John Pickett has to make a hard decision today: When you have a long list of people with disabilities who have immense unmet needs, which one gets the wheelchair ramp? Today, Pickett has 20 people on a waiting list in Davidson County alone, and available funds for only one wheelchair ramp. Pickett is the director of United Cerebral Palsy’s Home Access Program. Through this program, UCP and partner agencies across the state construct wheelchair ramps on to the homes of people with disabilities.
The program also provides limited home modification services such as bathroom modifications and other essential services. Pickett’s problem isn’t new. He has been doing this job since 1999. According to Pickett, there is never enough money to serve all the people who apply for the program. “We do our best to serve people on a first come, first serve basis, but there are other factors that must be considered, with safety of the applicant and the caregiver lifting them up steps being a primary concern.”
Pickett narrowed the list down to the 5 program applicants who have been waiting the longest. They range from 24 to 95 years old. They have disabilities resulting from a variety of conditions, including cerebral palsy, strokes, cancer and lung disease. What they each have in common is the need for a wheelchair ramp because they are not able to independently enter and exit their own homes without this modification and they cannot afford to pay for the ramp.
The program has just depleted the last funds in a grant from Tennessee Housing Development Agency. The average cost for lumber and supplies for a single ramp is $754. “We have 122 people on waiting lists across the state right now,” says Pickett. We need an additional $92,000 just to acquire supplies for people on the waiting lists. That doesn’t include labor costs and the additional need when you take into account new applications that arrive every day.”
The program saves money by enlisting volunteers from area businesses, church groups, civic organizations and schools to build the ramps. “This is a program that changes lives in less than a day of work,” says Pickett.
To donate or volunteer for the Wheelchair Ramp program, contact:
United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee
1200 9th Avenue North, Suite 110
Nashville TN 37208