Don’t Take No for an Answer: Appealing the State to Restore Independence

Don’t Take No for an Answer: Appealing the State to Restore IndependenceKim, a 21 year-old adult with an intellectual disability, was completely cut off from the outside world, unable to leave her home without suffering physical pain and risking serious further injury. The reason for her isolation was a broken wheelchair lift.

Restricted to a wheelchair, Kim was unable to use stairs either in her home or when she was engaged in activities around her community.

Ten years ago, in an effort to improve Kim’s mobility and ensure she had the freedom to leave her home on a regular basis, Kim’s family installed a wheelchair lift at her house.

When the wheelchair lift broke

This device, which operates much like an elevator, allowed Kim to safely and easily enter and exit her home independently. Without the lift, Kim’s only other option was to have someone to carry her up and down the stairs each time she wanted to go outside. This was both difficult to arrange logistically and also presented a very real risk of injury that her doctors described as “dangerous.”

When the wheelchair lift malfunctioned, leaving Kim stranded, the State denied a request made by Kim’s parents to replace the critical machinery. Based on their assessment that the lift was not medically necessary, the State asserted that a wheelchair lift does not meet the definition of “durable medical equipment.”

Going up to bat

However, we appealed the State’s initial decision in a fair hearing and was successful in arguing that the lift did serve a medical purpose and did, therefore, constitute durable medical equipment. We won the case, and the judge ordered the State to replace the lift at no cost to the family, ensuring that Kim would once again be able to safely come and go from her home.

With her freedom and independence restored, Kim was able to remain a valuable and vibrant part of her community and the larger world beyond her doorstep.


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