Disability

FREE Stuff for Adults with Disabilities (and/or Adults with Special Needs)

Adults with disabilities: 25 years old and older. For people younger than 25, click HERE to go my post on Free Stuff for Kids with Disabilities

This article is all about free stuff for adults with disabilities (and/or special needs*) Why? Because there are a more than a few lists of free things, resources and help out there for kids with disabilities (and/or special needs*), but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one for adults with disabilities.

Which is either flattering or really depressing. Flattering, because it implies that we adults with disabilities have it all together and don’t need help, or depressing because there just isn’t much out there, and resources think that they are promoting them so well that lists of this type don’t seem necessary.

Either way you have it, I think it’s time to compile a handy list, and to update it as often as possible.

Personal story: I was kicking myself after I completed graduate school (on my own dime, time and with private loans) and found out that being deaf is considered a disability! As an honors student straight through, I could have easily gotten a scholarship, but I had no idea that I counted as “disabled”. Don’t be like me. Check these out:

JLV Counseling’s Clearinghouse of Scholarships for People with Disabilities: Comprehensive list of scholarships available to people with disabilities, categorized by disability.

Ruby’s Rainbow: Scholarships for people with Intellectual Disabilities to attend higher education.

Department of Vocational Rehabilitation: the point of DVR/DOR is to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs that suit them. If you need higher education in order to find and keep a job that suits you, DVR/DOR should help. This is not a rule but it is definitely an avenue to explore.

Financial Aid at Your Local University:

  • sit down with a financial aid counselor (not a student helper!) and request information on all relevant grants, scholarships, opportunities, etc related to disability.
  • meet with the disability services at your local university and request all information related to grants, scholarships, opportunities, etc.
  • meet with the career counselor who works with disability/disability services at your local university and request information related to grants, scholarships, opportunities, etc. They might also have information on work opportunities.

Financial Planning

Financial planning is incredibly important for us adults with disabilities. Here are some free resources to help:

ABLE Account: understand the ABLE accounts. We can save money in an account that will not go against SSI/SSDI.

The Red Book: on the heels of understanding ABLE accounts is “The Red Book” – Social Security’s annual book on benefits. The link provided is to a pdf of the book.

Disability Benefits 101: tools and information on employment, health coverage, and benefits. Not all states are set up with the calculator, but World Institute on Disability has a lot of other information on financial planning and benefits – check out their books and resources here.

PASS Plans: “A Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) allows a person with a disability to set aside otherwise countable income and/or resources for a specific period of time in order to achieve a work goal. Any person who receives SSI benefits,or who might qualify for SSI, or any person receives SSDI (or a similar benefit) and could qualify for SSI, may be able to have a PASS. There is no limit to the number of successful PASS plans a person may use in a lifetime.”

Free Passes

National Park Service: free lifetime pass to US national parks and more. There are some requirements and stipulations, so read through the application – which is linked here.

State Park Service: state parks have a disability discount – look up your state for more information and for the application. California’s is linked here.

Disney Disability Pass: this is changing as a result of the abuse, but it still helps us adults with disabilities.

Travel

I’m deaf, with PTSD & TBI and I have never had much money. I’m also a travel junkie. I have found ways to travel the world for free or cheap on numerous occasions.

Obviously, my travel parameters are going to be different from those who have disabilities different from mine – I don’t use a wheelchair, I don’t use an attendant, and I can speak for myself.

BUT the first rule of travel is something like, “If you don’t believe it, nobody will.”

You have absolutely got to hold tight to what you want and what your vision is. There is a way to accomplish it, if you are willing to do the research to figure out how to make it happen (on a dime that is not yours).

Here are some places to start:

MIUSA: Mobility International. These guys are awesome – I want to work for them! They have a ton of information on traveling abroad, financial resources, etc, listed clearly and cleanly in their fantastic website. They also have staff that you can contact with  more direct and trip-specific questions. I did, when we were going to Mexico, and they were helpful. Furthermore – they have information for Americans going abroad and people outside the US coming to the US.

