Cheektowaga man wants answers after being denied wheelchair ramp

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB)- Nick Heilig of Cheektowaga has been in a wheelchair since he was a child, he has Spina Bifida.

Three years ago his health took a turn for the worse and his mobility became an even bigger challenge. Up until then, he was working regularly and getting around pretty well.

Now though, he’s hitting road blocks with the Office for People with Development Disabilities.

He requested a ramp for the front entrance of his home. He has an electric lift in his garage, but he’s growing more and more concerned that in the event of an emergency, he’d have trouble getting out.

If the power goes out and the generator for the lift dies, the hand crank needed to make it work is out of his reach.

Heilig told News 4 the electric wheelchair lift gets jammed a couple times a year; when it does, he relies on his mother to use the hand crank.

He submitted a waiver through the OPWDD to get a ramp put in.

“[It’s] a way to get out of my home and get into my home in case there’s ever an emergency. And basically to feel safe,” he said.

As the temperatures drops, Nick is increasingly concerned with getting stuck in his garage. Not only can he not reach the hand crank on his lift, he can’t reach the garage door opener.

“It’s a huge issue,” he said.

He’s more sensitive to the cold than the average person, and more at risk for hypothermia.

The state denied his request for ramp, stating it would be a second means of egress, which they don’t cover.

Nick feel it’s a necessary modification for safety. This is actually his plan B.

He’s asked for a full home generator, but that was denied too.

According to his former case worker Maria McMorrow with People Inc, he was told a portable generator should work.

“Somebody in a wheelchair would have to go into his garage if there’s no power,” she said.

The portable generator weighs about 70 lbs, and Heilig can’t lift it.

McMorrow said its “just not a feasible option.”

We reached out to the OPWDD for more answers on Nick’s case, they haven’t responded yet.

Nick has a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the ramp if he ends up having to pay out of pocket.

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