FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The Alaskan interior can be harsh no matter the circumstance. Between temperature fluctuations, isolation, and long stints of darkness through the winters, the region is notorious among its residents for being one in which wariness of the environment is necessary for survival.
For those experiencing disabilities, Access Alaska provides options for independent living, personal care, and equipment. (Ramzi Abou Ghalioum/KTVF)
For those experiencing disabilities, these factors present unique challenges exclusive to the particular disability one happens to be facing. However, there are programs available to aid in these circumstances.
The Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, for instance, aids the Alaskan disability community in finding jobs. Federal assistance in the form of Medicare and Medicaid is also available. Institutions like the Veterans Health Administration are available to members of the military. Even the University of Alaska Fairbanks has Disability Services, which provides accommodations for students experiencing a disability.
Another option for the disability community in the interior includes Access Alaska, a center for independent living. Readers may be familiar with Access Alaska as organizers of the popular Halloween Trick or Treat Town event.
According to Christine Charron, Pre-Employment Transitions Manager at Access Alaska, their organization works a little differently than some others in the same field. “We work to help individuals with disabilities and Alaskan elders to live independently in the community of their choice,” said Charron, “So that means helping them remove barriers so that they can live the life that they want to live.”
Charron says that Access Alaska is consumer driven, which means that the consumers decide how to direct the services they are offered. Eric Gurley, Executive Director at Access Alaska, says this is important when considering other limitations they have. In order to be a Center for Independent Living, and obtain federal assistance, they must maintain certain standards. So when it comes to funds without restrictions on them, such as their profits from Halloween Town, they can provide a much more flexible range of services to their consumers.
According to the staff at Access Alaska, this flexibility allows them to catch those with disabilities who have “fallen through the cracks,” implying that the guidelines for disability assistance in many state and federally funded programs may leave others who do not qualify for assistance by those programs with limited options.
Another amenity offered by Access Alaska is what Charron refers to as a loan closet. “So let’s say little Tommy broke his leg... you can come in and get a pair of crutches,” said Charron, “And plenty of other medical equipment, [for people who] are getting out of the hospital.”
Gurley also mentions that they also offer a personal care program. This program allows their consumers to vet and select a personal caregiver who will attend to their specific needs.
The services offered by Access Alaska are free to its consumers. They encourage those experiencing a disability or those caring for someone with a disability to get in touch and explore their options.
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