Users Unite4CRT

‘We have to get those messages to the people who make the decisions’
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Friday, January 17, 2020

YARMOUTH, Maine – After a successful first virtual town hall meeting last summer, a group of wheelchair users has given themselves a name, Unite4CRT, and has taken a more strategic approach to sharing their stories in 2020.

The group plans to host town halls on Facebook Live each month leading up to the Access2CRT Summit, March 30-31 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va. February’s town hall will be hosted by Jenny Siegle and will cover caregiver essentials.

“Jenny manages her own caregiver,” said Annette Hodges, the director of education and social media manager for NRRTS, who helps Unite4CRT produce the town halls. “How do you interview a caregiver; how much do you pay them; how much time do you schedule them for? These are all great questions.”

In March, the group plans to host a town hall that will serve as a “prep session” for wheelchair users who will be attending the Summit later in the month or who will be contacting legislators remotely.

Another next step for the group: Use the town halls, as well as more frequently posted videos on Facebook, to expand their audience to include more lawmakers and policymakers, Hodges says.

“We have a lot of wheelchair users on social media, explaining to people how they function daily and how they’re able to do things, but we want to translate that into something that makes Congress understand and makes CMS understand,” she said. “We have to get those messages to the people who make the decisions.”

Kyle Romano, a wheelchair user who is part of the group, says Unite4CRT’s town halls and its presence on Facebook are a ready made educational platform to share with lawmakers and policymakers.

“When I go into these offices, I have a social media outlet that they can easily go to,” said Romano, marketing and social media coordinator for Custom Mobility in Largo, Fla. “It also allows me to connect with them—congresspeople are all on social media.”

Unite4CRT equips wheelchair users with tangible tools, but it also empowers them at a core level, Hodges says.

“We’ve even talked about, what do they want to be called?” she said. “They’re always called consumers, but that doesn’t really describe them or their needs. They’ve decided they’re CRT users. It’s about how they want their message perceived by others.”