The Foundation Center: search foundations to apply for funds. Don’t forget your intersections – that is, if you are poor or a female or a racial minority or LGTBQ, search under those groups as well for foundations that apply to you.

Transitions Abroad: one of the king-beasts in websites for living/working abroad (along with Dave’s ESL Cafe) – definitely opportunities to find free ways to travel or jobs.

Google: I don’t mean to be flippant, but you have to research. A simple query of “free travel” led to this good (and recent) article.

Articles like that are good but don’t feature people who use wheelchairs in the photos, nor do they have people walking around using canes and service dogs! Here we go back to the first rule: “If you don’t believe it, nobody will.” You have to see yourself doing what you want to do, and really believe you can do it – and then reach out. Do you disclose? Do you have to? You can treat a lot of these travel opportunities as a job, and use JAN’s handy disclosure articles to help you. Linked here.

Medical

Deshae Lott Quality of Life Grants: “works to help American citizens with severe mobility limitations maintain hopeful, purposeful, engaged lives by providing some financial support for medically-necessary home-health-care services not covered by insurance, private or governmental, and not covered by any other non-profit organization.”

Medicaid: from a friend, “the full range of benefits from medicaid sometimes goes overlooked. they will pay for changes in your house so it is more accessible (5k every 5 years), they offer rides to appointments, reimbursement for travel to appointments, a case worker you can contact directly, and in-home caretaker hours..”

Easterseals: I feel a little guilty putting this in because the site is so vague and huge. Evidently though, they can be useful? You are supposed to find the branch office close to where you live, and see what they are able to offer you. Sounds like fun!

REquipment: wow, ’bout time. Used medical equipment, for free, without hassle from insurance.

Department of Vocational Rehabilitation: the point of a DOR/DVR is to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs. If you need some medical equipment (or something along those lines) in order to find and keep a job, they will usually help you. I got my digital hearing aids that way, years ago, and those bubbas aren’t cheap.

Assistive Technology

Department of Rehabilitation: The point of DOR/DVR is to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs (I know, I sound like a broken record player, I think that’s the 3rd time I’ve said that in this post). It’s an enormous goal and huge in it’s variables. Say you need a speech device in order to go to school so you can receive training so that you can be a train operator? = DOR will consider paying for your speech device AND tuition that is not covered by financial aid. A blind stylus? What about an iPad for deaf people, for Facetime/Skype online learning? I mean, DOR covers a lot of stuff, but you need to be able to fit what you are asking into the framework of being able to find and keep a job.

Center for Accessible Technology: they have an iPad loan program (and more, they are awesome, make sure you get to know them).

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (gotta love that name!): their description of what is out there is comprehensive and pretty accurate. It’s a good place to read through, then move on to their list of helpful organizations to reach out to, linked here.

Books

National Library Service (for the Blind & Physically Handicapped): free library program of braille and audio materials circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail.

Bookshare: An accessible online library for people with print disabilities.

Learning Ally: Audio books and learning tools.

Discounts

There are a ton of discounts out there for us, way too many to list. I think instead of listing, it might be helpful for me to remind you to just ask.

Now, that can be a real pain in the butt, and you have to have enough spoons on hand to go through that whole, “hey! do you have a discount for people with disabilities?” and wait while they kind of look you up and down while searching through their memory banks.

If this is trying for you, some tips:

  1. Do you have a kid? Say it’s for your kid, until they are old enough to glare at you (‘Mom, why are you asking for a discount on your bifocals for me?‘)
  2. After you ask, look pointedly at your companion. Extra points if your companion doesn’t seem to have a disability!
  3. Do a little homework first and find out if the place has a reputation or not for being good community members – if not, then you are “offering an opportunity” and if so, you are “glad to be doing business with people who care.” Or something like that. 
  4. Keep it light and friendly. If you can’t, don’t ask because it’s not worth the energy.
  5. Keep notes! Take down the person’s name and address them by their name! Write a thank-you note if they were awesome.

