Affording Grit – One Boy’s Way Outdoors

Louisiana’s assistive technology (AT) leasing program makes all the difference for a young man with a genetic bone condition.

Getting outside is important for everyone–and especially young people–during normal times. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s essential.

Did you know that most states offer a way to affordably finance assistive technology for individuals with disabilities? State financing programs vary with their offerings but all are designed to increase “access to, and funding for, assistive technology devices and assistive technology services” (as called for by the AT Act of 2004). This popular component of the AT Act made a big difference for a 12-year-old boy in Louisiana during this time of Covid-19.

The Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network (LATAN) offers a unique program. In addition to its cash loan and revolving loan programs, LATAN offers zero-interest leasing options. This is how a young man with a genetic bone disease found himself with pretty slick wheelchair technology: a Grit Freedom Wheelchair.

It’s not the sort of wheelchair insurance of any kind will cover. It is the sort of wheelchair that turns heads for coolness and for what it can do, however.

A manual all-terrain wheelchair with knobby tires and an extended single front wheel.
“Developed by MIT engineers, this easy-to-push, lever-driven wheelchair comes armed with rugged mountain bike wheels, a big, sturdy front wheel that doesn’t get stuck, and optional trail handles.” – from the Grit Freedom Chair website

There are two leasing options for acquiring AT with LATAN. There’s the traditional lease which allows borrowers to lease equipment for 6 months at a time at zero interest (with no penalty or fees for early cancelation). And there’s the zero-interest lease-to-own option, which allows borrowers to pay for AT over a term of their choosing (6, 12, 18 or 24 months). LATAN also allows traditional leases to be converted to least-to-own with past payments applied toward a purchase.

“LATAN helped me acquire the device quickly and gave me the opportunity to finance it at no interest.  This is a great program!”

J. Shilling

J. Shilling was looking for a way to afford a Grit Freedom Wheelchair. He’d researched the equipment and knew it could mean a higher quality of life for his 12-year-old son, “Eric.”

Eric has paralysis, can operate a manual lever-driven wheelchair, and craves more time outside exploring. Traditional wheelchairs are designed for pavement and cannot access trails, dirt, or the beach. The Grit Freedom Chair is designed for off-road travel and also provides more power for the effort exerted by its user.

The challenge is its price tag: nearly $3,000.

J. Shilling contacted LATAN to learn more about the AT Lease Program. With a lease, the family was able to pay $107.69 for each of 36 months. LATAN staff worked with the family to complete the lease application electronically so that no in-person application meetings were necessary during the pandemic. Soon the chair was ordered. Following safety guidelines for social interaction during COVID-19, LATAN’s staff scheduled an appointment for assembly and setup with the Schillings in Shreveport. The parents and their son were educated on safety, cleaning, maintenance, and the device was demonstrated. Within three years, the Schillings will pay off the AT lease in full.

Eric is now a proud Grit Freedom Chair owner.

A boy operates the hand levers of an all-terrain wheelchair in a yard with a vegetable garden.

During fiscal year 2020, close to 6,000 people nationwide took advantage of financial loan and other state financing programs to acquire assistive technology. The vast majority reported they would not have been able to obtain or purchase their assistive technology any other way.

Find your state financing program for acquiring AT