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July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
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If You Want My Business, Don’t Make It So Hard

(Names and situation altered as requested)




Last week I told Francis’ story of how she helped convince a car dealership to put in a permanent ramp and keep it accessible. She did it by simply asking the dealer if he truly wanted her business. If her husband could not get into the dealership safely and comfortably, she had no intention of purchasing anything from him. This week I’d like to talk about some of the deals offered to help the handicapped community afford some of the very expensive items that are really necessities to the rest of us caregivers.


As I’ve said, it takes extensive modifications to make a car wheelchair accessible. It can easily double the cost of a van, whether or not the wheelchair-bound person is the driver or the passenger. In order to increase the pool of purchasers, many car corporations now give discounts or incentives when modifying one of their cars for the disabled. But this is not as easy as it appears on the surface.


One such car corporation discounts its modifications by $1000. It is a great help to any family wanting to buy this kind of vehicle. However, one needs to read the fine print. Whereas in the United States, the discount is in place as long as a family member is handicapped, in Canada, the owner of the vehicle must be handicapped in order for the discount to apply. And so, the discount may not apply if you are purchasing the car to transport a handicapped child or parent or a person who is unable to own a vehicle.


Yoni’s wife, Atara, was a very active member of her community. Despite the fact that she couldn’t walk, she maintained her active lifestyle. She had recently returned to the work force. Her husband drove Atara to work and picked her up later in the day. When that was impossible, she took taxis to and from work. When her husband was transferred to a store across town in the opposite direction from Atara’s workplace, the couple decided it was time to investigate getting a car that Atara could drive by herself. They deliberately went to the dealership that offered the best rebate on accessible modifications. They were shocked to learn that the only way they could get the rebate was if the car was in Atara’s name. But, Atara didn’t have the credit rating to allow for the financing. Her husband could, but if the car was in his name, they could not receive the rebate. And so they were in a dilemma.


After much correspondence with the head of the company, the salesman suggested that they put the car in Yoni’s name and claim that he was the handicapped person. Yoni refused this option. He neither wanted to lie nor leave himself open for a lawsuit later. After much investigating, Yoni discovered that the same company across the boarder had no problem allowing the rebate for modifications to any family that had a handicapped member, no matter whose name the car was in. After many discussions, e-mails, and letters, months later the company granted Yoni the rebate, even though the car was not in Atara’s name. But by then, the couple was exhausted from the fight and having the accessible car was not as joyful as it should have been.


People suffering from chronic illness and their families face obstacles everywhere they turn. From getting out of bed, to getting dressed, going in and out of a car or simply getting through the day, they deal with more challenges in a week than most of us may face in a lifetime. To offer something that will make life easier for them, like this rebate, and then make it so difficult to actually attain, is absurd. Companies need to take away the seen and unseen barriers to the handicapped community, not add to them. Otherwise, they really don’t deserve their business.


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When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.

Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.

Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.

Dear Ann,

I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

Dear Ann,

Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.

Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

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