, steering wheel, parking brake, and/or climate controls. The purchase of vehicle modifications must be the minimum necessary to meet the participant’s identified functional limitation barrier(s). A vehicle modification shall only be authorized when it is the most feasible means of providing necessary employment-related transportation for the participant and other alternatives for meeting the participant’s transportation needs, such as public transit, are not available. The vehicle to be modified must have been judged mechanically safe as determined by a qualified mechanic (see definitions). All proposed modification(s) must be consistent with applicable vehicle safety laws. OVRS’ participation in modifying or adapting a vehicle will be limited to the least costly type of vehicle modification that modification consultants, and other entities and professionals with vehicle modification and adaptation expertise. OVRS’ participation in modifying or adapting a vehicle will be limited to the least costly type of vehicle modification that will accomplish the goal of enabling the participant to enter, maintain, or regain employment. The participant must complete assessments, evaluations, and testing as necessary to determine the participant’s needs for special equipment for the proposed vehicle modification, and to establish the participant’s ability to drive safely and obtain a valid driver’s license.””
My summary from all of that is that the expense required from us, is not yet able to be determined. As close as I can figure, we’ll either have to pay $3700, or $3700 plus the remaining difference between the lower-priced recommendation, or just the difference between what the recommended option costs, and what my preferred system cost is. Anyways, stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to my GoFundMe campaign, every cent is going into savings to help with this transition, whatever the end cost will be! On the accessible housing front, we’ve had three offers now, all of which have fallen through and another showing scheduled for this evening. Looks like I am in for my first wet pedal of the season in order to vacate the house.
Now this last part is extremely important: If you have read this far, you’ve been sitting too long, it’s time to take a break, get away from your screens for a few and move!