This is not about a wheelchair ramp, but about the change it can create.
“Prior to having the wheelchair ramp, Donald was basically housebound, because he wasn’t able to use his legs,” said Elizabeth Langosy, 62, of Medford, speaking about her husband and a modification they made to their home through a state low- and no-interest loan program.
The loan is part of the state’s Home Modification Loan program, which provides help to people requiring modifications to their home due to disability or age. Earlier this year, the program reached a milestone when it gave its 1,500th loan.
The Langosys were not the recipient of that particular loan, but are a good example of the change the program can make in people’s lives.
Donald, 64, is a painter whose work is featured in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts as well as The Fogg Museum, the oldest of Harvard University’s art museums.
He also has secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis, which means at different times, his legs go completely limp or stick out rigidly. Before the installation of the ramp, it was s struggle for Elizabeth, her two daughters, or a son-in-law to maneuver Donald out of the house and into the car.
“Often we would try to get him to a medical appointment, and I would just have to cancel it because we would be hours and hours late, no matter how early we started,” Elizabeth said. “It would also be difficult and humiliating for Donald, as we tried to bring him up and down the stairs of the house that way. And people are funny, too. People would just hurry by without offering to help. I think there’s a shyness in the world about disabled people.”
With the installation of the wheelchair ramp leading from the porch of the home they bought with their daughter’s family, leaving the house became as simple as wheeling him down the ramp. He’s signed up for The Ride, which provides transportation for those with disabilities, and also with the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Mount Auburn Hospital, where caregivers helped him acquire a new, more versatile wheelchair.
“We’ve even gone for some walks around the neighborhood,” Elizabeth said. “He’s gone from being completely restricted and home all the time and having even a simple doctor’s appointment being almost impossible, to being more able to be more involved with the community, and his doctors.
“It’s made an enormous difference. I almost can’t put into words how much of a difference it’s made to have that door opened for him.”
Ditto for the other changes the Langosys were able to make with the $30,000 loan, specifically modifications that transformed their closet-sized bathroom to something much improved for Donald’s needs.
“The bathroom is really a nice room now. It’s actually the nicest room in the house,” said Donald, possessor of a sly sense of humor. “When you come over, we can have cocktails in the shower.”
Donald and Elizabeth Langosy were able to open that door by using a no-interest loan from the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, plus grants of $1,000 from Mystic Valley Elder Services and $2,000 from the MS Society.
“We have a survey people fill out at the end of their projects about their experience, and the glowing things that people say about how it’s changed their life is really rewarding,” said Susan Gillam, program and outreach coordinator for the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, which administers the Home Modification Loan Program statewide through six regional nonprofit housing organizations that work directly with consumers during the application process. North of Boston, those include the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership and Community Teamwork Inc. of Lowell.
According to statistics provided by the corporation, through January, $33 million had been loaned through the program since 2000, to people in 227 of the state’s 351 cities and towns.
Almost 80 percent of those have been no-interest loans, the average loan is slightly more than $22,000, and the money has gone to creating or altering 554 bathrooms and 575 ramps or lifts.
“With a relatively small dollar amount you can really have an impact,” said Karen Kelley Gill, the Community Economic Development agency’s deputy director and chief financial officer.
“It’s not the easiest thing to take advantage of, because there’s a lot of paperwork involved,” said Donald Langosy. “But when it happens, it’s fantastic. I’m just a humble painter, and my wife’s a writer, and we could have never made these changes in our life except for this program. It was a godsend.”