On A Roll Wheelchair Program Supports Disability Community

“When an On A Roll clinician is working with someone, it’s ‘how can I support you?’ We have to have a give and take relationship,” said Independence Care System (ICS) Senior Vice President, Rehab and Mobility Services Jean Minkel. “Only the person with the lived experience is the ‘expert’ of their lives. We listen to them — we are in partnership with them.”

For many years, the ICS On A Roll comprehensive wheelchair evaluation program has maintained that partnership, existing as a premier provider of specialized mobility assessments conducted by credentialed occupational and physical therapists and supporting low-income New Yorkers with physical disabilities.

On A Roll was developed and is led by Jean, an internationally recognized expert on seating and mobility. The program features both a wheelchair clinic and a repair services. The clinic ensures that people who are experiencing challenges getting around, in their homes and/or the community, are thoroughly evaluated and provided with the right mobility device — the right device allowing for freedom of movement, which preserves their health and maximizes their independence. Clinic evaluations ensure wheelchairs fit properly, not only to prevent pressure wounds, but also meet the needs of each individual.

Wheelchair and complex rehab equipment services are covered by many insurances, and On A Roll staff work with a person’s doctor and insurer to help them get the right equipment.

On A Roll’s Impact In The Community

The mobility of people with disabilities has been an area of importance that ICS has always been committed to, and is aligned with the organization’s three pillars of health, mobility and independence — foundational pillars of health equity for people with disabilities. Without mobility and skilled assessments and fittings for wheelchair users, the pillars of health and independence suffer. On A Roll remains a priority service for the organization, and has made a significant impact in the lives of wheelchair users.   

“We ask, ‘what are your functional needs? What works about your chair? What would you modify? Have I given you an option to try different products?’” Jean said. “We have the capability of giving people a choice. It’s consumer-centered throughout the process.”

Independent Living Associate Jessica De La Rosa, who is also a disability rights advocate active in her community, described On A Roll as a one-of-a-kind program that goes above and beyond to ensure that people with disabilities receive proper wheelchair evaluations and support. The On A Roll clinic, she explained, allows her a high level of independence.

On A Roll has assisted wheelchair users who, with the right chair, were empowered to operate more independently and comfortably thanks to the right match of device to functional need.

Outreach Associate Christy Cruz-Cullins was a manual wheelchair user for 12 years. When she became pregnant with her daughter, Trinity, it became more difficult to maneuver her chair. Christy needed seatbelt adjustments, and On A Roll was quick to evaluate and assist her. After six months of pregnancy, and riding the train to commute to work, Christy could no longer continue in a manual chair.

“I went in and was evaluated at the clinic,” Christy said. “The best option, I tried, was a motorized wheelchair. I don’t know how I would have held Trinity and pushed myself at the same time in my old chair.”

When Trinity was born, On A Roll was able to help secure a second seatbelt on her chair, so that as Trinity grew, Christy could sit her on her lap with her own seatbelt. This not only supported Christy as a new mother, but allowed her to travel, food shop, work and handle day-to-day responsibilities.

On A Roll Aims To Expand

On A Roll continues to support people with disabilities, one of the most vulnerable populations in New York City, no matter the challenge. That includes the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, On A Roll staff have remained available to assist those who needed evaluations, test drives and finally proper fittings and alignments of their new wheelchairs at delivery.

Currently serving individuals throughout most of the five boroughs, the On A Roll clinic will expand to include all of New York City, lower Westchester County, Rockland and Nassau counties, and northeastern New Jersey. Many of these areas lack comprehensive seating and mobility clinical services, with service providers in these areas either having closed or being often overbooked. For some areas, clinics are available to offer the specialized seating and mobility evaluation, required by Medicare for a certain complex rehab level chairs.

“We are a dedicated clinic space for complex rehab technology. We’re not sharing space with anyone else,” said Rachel Spiers, lead On A Roll clinical specialist. “We have access to demo equipment. We have longstanding relationships with vendors.”

Building Relationships With People With Disabilities

As On A Roll staff move forward, the goal is not only to expand the program’s client base and to provide critical equipment and services to enhance their quality of life, but to bring unmatched expertise to a wider community.

Part of that expertise, Rachel said, is building long-term relationships with people with disabilities to help them navigate health and independence challenges. 

“It can be an intimate process,” she said. “You ask questions that are private and personal. Having a rapport is a cornerstone — you want people to trust you. People value us as a resource because of our customized, individual treatment sessions and treatment strategies. We look at the whole picture, the home environment, and the lived experience of the person and their needs.”

Click here to learn more and make an appointment.

ICS Member Only Benefit – Access To The On A Roll Repair Services

ICS members also have access to On A Roll’s repair service specialists who make necessary adjustments and repairs to member wheelchairs.

“I’ve used a wheelchair my entire life — it’s not a piece of equipment, it’s my life,” Jessica said, noting that she has received tremendous support from On A Roll, whether to help her secure a new,  specialized cushion for her chair, to addressing battery issues for her power wheelchair.

“I’m an active person,” Jessica said. “When the technicians come, they’ll let me know about potential issues with my power chair, like the treads on my tires. They evaluate and assess the situation. They pointed out that the treads were very thin. They get it. They listen to your concerns. It really is a partnership.”

Christy also emphasized that On A Roll repair services support wheelchair users proactively. She recently visited to address issues with her actuator — the part on a wheelchair that allows powered seating functions to operate, such as tilt, recline, seat and leg elevate. While there, her wheelchair was making strange sounds. 

“There was rust on the bottom of the actuator, so it needed oil,” Christy said. “But as the technician evaluated my chair, we discovered I also needed new tires. I was referred to National Seating and Mobility. It was through their technicians that I also learned I needed a new battery as well. I wasn’t aware I did. So because of On A Roll and National Seating, I was eventually able to get everything I needed with their help, and I was up and running with no problems.”

Access to the ICS On A Roll repair services is a specialized service offered to ICS members only. All members should contact their Care Manager to start the repair process.

Click here to hear more about ICS Health Home and access to the On A Roll repair services.

Christopher Engelhardt

Christopher Engelhardt

Communications Specialist