Dear Savvy Senior,
Are there any worthwhile discounts available to people with disabilities, and if so, how can I find them? My wife—who’s 48—has Multiple Sclerosis that now requires her to use a wheelchair.
Need to Save
There are actually a wide variety of discounts and services available to people with disabilities and those living with a chronic illness that can literally save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars each year. Here are some tips to help you find them.
The first thing to know is that most businesses that offer discounts to people with disabilities or their escorts don’t publicize them, so it’s important to always ask.
Also note that most nonprofit organizations and government agencies that provide disabled services or benefits will require proof of disability through a letter from your doctor or some other form of verification before they will accommodate you.
The disabled discounts available to your wife will vary depending on where you live, so a good place to start is to contact the local chapter of the nonprofit organization that specializes in your particular disease or disability—in your wife’s case that would be the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (nationalmssociety.org, 800-344-4867).
Local chapters often know where to find discounts on the medical supplies, mobility equipment and support services. Some organizations have even negotiated special discounted rates with suppliers, and a few even provide subsidized equipment directly.
To search for other disability or disease specific organizations, use any Internet search engine, and type in your disease or disability followed by organizations—for example “Arthritis Organizations” or “Hearing Loss Organizations.”
DisabledDiscounts.com is one of the best resources for finding disabled discounts online. This is a free website that lists thousands of discounts in all 50 states. You search by state and county in 30 different categories ranging from assistive technology to federal and state tax discounts, entertainment to education and so much more.
Also visit Benefits.gov and BenefitsCheckUp.org, two great sites that will help you look for financial assistance programs your wife and you may be eligible for, and will tell you how to apply. And see Disability.gov, a site that connects people with disabilities to helpful programs and services in your area.
Types of Discounts
Here are a few examples of the different types of disabled discounts and services that are out there.
Recreation: Most movie theaters, museums, zoos, theme parks and aquariums provide reduced admission to people with disabilities or their escort. And the National Park Service offers the “America The Beautiful Access Pass” (see nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm) to disabled residents, which provides a lifetime of free access into all national parks and federal recreational lands.
Taxes: There are numerous federal tax deductions and credits available to people with disabilities, and a number of states and counties also offer property tax deductions to disabled homeowners.
Utilities: Many utility companies, including electric, gas, phone, water and trash services offer discounts to customers who are disabled, elderly or low income.
Communication devices: 47 states have equipment distribution programs (see tedpa.org) that offer free amplified telephones to residents with hearing impairment.
Home modifications: There are a number of federal, state, local and nonprofit organizations that help pay for home accessibility improvements like wheelchair ramps, handrails and grab bars for elderly and disabled people in need.
Travel: Amtrak offers a 15 percent rail fare discount to adult passengers with a disability and up to one traveling companion.
Reading services: For those with vision or physical impairments that make it difficult for them to read, the Library of Congress (see loc.gov/nls) offers a “Talking Books” program that provides free audiobooks, magazines and audio equipment. And the National Federation of the Blind offers a free newspaper and magazine reading service at nfbnewslineonline.org.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.