Bay Area Center helping people cope with disabilities

Will you accept a challenge?  The challenge is for the moment imagining that you are Martha Guthrie.

By the way, Miss Martha doesn’t actually exist. She’s a composite of several women served by the Bay Area Center for Independent Living.

You’ll probably find the experience of momentarily being Miss Martha a sobering one because you’re facing serious medical challenges. However, you’ll also find it inspirational, because with the help of BACIL, you’re able to enjoy a higher quality of life than you would otherwise.

You have severe arthritis, you’re hearing impaired and you’re just not as sharp as you once were. Under most circumstances, you’d be a candidate for assisted living or a nursing home.

However, one of the things that’s really important to you is, you want to stay in your own home. You’re comfortable there, surrounded by memories and the objects that mean so much to you. But honestly, it’s about more than just being in your home.

You want to stay connected with the people who’ve been a part of your life for so many years:  your neighbors, your church, the grocery store  where you shop, the pharmacy where you know everyone in the store.

So how do you stay at home, given your medical condition?

Well, let’s say it’s morning and you’re still in bed.  Since you’re frail and elderly, having severe arthritis makes even getting out of bed a challenge. Your arthritis has becomes so severe that your hands can no longer hold onto the grab bar that you used to use to pull yourself out of bed.

You solve that problem by hooking your arm over the new grab bar, which people from BACIL have made sure is now at a convenient level so you can use your arm instead of your hands.  They’ve also replaced all the doorknobs in your home so you now have levers for opening and closing doors without using your hands.

You’re out of bed, but you now confront the problem of which pills you should be taking. Before figuring out which pills  you should take was impossible for you, but BACIL has helped you with this also.  They’ve got nice plastic pill organizers so you hardly have to think of this.

You’re expecting your daily call from your son.  He checks up on you every day, bless him.  But being hearing impaired, you used to worry that these wonderful calls would have to stop. Oh, as if not being able to hear your son wasn’t enough, somehow your voice has become softer and softer, so he was having trouble hearing you.

Ah, but BACIL solved these two problems also.  They’ve installed a device that amplifies both your own voice and the sound of the people who call you.  You can still count on your daily calls, and this adds enormously to your happiness.

Well, that’s the end of the imaginary peek into Miss Martha’s world.  Pattie Tingle, the Executive Director of BACIL, can tell you more about the great things that BACIL is doing to help people of all ages cope with disabilities.

She’d love for you to visit their new website, If you know someone with a disability, have them visit the site to learn about the many assistive devices that can help people with disabilities do better in school, find employment, or for the elderly, age in place.

One of the things Pattie Tingle wishes right now is for more BACIL volunteers.  Last year the agency touched the lives of more than 4,300 people who needed help, and volunteers donated 1,800 hours of time to help make this happen.

Tingle particularly wishes that people who have disabilities would volunteer. “Having a disability isn’t a barrier to volunteering.  We need volunteers with disabilities to be mentors for others.  And we also need people with disabilities to help us with advocacy for legislation.”

Pattie Tingle can be reached at the Bay Area Center for Independent Living, 443-260-0822 or by e-mail at

Salisbury author Mitzi Perdue writes about local United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore-funded agencies for Salisbury Independent.

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