By Joanna Mechlinski
Let’s face it…chronic illness or disability aren’t exactly the best things that can happen to a person. They leave you feeling exhausted, in pain, isolated from family and friends, as well as many of the activities you used to do. On top of all that, they aren’t cheap! Between frequent doctor’s or physical therapy appointments, prescription co-pays and often a reduced income due to having to work part-time or live on disability, most people with chronic illness or a disability struggle to make ends meet. So it’s pretty exciting to discover there are some perks out there, which might make things a tiny bit easier financially.
- The U.S. National Park Service offers a free lifetime access pass to those with permanent This provides access to over 2,000 recreation facilities throughout the country (usually costs $80 per year!) Go to https://store.usgs.gov/pass/access.html for more info.
- Many museums, theme parks and even movie theaters offer discounts to those with a disability – and sometimes even a caregiver or companion! These are often not publicized, so you have to call or speak to an employee on site to verify.
- A number of tourist attractions, including Disney parks, Six Flags and the Cedar Fair chain (e.g. Cedar Point in Ohio, Kings Dominion in Virginia and Knott’s Berry Farm in California) offer disability access passes. If you have trouble waiting in lines, you and your party will receive specific times to board various attractions. (If you are using a wheelchair or scooter, you will automatically be eligible to receive this service without needing to get the pass.)
- Some attractions even have special events! For example, DreamNight is an international event held on the first Friday of each June since 2005. Children with disabilities and their immediate families are invited to spend an evening at the zoo without the general public, all free of charge. Contact your local zoo to see if they participate.
- Broadway shows can be both discounted and more accessible (e.g. orchestra seats so there is no need to climb stairs) via the Theatre Development Fund’s (TDF) Accessibility Fund (www.tdf.org)
- The YMCA/YWCA offer memberships on a sliding scale to those with financial hardships.
- A number of nonprofit organizations, such as Disabled Sports USA, offer free or low-price sports to people facing chronic illness or disability. Some groups, such Connecticut’s Leaps of Faith which hosts adaptive skiing and waterskiing days free of charge to qualifying individuals, are only located in particular states, so you may have to do a little online research to find one near you.
- Whether you want to take a plane, train or bus, there are a good number of travel discounts out there! Amtrak, for example, offers 15 percent off train tickets for both the person with a disability and a companion. Most local transit authorities, such as MBTA in Boston, MARTA in Atlanta, DART in Dallas and BART in the Bay Area also offer discounts to those who have a disability. Make sure to check the website or give the company a call when making your plans.
- It may even be possible to get a free car, through organizations such as FreeCharityCars.org
- Need a laptop? There are nationwide organizations, such as United Way or Computers With Causes, or many that focus solely on a certain state or area, which help provide disabled individuals with free or low-cost computers.
- Individuals receiving SSI benefits are eligible for $9.25/month cell phone or landline service via Lifeline. Such individuals are also able to receive 10% off on Verizon or AT&T internet or phone service.
- Both Vitamix and Blendec offer discounts on their products for individuals with feeding tubes. Contact customer service for more information.
- There are some wonderful databases that will help you discover all the perks available to you, searchable by state or category. DisabledDiscounts.com is a great place to start! Don’t forget to check the national and state organizations for your particular illness or disability.
Any tips you know about that aren’t listed here? Please share!
Joanna Mechlinski is a former newspaper reporter who now works in education. She is a chronic pain sufferer who lives in Connecticut and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.