Here is a young man with a Bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech. He was offered a job with General Motors designing concept cars, an absolute dream job! He took a trip to Michigan to look for an apartment. Unfortunately, he was unable to find accessible living options within a reasonable distance from his new office. Because of his disability, it is necessary for him to retain attendant care services, and he became discouraged when he didn’t know how to tap into the services he needed to live and work within his new community. He had no other choice but to return to Alabama and live with his parents. David’s situation was complex, indeed. He and his support group weren’t really sure what to do. The Full Life Ahead Foundation was contacted. We immediately started to develop his Full Life Ahead Plan, and called on our HOPE Partners and network to get involved. Everyone who heard about David and his plight wanted to help make something happen! Today, David works full-time in his hometown as a mechanical engineer at a local company approving design plans for machinery and equipment. He is currently working on his Business Plan to start his own business. In the process, David has formalized his goals and identified key action steps.

David Explains his Goals…
1. My number one goal in life is to own and operate a manufacturing company to produce high-end adaptive equipment for wheelchairs in addition to vehicle modifications. I want to use my firsthand knowledge and experience to produce the absolute best and most innovative adaptive equipment in the world.

2. To become the authority on high-end vehicle modifications. These modifications will not necessarily be for disabled users, but anyone who wants to pursue a project everyone else says cannot be done. Goals 1 & 2 will obviously build off of each other.

3. I would like to become financially successful enough to be able to support myself and family without having to constantly deal with the red tape and bureaucracy of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other government and support agencies.

As with most entrepreneurial ideas, the largest obstacle for long-term goals is funding. Startup capital is extremely difficult to secure, especially for industries producing high-end, low volume products. It is extremely risky because it cannot start small compared to most businesses. A relatively large capital investment will be required to setup manufacturing operations with the necessary equipment and staff to successfully penetrate and compete in the marketplace. As one would anticipate, the current set of rules and regulations for Social Security Administration (SSA) and other agencies designed to assist individuals with special needs is the other obstacle. The SSA does not have adequate programs in place to allow disabled individuals who require a large amount of care (personal care attendants) to earn a mid-level salary. Under the existing circumstances, one must be close to poverty level, or earn enough money to completely support themselves without any assistance from the government. There are some programs to offset this, such as 1619(b) and PASS, but there is not enough knowledge locally to implement them and, at best they are temporary fixes (PASS). Even with these programs, one is walking on the edge, because as soon as his assets or salary exceeds a pre-determined level, everything stops. Therefore, it is essentially an all-or-nothing situation.

“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life making sure my salary is $1 less than my adjusted threshold income.” says David.