Disabled Student Union reimbursement program helps cover student medical costs
The new program is helping students purchase items such as mobility aids and braces
With her new wheelchair, Caroline Arnette can already feel the difference. The sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences said she has more energy and feels more efficient. And she says her hip pain is less noticeable.
But Arnette’s new wheelchair may have not been possible without the help of American University’s Disabled Student Union.
The DSU’s newly-established reimbursement program is helping students pay for medical expenses.
The reimbursement program aims to help applicants cover the cost for non-insurance covered medical costs, such as mobility aids and braces.
“Being disabled is really expensive, but on top of that, disabled people are often in a cycle of forced poverty,” sophomore Katherine Greenstein, DSU president, said.
Often, insurance does not cover disability-related expenses over the benefits limit. Disability benefits give a fixed amount of money to cover related expenses, and as Greenstein says, it is often very low.
Students were able to apply for the reimbursement via a Google Form by providing receipts from their purchases.
The funds for the reimbursement program came from fundraising on social media and DSU’s flea market, which it hosted with mutual aid organization Heal Da Homies in September.
Additionally, donations from members and their families have helped fund the program, according to sophomore Laura Polomis, the DSU treasurer.
“Knowing that we've had that tangible impact on them, on their lives, I think, really speaks a lot to the impact of our organization,” Polomis said.
Arnette, a DSU member, was the sole student who applied for reimbursement during the first round of applications.
Arnette was reimbursed around $300 to put towards her new wheelchair, which cost approximately $1,200.
“It was just incredibly helpful because it made the financial decision easier,” Arnette said.
Arnette, who received her new wheelchair a few days ago, says it has helped her manage her hip pain and increase her energy levels.
“It has given me the opportunity to participate in life in a way that I couldn't before,” she said. “And the DSU made it much more available and accessible for me.”
Arnette encouraged others to apply to the reimbursement fund, saying she dealt with internalized ableism when deciding whether or not to apply. In the beginning, she said she believed the funds could have gone to another person who needed it more.
She hopes that when people see her using her wheelchair, and when DSU receives more funding for the program, more people will apply for financial help.
In the future, DSU hopes to expand the reimbursement program, stressing the importance of mutual aid.
Additionally, DSU is working on creating a product library, where students can borrow different products to test them out. According to Greenstein, they hope to provide items such as temporary crutches, mobility aids and stim toys through donation and mutual aid.
“Establishing this kind of system doesn't just have to be monetary,” Greenstein said. “We can have a care network already going on in this group and I would like to see it grow.”
Editor’s Note: The Eagle’s Opinion Managing Editor Kayla Kelly is the founder of Heal da Homies, and was not involved in the reporting, writing or editing of this story.