A project of Mid Minnesota Legal Aid
Changing Lives. Changing Attitudes. Changing the System.
“I’m not such a religious man,” says Trien Dao. “But that Legal Aid attorney has been an angel in our lives, a direct answer to our prayers.”
Trien’s 15-year-old son, Phillip, has Dandy Walker Syndrome and cerebral palsy, and mostly depends on a walker for mobility. His inability to exercise independently puts him at high risk for a number of chronic conditions.
In 2011, he began to take independent steps without a walker, but he was unstable and his gait was unsteady. Mr. Dao did some research and discovered Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) technology. He found a doctor familar with the technology, and Phillip began using an FES bike in physical thearapy.
Phillip’s rapid improvement in leg strength, flexibility and balance was exciting to his doctors, but he quickly reached the cap on physical therapy benefits. His family applied for funding under a home and community-based waiver program to purchase an FES bike to use at home. The application was rejected, and so was the appeal.
“My appeal wasn’t good enough,” says Mr. Dao. “I was so determined, every day I thought: Phillip can walk and we are not going to give up.” Mr. Dao found MMLA through a Google search. The Disability Law Center took the case, filed a request for reconsideration, and the denial was reversed. Phillip now has a bike which he uses at home.
“Attorneys like Jennifer ensure that the state executes the law,” says Mr. Dao. “People with disabilities struggle so hard to have a normal life. State officials sometimes have their own priorities and agenda that don’t necessarily serve the individual.”
Phillip’s doctors have been amazed at his progress. The surgery they had recommended for scoliosis is no longer necessary –his work on the bike strengthens his legs, which in turn reduces the stress on his spine. The continous motion of the leg muscles during pedaling retrains his brain to a more normal gait pattern. His gait is stronger and more stable, and he is able to exercise independently, decreasing the dangers of chronic disease and increasing his independence at home and in the community.
“Without Legal Aid, we didn’t have a chance,” says Mr. Dao. "We didn't know what our rights were or how to protect them. Between work and parenting, there's no way to research and understand it all, and we could never have paid for an attorney out of pocket. I will be donating to Legal Aid myself, but it will be a drop in a bucket compared to what Legal Aid has done for our family."
The Minnesota Disability Law Center ( MDLC) serves as the protection and advocacy system in Minnesota for people with disabilities, and as such addresses the unique legal needs of children and adults with disabilities.
The Minnesota Disability Law Center:
Abuse and Neglect: physical abuse, neglect of health care, improper use of seclusion or restrains.
Self Determination: violation of privacy rights, voluntary treatment
Community-Based Services, Supports and Health Care: access to health care programs, assistive technology, and other needed supports that enable people with disabilities to live as independently as possible
Accessibility and Discrimination: access to public services, discrimination, and barriers to voting
Special Education: use of aversive practices or inappropriate discipline, exclusion of students from day care, pre-school or K-12 classrooms
Employment: access to help from Rehabilitation Services, work-related problems of Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities
The Minnesota Disability Law Center also provides community education workshops on legal issues important to people with disabilities and their families and caregivers.
For more information on the Minnesota Disability Law Center and the people they serve, please go to www.mylegalaid.org.