Accessibility and Universal Design

I talk a lot about the value of building Universally Designed homes and communities from the beginning. That’s because the cost of modifications to our existing, inaccessible buildings is incredibly high!

But until we change the world, we still have to shift from inaccessible to accessible, and the idea I think in most people’s heads is that this will be covered by insurance companies. Only we apparently need to have a conversation with the insurance companies about the cost of making our non-universally designed homes and vehicles accessible. Perhaps they’ve never seen the invoices for these items?

I was reading through my husband’s new insurance brochure for the year – something that I unfortunately need to be intimately aware of – and I came across this statement:

“If benefits are payable under this benefit provision for an injury that requires the use of a wheelchair to be ambulatory ... [insurance company name] will pay the actual expense incurred less any amount paid for the same expenses under this plans health care benefit up to $10,000 for all home and vehicle modifications combined.”

$10,000.

*JUST* $10,000 for ALL home and vehicle modifications combined.

*ONLY* $10,000. Total. For all modifications.

Does that sound like a small amount or a large amount to you?

To clarify, the modifications on a vehicle alone – if you already own a two year or newer van that qualifies to be modified – will cost $30,000 – $40,000, depending on your level of injury/impairment.

The cost of *simply* adding a lift to your home to enter and exit the front door will be above $10,000.

That doesn’t cover the bathroom. It doesn’t cover the bedroom. It doesn’t cover internal stairs. It doesn’t cover any of those things.

My husband has a good job. He has a good benefits package. We are fortunate. And this is all that they would offer if our reason for needing an accessible vehicle and home was due to an injury that my husband had suffered that qualified under his plan’s provisions. (To be clear – we do not qualify for these funds).

I understand that insurance companies have to put limits, but these completely inadequate limits are so low that they have the potential to leave otherwise capable, hard-working individuals bed-bound and highly dependent.

I understand that many, many folks do not have even this much support. I understand – because this is the situation we find ourselves in – that very few folks with disabilities have access to even this much financially. However, I think most of us assume that if we have insurance and live in Ontario then the things we will need in the event of a major disability will be taken care of. And unfortunately, this is yet another example that we’re not there yet.

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