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New ramp built to help elder’s mobility

Courtesy photo | Ryan Benally
Chester Benally inside his home in Red Mesa, Ariz., on Aug. 6.

RED MESA, Ariz.

Taking a step down without handrails to get outside from Chester Benally’s front and back door is not as easy as it was when he was a young man.

This is a safety concern his grandson, Ryan Erik Benally, worried about. Ryan decided to reach out to Active Re-Entry, a community program based in Utah, to install a medical ramp for his grandfather.

Chester Benally is in his 80s and suffers knee problems and does a lot of work outside, so the possibility of him falling and hurting himself crossed his grandson’s mind.

The safety concern grew along with the aches and pains the grandfather was feeling. After waiting more than three years to get assistance from Red Mesa Chapter, Ryan Benally was not willing to wait any longer.

“He needs this – now,” he said in a phone call with the Navajo Times on Aug. 7.

Ryan Benally did some research and came across paperwork and remembered a presentation given by a company called Active Re-Entry located in Price, Utah.

Ryan Benally is a Diné advisor for the Utah Navajo Trust Fund and had information about the company from a past meeting.

Benally gave Active Re-Entry a phone call and spoke with a representative who directed him to Jessilee Kelly, a coordinator for the San Juan area.

“She told me the process and actually emailed me an application,” Ryan Benally said.

He sat down with his grandfather and filled out the application.

“At the end of the day, he qualified for services,” Ryan Benally said.

Ramp installation

Courtesy photo | Ryan Benally
Jessilee Kelly (yellow shirt) helps installers build a medical ramp for the home of Chester Benally in Red Mesa, Ariz.

“They (Active Re-Entry) came out, did a quote, did measurements, and finally they came, and put everything together, just like that – all within two months,” Ryan Benally said.

It took two hours for three staffers to install the medical ramp in front of Chester Benally’s front door on Aug. 6.

“Usually, you can do an entire ramp with two people,” Kelly, the coordinator, said.

Kelly goes out with installers to get signatures and to make sure everything is up to code.

The aluminium ramps with handrails are built to last and must meet state codes.

“For every one-inch rise, you have to have one foot of ramp, and that’s to make sure it is not too steep,” Kelly said, “so when people end up using a wheelchair, or if they are in a wheelchair, they can actually access their home.”

Active Re-Entry is a company that helps people with disabilities stay self-sufficient.

All the work Kelly has done in the San Juan area of the Navajo Nation is by word of mouth. Kelly works with individuals and families who self-report medical needs.

“So if somebody has bad arthritis or even a hard time walking, and we can justify putting in a ramp, or other needs they need,” Kelly explained, “we don’t have to have a doctor’s note. All of it is 100 percent self-reporting.

“So all we have to do is some paper work,” Kelly added.

The person has to financially qualify and Kelly has not had one unqualified applicant for the services.

Ramp funding

To qualify for funding for a ramp, Red Mesa Chapter requires a doctor’s note, application and the person must be a registered member of the chapter and attend regular chapter meetings.

The process varies with time and the chapter house’s budget, said Red Mesa Chapter President Herman Farley on Aug. 10.

The process is the same with the measurements and meeting state codes.

For people who don’t meet these requirements or who don’t want to wait, they have the option to seeking help from Active Re-Entry.

Benally is relieved and his grandfather feels that he can be more productive.

“Something like this, our elderly, Navajo elders, they deserve the respect and the dignity from their youth,” Benally said. “Us, they did so much for us.”

He added, “It’s the very least we can give back to them.”


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