lizcommotion: a hand drawn/colored happy cane (disability cane happy)
[personal profile] lizcommotion
I did a thing! A local activist-y thing, even!

I have been calling so many representatives lately that it has become (slightly) less terrifying and so I decided to contact my local board of representatives about a thing that has been bothering me For Awhile. Namely, that it's really unaffordable to use the local rec centers if you're on, say, disability benefits and yet while there is a very wonderful and deserving senior discount there is no discount for "disabled and poor af". (Another thing that bothers me: only one doctor has ever really acknowledged "I would love to get pool exercise, but it's too expensive" as a real thing.)

I got a response as well! Which is excite. The response was (translated from politics-speak) "huh this sounds like an idea that we would like the photo-ops and political capital from, we never thought of that. we're sending it to the correct department to see if it's in the budget and we'll blame them if we can't make it happen. but thanks for the idea!"

So, we'll see?

If you're interested in sending a similar letter to your own reps, here what I sent with space for specifics for your jurisdiction. It's US-focused since it's based on the US benefits system, but could be adapted for other countries. Places for specifics are marked with [[[parentheses]]] so you can find/replace.

Dear [[[Politics Person]]],

My name is [[[name]]] and I am a disabled person who lives in your district. While I appreciate many of the amenities and government services [[[district]]] has to offer, I wanted to offer a request. I hope that [[[district]]] considers ways to make exercise options more affordable for disabled citizens, many of whom are on a limited income and are not always eligible for senior programs.

I have [[[diagnosis optional]]]. While there is no cure, one of the treatments available to keep myself from further losing mobility is gentle exercise. This is particularly difficult in summer and winter weather, where I must navigate the health risks of extreme heat or falling on ice. The ability to exercise indoors on accessible equipment is key for my condition, and actually helps me better cope with thing such as icy conditions. Water exercise or swimming is also highly recommended for my condition, as well as many other disabilities.

Many individuals with disabilities depend upon SSI (Supplemental Security Income), which is for individuals who become disabled before they can earn enough credits to receive SSDI (Social Security Disability Income). Currently, SSI payments are $735/month for an individual. However, benefits may be reduced in cases where an individual lives with family. This can reduce the budget for an individual to under $500/month. Individuals on SSI are also restricted in how much money they can save.

Our county recreation facilities are simply not affordable for many who rely on federal disability benefits. A one-time pass is [[[specific amount here]]], but those quickly add up if one is attempting to exercise at least three times per week. In order to purchase a flex pass or membership -- which reduce the cost of individual visits to the rec center -- an individual must pay up front. These cost anywhere from [[[specifics]]]. How is someone whose income is $700/month or less supposed to pay [[[specifics]]] for a rec center membership up front?

It is particularly important for people with chronic health conditions to be able to access exercise equipment. In addition to simply managing the conditions we already have, exercise can help prevent the development of other chronic health conditions. Isolation and loneliness are also issues that disabled people face. Regular access to a recreation center can help disabled people find community and peers.

I applaud the fact that our community already offers Recreation Center discounts for Senior Citizens. Seniors are also on limited incomes; often manage multiple health conditions or need to prevent more from developing; risk social isolation and benefit from community involvement. However, isn't it time to extend the same helping hand to low-income area disabled residents? What of our "wounded warrior" veterans who are under 65? What of autistic people who have aged out of many community support services, yet could still benefit from a physical outlet? What of those with work-related injuries?

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing your response,

[[[concerned citizen]]]
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