PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — There is a massive demand for ramps to keep the elderly and disabled in their homes and out of assisted living. The Disability Achievement Center, a nonprofit in Largo, said the demand for ramps before COVID-19 was high. Now, the need is even greater.
The pandemic is also stretching their budgets.
The center added food deliveries to the disabled which took money away from their ramp program.
"We needed the refrigerator before we can make the partnership for fresh food," Jody Armstrong, the Director of Outreach for the Disability Achievement Center, said. "We'll be delivering food throughout COVID and any case of emergency."
A new refrigerator costs several thousands of dollars that takes money away from their ramp program.
For the past 15 years, Armstrong said they've installed recyclable aluminum ramps for people needing handicap accessible homes.
"The ramp waitlist grew from the mid-40s about three years ago. And we are in over a hundred ramps on the waitlist right now. We do the best we can, I apply for grants funding anywhere we can basically the community. If you would like to donate, we would love donations as a nonprofit to continue this ramp program cause it's huge it is so needed with our older homes and mobile homes in the community," Armstrong said.
The average wait time for a ramp is 2-3 years. A handful of ramps become available each year if someone moves into a facility with a family member or passes away.
"Oh, it's been fantastic! Before I had this, I only went out to doctor's appointments when I had to because I have fallen down the steps a couple of times," said Janet Bardsley, 75, from the top of her aluminum ramp outside her Pasco County home.
The Disability Achievement Center finally got it installed after Bardsley waited two years for it.
"Now, I am able to go out more and enjoy myself more," Bardsley said. "When they have activities down at the clubhouse, I can take part in them I can go down to the pool, all things I was afraid to do because I didn't want to fall."
A few years ago, Bardsley fell outside her home and was forced to spend three weeks at an assisted living center rehab facility.
"I would be very reluctant to go I would stay in my house and do nothing until COVID passed by," Bardsley said. "They've helped me a whole lot. They had put railings up both here and by the kitchen door, which made it a little easy for me to get down."
Armstrong hopes people watching or reading this story will pay it forward.
"This could be you, this could be you that is in need," Armstrong said. "That is the biggest, biggest need. Think about it if you were locked in your home, everyone's experienced that loneliness and isolation due to COVID. Think about that people with disabilities feel like that every single day."