Every month, Accessible Dispatch shines the spotlight on a New York City-based organization that strives to improve the lives of people with disabilities. This month, we spoke to United Spinal Association, discussing several initiatives run by the organization that work toward social, financial, and economical inclusion.
What is United Spinal?
Founded in 1946 by a group of strong willed paralyzed veterans in New York City, United Spinal has been working tirelessly for people with disabilities. United Spinal says that they believe no person should be excluded from opportunity based on their disability.
For more than eight decades, United Spinal has been devoted to bringing equality and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. In the 1970s, they revealed the appalling conditions that Vietnam veterans were living in. Their effort resulted in a public outcry and grabbed attention from Washington D.C., which led to the demolition of the Bronx VA Medical Center, which was rebuilt from the ground up per Congressional order.
United Spinal played a crucial role in writing the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990, which provides a clear mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The Association believes we are still a long way from achieving 100% accessibility, but they are not stopping anytime soon. They currently have several ongoing initiatives to help encourage and promote accessibility in New York City.
What initiatives and programs does United Spinal execute to promote independent living within the disability community?
United Spinal’s Pathways to Employment program supports individuals with disabilities in finding new job opportunities and a successful career by ensuring a support system is in place to help them overcome barriers faced in gaining employment.
Additionally, the Association has programs like the Public Policy program and Resource Center that focus on providing equal education opportunities and improving quality of life. The VetsFirst program protects the rights of the disabled veteran community, ensuring they can achieve optimal quality of life, seek out employment opportunities, and effectively transition back into their communities after serving their country
How can I connect with United Spinal?
United Spinal has a New York Chapter, along with 50 other chapters all over the country. United Spinal chapters are self-dependent organizations, which carry forward the Association’s goals and support them within specified geographical regions. As per United Spinal: United Spinal “supports the spinal cord injury/disease community in many different ways – by promoting health and well-being, promoting inclusion and independence, organizing local events and projects, advocating for rights and accessibility, and offering information and support to their chapter communities.”
United Spinal understands that timely, targeted resource provision and support can improve someone’s outlook on living with spinal cord injury/disability as well as enable access to critical, specialized healthcare. Their Information Specialists are efficient and reachable. Each year, United Spinal’s six-member Spinal Cord Resource Center team serves approximately 4,000 cases and conducts upwards of 7,400 interactions with wheelchair users, paralyzed veterans, and the greater disability community of family members, medical professionals, case managers, and others.
With a combined 80 years of experience living successfully with spinal cord injury (SCI), the Resource Center’s staff includes members living with paraplegia and quadriplegia, SCI Nurse Information Specialists, and credentialed Social Workers. The staff provides both online and phone-in services where one can converse with a live resource specialist and receive comprehensive support and follow-up on any number of issues. The Resource Center is truly a lifeline for the SCI community, even addressing life or death concerns, as well as critical decisions about health management.
Last but not the least, United Spinal applauds the work of the Accessible Dispatch program, which helps NYC residents and visitors with disabilities access all the City has to offer and live with greater independence.