Andrea Dalzell, Ms. Wheelchair New York 2015, is featured among the disability advocates who will appear at the United Spinal Association’s 6th Annual Roll on Capitol Hill. Advocates will speak directly with legislators on issues affecting independence and quality of life for members of the the spinal cord injury and disorders (SCI/D) community.
Dalzell’s focus at Roll on Capitol Hill 2017, June 11-14, in Washington, D.C., will be on urging her state’s representatives to provide New Yorkers living with spinal cord injuries and disorders better access to complex rehab technology such as individually configured manual and power wheelchair systems. These are used by people with major disabilities caused by ALS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury to help maintain their independence and participation in society. Complex rehab devices include sophisticated wheelchair seating and body positioning components and specialty controls. But current Medicare’s regulations make these systems difficult for wheelchair-dependent users to acquire, according to United Spinal.
“Complex rehab technology is extremely important to me,” Dalzell, 29, said in a press release. “Twenty-five years in a wheelchair means that I have wear and tear on my shoulders and my body.” Dalzell was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a neurological condition that causes spinal cord inflammation, at age 5. “People like me need customized wheelchair design to prevent injury, prevent wounds, and to keep us living independently.”
“It is well known that the disability unemployment rate is almost triple that of the non-disabled population,” she said, “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 has a bachelor of science in biology and neuroscience from the College of Staten Island and is now in nursing school. She said Ms. Wheelchair New York is not a beauty pageant, but rather an event and foundation dedicated to the recognition of women for their ability to advocate and empower those both within and outside of the disability community.
Beyond the need for people to have access to appropriate assistance equipment, Dalzell’s other concern involves the replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which passed May 4 in the House of Representatives by a two-vote margin.
“The reason why I am alive today is because of the ACA,” Dalzell said. “In 2010, I had a stage four wound that would not heal. I was on basic Medicaid seeing regular doctors instead of specialists.” Fortunately Dalzell’s mom was able to add her to her ACA healthcare plan. “Even with a pre-existing condition, I was not denied,” Dalzell said in the release. “It was only then I was able to see the specialist who performed my surgery and healed me.”
Roll on Capitol Hill provides a platform for member advocates like Dalzell and other United Spinal national chapter network representatives to speak with their congressional representatives about issues face-to-face.
“There’s a great need to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities across society,” Dalzell said. “In 2017, from education to the workplace to healthcare, we still haven’t figured out how to be inclusive and provide access to basic needs for all our citizens,” she said, noting that her Roll on Capitol Hill participation has given her the skills needed to sit down with officials of any state to share her perspectives, build solutions, and help legislators and bureaucrats understand the core issues affecting wheelchair users. The event has also helped her find women mentors nationwide who have enabled her to gain confidence.
Roll on Capitol Hill, United Spinal’s main annual legislative advocacy event, provides an opportunity each summer for United Spinal member advocates to visit with congressional leaders to inform and educate regarding policy issues that affect individuals living with SCI/D.
United Spinal says this year’s event will encounter challenges and opportunities on a range of policy issues with the new presidential administration. Its focus is that the SCI/D community remains vigilant to ensure that rights and independence are not rolled back.
For more information and event details, visit the association event site.