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Disability Network Southwest Michigan

Removing Barriers Opens New Doors

Hailey on her stair lift

Hailey, who is 22 and has spina bifida, has been connected to Disability Network staff on and off for the past 3 years. Throughout this time, her ultimate goal has remained the same: she wanted to find employment. Initially she was referred to Disability Network staff for soft skills training in preparation for her employment search. Often while working with a customer, our staff identify other needs that our agency can assist with. The original pre-employment training led to Social Security Benefits Planning so that Hailey and her mom could better understand how employment would impact her benefits, including healthcare coverage. Additionally, our Independent Living staff assisted Hailey with travel training so that she would know how to use public transportation in her area.

Hailey and her mom, Sue, live in the house that Sue grew up in. When Sue’s mom passed away, they moved back into the home to live with Sue’s dad. This was a good arrangement because they could keep an eye on grandpa and he could be available for Hailey while Sue was at work. The only problem is that the house is a split-level; once you step in the door you must go up or down a short flight of stairs. Hailey uses a wheelchair which meant Sue had to carry Hailey up and down to get her in and out of the house, and Hailey needed to have a chair on both the ground level and upstairs in her living area. When Sue is at work, Hailey was trapped upstairs which made her options very limited for employment, social interaction, and anything else she might want to do outside the house.

Hailey realized her goal of getting a job would be unattainable until she addressed the barriers inside her home. The family had researched resources for funding a stair lift that Hailey could use to “ride” up and down the stairs, however, many of these options where only available to particular demographics such as veterans, seniors, or children – Hailey didn’t qualify for any of those. Disability Network was able to use a combination of funds to provide the stair lift that Hailey needed.

The stair lift got Hailey from the main level of the house to the ground level; yet there was still one more step to becoming independent – now she needed a one-step ramp to get out of the house. Through our Ramp Up program, we coordinated the installment of a small metal ramp in the garage which provided that last step to independence for Hailey.

Hailey is very excited about her new stair lift and ramp. Having the ability to navigate the stairs provides her with independence to enjoy her community; she is looking forward to going to the mall and catching a movie with friends. And now she can focus on her original goal of getting a job – the sky’s the limit!