Late last month, we were contacted by a professor in the biomedical engineering department of Marquette University. He wanted to know if we could come and speak to his class on the topic of “The Needs of People with Disabilities.” We said we’d be delighted.

Jessica and I prepared some slides on the equipment Namine has had over the years. There certainly has been a variety. We’ve had eqiuipment supplied to us, like the trache suction machine and the g-tube feeding pump; we’ve had equipment donated or loaned, like Namine’s first wheelchair and toilet commode; and we’ve built our own makeshift solutions, like Namine’s kitchen counter and bathroom sink.

While we were preparing the slides for the talk, it didn’t really occur to me that there was an overarching theme (other than the topic at hand, anyway). Jessica and I organized our thought process into a logical order, but we never practiced the talk itself. It was a topic we were well versed in; it was is our life.

With everything said and done, however, I think the theme is really “accessibility equipment doesn’t have to be so expensive.” Take Namine’s sink, for example.

Namine had been making great strides in getting herself on and off the toilet, but she had no way of washing her hands. She still depended on one of us to lift her up to the sink, so my aunt built one for her. It’s simple, but perfect: three slabs of wood and a water dispenser with a spigot. Aside from some screws and L brackets, that’s it.

I don’t imagine building one yourself would run you much more than $30 or so, but if we had to request something like this from a service provider, you can be sure of two things.

  1. It would cost much more than doing it yourself. Even simple things like bath benches cost anywhere between $80 and $400, depending on where you go and what you need.
  2. Insurance would not pay for it. Insurance companies, whose job it is to deny you the things you need (I am only half-joking here), outright deny paying for anything that is not deemed a “medical necessity.” Getting Namine a basketball wheelchair, for example, is not a medical necessity, and so will not be paid for — even in part — by insurance.

The class seemed quite interested in what we had to say. I should say “what Jessica had to say,” since she did most of the speaking, although Namine had a chance to give her viewpoint as well. The professor asked us if we’d be interested in speaking to one of his classes in the future. We look forward to the opportunity of doing so again.