Wheelchair users look to House for relief (Lowell Sun)

Below is an excerpt from an article published by the Lowell Sun on July 4 that reveals the timeline of disability advocate efforts to establish greater wheelchair repair protections in Massachusetts. Disability Law Center’s Executive Director Barbara L’Italien and Rick Glassman are quoted.

BOSTON — Leyla Connolly’s battery-powered wheelchair has been broken for over a year. As she waits for it to be fixed, she is consigned to her Dorchester apartment, where she feels trapped without a safe way to leave to get groceries, go to doctor’s appointments or visit the nearby park.

“My whole life has been on standstill for a year,” Connolly said.

The Senate has twice passed a bill (S 2541) to expand wheelchair warranty protections and require faster repairs and replacements. The House left the bill untouched last session and this session representatives have not taken action, with formal meetings set to end July 31.

Rep. John Lawn, the House chair of the Health Care Financing Committee, held a closed-door negotiation meeting in April with disability rights advocates and wheelchair repair companies, trying to come up with compromise language to put before the House, according to a handful of advocates familiar with the conversations.

“I’ve appreciated the engagement of the committee in working to understand and facilitate conversations,” said Chris Hoeh, a wheelchair user and disability rights advocate who attended the meeting. “They could have just taken the Senate legislation and buried it, or rewritten it and done a compromise that was really bad for us. But they gave us time to try and negotiate. And now, I’m looking forward to working with them to get it to the governor’s desk.”

Read more from the Lowell Sun.