Regina Blye, Chief Program and Policy Officer at the Reeve Foundation, which advocates for those living with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) discusses the need for proper access to medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) and how policy can be revised to better support accessible healthcare. Examples of MDE that are currently lacking include a dearth of ramps, accessible elevators and weight scales that are designed for use while standing. The widespread absence of accessible MDE in healthcare environments, including exam rooms, must be addressed.
Blye brings over two decades of disability policy and advocacy experience to Reeve. For the past five years, she led the Independent Living Services program at the Administration for Community Living, monitoring compliance with the Rehabilitation Act and overseeing 155 federal grantees. Before that, as executive director of the Texas State Independent Living Council, she grew a one-person operation to 17 employees, 30 volunteers and a $2 million budget that expanded independent living initiatives across the state. Her work has affected thousands of individuals and families living with disabilities and was recognized by President Barack Obama with a 2011 appointment to the United States Access Board. Blye’s role at the National Paralysis Resource Center gives her the chance to work more directly with community members.Blye sustained a C6-C7 spinal cord injury in 1988 when she was shot through the neck at an end-of-school-year slumber party. She was airlifted from her small hometown of Brownfield, Texas, to a larger hospital in Lubbock, but the severity of the injury was too much for the 10-year-old to absorb.Despite the grim prognosis, Blye regained movement in her arms and returned home, where her mother became her caregiver. The Americans with Disabilities Act had not yet become law, and there was no internet or National Paralysis Resource Center to provide a way forward; the challenges were many.Blye’s pivot toward the independent living movement began when she competed in Ms. Wheelchair Texas in 2002. She captured the crown and spent the next year advocating for accessible and affordable housing around the state. Not long after, she joined Life/Run Center for Independent Living in Lubbock as a relocation and transition specialist.Working with Reeve, she says, is the chance to return to that kind of individualized impact and provide the critical services and resources that help people build healthy, independent lives.