Newly quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident, E.W. “Bud” Myers came out of rehab in 1975 and had nowhere to go. “A highly driven and spirited man, Bud had the vision to create a place for people who depend on a wheelchair for mobility to go to reintegrate into the community,” said Quadriplegics United Against Dependency Inc. (QUAD Inc.) CEO Greg Gortmaker. “He founded QUAD, Inc. and brought together community resources to build Myers Court, the first independent living center in the nation not affiliated with a hospital or rehabilitation center.”
Myers Court received national attention for its pioneering, barrier-free design a decade before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) set minimum standards for wheelchair accessibility. Since its inception, QUAD Inc. has built four Section 8 regulated apartment buildings throughout the Portland, Oregon area serving 85 low-income residents with severe disabilities designed to promote self-reliance and self-sufficiency in all aspects of daily living.
“Our apartments go way beyond ADA requirements with a unique model of resident-directed shared attendant care services,” said Gortmaker. “Thanks to the benefit of round-the-clock, Medicaid-funded attendant care, residents are free to pursue goals of their own choosing and enjoy a high quality of life. Living here offers an opportunity to restart their lives.”
The apartments are designed to enhance each resident’s ability to live independently in their homes with open floor plans, roll-under counters, accessible appliances and roll-in showers. Community rooms, outdoor living space, emergency assistance, and advanced fire and life safety systems are part of each building. Optional, 24/7 personal attendant care allows each resident to take charge of their personal care needs on their schedule and to their personal preferences.
“In 2009, the original Myers Court building was using an outdated emergency call system with only one wall-mounted button in each apartment,” said Gortmaker. “With safety and security a top priority, we needed to upgrade the system to ensure the comfort and self-confidence of our residents.”
A $7,450 Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grant helped fund a much-needed state-of-the-art wireless pendant emergency call system. The flexibility of the new system allows residents to summon emergency assistance from anywhere on the property. With this transparent system, calls for assistance are automatically transmitted to pagers that increase response time and remove the institutional-style audible alarm of the old system that negatively impacted the livability of the building.
“The Reeve Foundation is well-known for its advocacy and support,” said Gortmaker. “QUAD Inc. is a fairly self-sufficient organization, but when we needed help, it was a no-brainer to go to the Reeve Foundation. We are so grateful for their support. The residents love the higher level of security and convenience which has significantly improved their quality of life.”
In 2013, QUAD Inc. reached out to the Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grants program again and received $12,500 in funding to install lift systems in their newly constructed, age 55 and older, independent living apartment building, a 44-unit complex named Station 162.
The modern equipment was built into each apartment and allows staff to securely lift and move residents from sitting or lying positions with the use of portable electric hoists specially designed to dramatically reduce the risk of injury and improve staff and resident safety.
“Reeve was the first foundation we approached for a grant and the first to fund our request,” said Gortmaker. “Having the Reeve Foundation support became a catalyst to approach other funders. It opened doors for us. It added the credibility we needed to help us reach our fundraising goals.”
The only organization of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, and one of only a few similar organizations in the entire country, QUAD Inc. receives hundreds of apartment applications from all over the country. More than 90% of applicants seek to move from rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, adult foster care, or from their parent’s homes into QUAD Inc.’s affordable, accessible private apartments.
For most residents, QUAD Inc. facilities provide the first opportunity to live in their own homes, make daily lifestyle choices for themselves, work or volunteer in the community or pursue an education with the reliable support they need to be successful. Ryan Skelton, Ph.D., feels lucky to be living in QUAD Inc.’s Central Station Apartments.
“The more things I can figure out how to do for myself, the more elements of my disability become irrelevant. But right now, I still need help to shower, dress and prepare food.” Recently licensed as a psychologist, Ryan plans to use his advanced degree and thinking to help others with different abilities to think differently too. “QUAD Inc.’s unique concept is liberating and humanizing, but it’s not a silver bullet. This structure allows residents to make our own way, bad or good.”
Gortmaker hopes the QUAD Inc. concept could become a national model and he appreciates the Reeve Foundation’s efforts to educate the public on life with a disability.
“With all the good things the Foundation does, they have changed the landscape for wheelchair users,” said Gortmaker. “We are very proud to be one of the projects to receive Reeve Foundation support.”