It has been over 5 years since I moved to New York City to pursue the possibilities of directing in the theatre.
I'm pleased to say that, over that time, I've had more "ups" than "downs" "“ positive experiences that many of you, if you're reading this, have probably been a part of. Still, a life in the city "“and in this field"“ can sometimes leave you worse for wear: especially when relying, day in and day out, on a mechanical device to get you where you need to be.
That device is now on its last legs:
I am in need of a new wheelchair. One that will help me continue to pursue and participate in theatre projects that I care about.
Thankfully the majority of the cost for a new chair can be covered through insurance. My current "brand" of chair, Permobil, has served me well for over 15 years, and it's one that is approved (in part) under insurance coverage. That's the good news.
The bad news is, though the basic structure of the chair is approved, there are other functions I need on a chair that the insurance companies don't consider essential.
According to these companies, these are things that are superfluous, unnecessary, extravagant "“ and in no way medically relevant. For me, they are the exact features that allow me to work, to be creative, to "“quite literally"“ get in the door of places that would otherwise be unavailable to me.
Insurance is content to provide me with, basically, a working chair.
What I need is a "Director's Chair."
I wonder if you might help me get these necessary extra functions on my new chair.
Here are the features that remain uncovered. Hopefully you'll understand why they're so important.
While most wheelchairs can only sit low to the ground, there is an optional feature that allows the seat of the Permobil chair to raise up to "eye level."
To see over the seats in the theater; to be able to communicate with my actors directly (instead of always being forced to "look up"); to feel that I am present in the room "“ standing tall instead of sitting quietly:
It's an "option" that I'm unable to perform my work confidently and effectively without.
Although most theatres recognize the need for easy access, sadly there are many that have steps or other impediments that keep me from entering at all. Sometimes an alternative in this situation is to set up or construct a ramp "“ but given that this type of makeshift option could result in a steep incline, the chair needs to have the drive to handle it. With an upgrade to the basic motor, a few more doors are open to me. Without it, just one or two steps could mean the difference between working at a theatre or being unable to.
A seemingly simple thing, but it's the one item on the chair that is not easily, or quickly, replaced. When, two summers ago, on my way to see a show at Shakespeare in the Park, my wheel literally fell off and rolled away (no joke), it nearly kept me from concluding my participation in an important directing project.
Parts break, things happen, but it's more difficult to drop your vehicle off at the shop when that vehicle is your legs. The tires will allow me a backup option so I never will be in the position of having to miss a rehearsal.
I have to admit it does feel a strange and awkward situation for me to have to request support for something like this. I wish there was an obvious and easy alternative. I have pursued every avenue including requesting an appeal of the insurance decision, and exploring alternate means of coverage.
But no one at an insurance company or support agency knows me, or understands the work I do.
(Or if you've come to this link through a friend or family member of mine, you know someone who recognizes what this need is all about.)
The cost for the motor and height upgrades are $3,500 combined. The backup tires to allow me to get back on the road, even if things break down, are another $500.
I must secure the chair, with alternate parts included, by April 1st or else the approval lapses and I have to start the application process all over again.
$4000 seems a lot of money "“ it certainly does to me "“ and with these tough times, I can certainly understand that most people are stretched thin right now. There are absolutely no hard feelings if the answer is "I just can't."
But "I can't" is not an answer I like to give when offered a great job possibility or theatre opportunity. Without the right features on the right chair, I'm stuck in neutral.
I thank you for clicking this link, and for any way - small or large - that you are able to help me out with this.
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