Want more? Here’s a HuffPo article on discounts/disability (thanks, Amy!)

That's it

That’s all I have now.

Many thanks to everyone on Facebook who helped with leads. Since this is the first “Free Stuff for Adults with Disabilities” post that I’ve ever written, it would be incredibly helpful to me and to everyone reading if you would add whatever leads you know of in the comments, along with the link.

Sharing is caring, right?!

____________________________________

*Note: 

“Special Needs” do not equal disability. These words should not be used interchangeably. Some people may have a disability but no special needs; others may have special needs but no disability. “Special Needs” is an education term; “disability” is a physical/cultural term.

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Meriah
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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50 Comments

  1. Be sure to have a look at thinkcollege.net for informatoon about college opportunities for people with ID.

  2. I am disabled since 9-28-99 and it’s hard I try to help others cause I squeeze every drop of juice from my pennies,everything cost and now mt blood pressure goes up cause I get angry and frustrated ,sometimes life isn,t fair! I got a second chance at life so I help others to maintain so they have food and pays bills and regulate their meds and we sometimes get free food from churches so if I don,t eat it I find someone who does and that way they can spen less on one thing and pay more on another!

    • Bless you. And what you are putting out there is surely coming around. Karma is real. xo

  3. I am an adult with disabilities (a phrase which I find as oddly unsettling as, say, “adult with femaleness” or “adult with Americanism”), and I am wondering why your page sometimes puts quotation marks around the word “adults” where grammar would not demand this:
    specifically —
    “adults” with disabilities.

    That way of punctuating the phrase looks as if you are saying that we adults with disabilities are not actual adults, but are only a sort of “adults”-in-quotation-marks. Was that your intent? If not, as an occasional copy editor I’d be happy to help you find a more respectful way of emphasizing the word in question.

    • WOW! I put the quotes on “adults” just to emphasize that it’s adults (and not kids), and honestly didn’t really put much thought into it. I can totally see what you are saying now that you’ve pointed it out – I’m pretty horrified. Thanks for pointing it out – I removed the quotation marks.

  4. This is great. I have passed it onto the Portland Asperger’s Network in Oregon. We have many young adults and families who will find this information useful.

        • probably. look through this list, and consider reaching out to your local blind and cross-disability organizations (like Federation of the Blind, Lighthouse for the Blind, Center for Independent Living) as well as senior assist programs.

          good luck!

    • Karla Bellanger Reply

      Is your program is available? If not, could you please refer me to some agencies who grant adult with no child. I never have enough money for food needs, as I get $15 of food stamps monthly . after rent, car payment, insurance, buying household needed supplies such as tissue, dish soap, and so on.

      • I’m sorry, I don’t have a program. This is just a list of things that you can apply for or that are available for adults with disabilities

  5. Wow, this is so needed. I would ask that you write a followup list of whatever you can find for Adults with Disabilities living in other Countries.

    I am a 48 year old Canadian woman living with Spastic Cerebral Palsy. As you’ve correctly stated, there are tons of supports, discounts and free stuff for kids, but once we reach adulthood, it is as if our disabilities somehow disappear. This hold especially true for people with physical disabilities – I have to be my own advocate and literally fight for care and I have a voice and ability to do it, but not everyone does.

    • I completely agree with you in that 1) it’s like people expect our disabilities will go away when we become adults and 2) we really need to have more lists and collections of resources for countries other than the US.

      I doubt I have the wherewithal to do that at this point, but it’s a long term goal, for sure.

  6. June A. DiPolito Reply

    Thank you so much. I am a provider in Georgia and also most importantly mother of adult daughter with developmental disabilities. I am going to share with my network. Happy 2017!

  7. I am an amputee so totally disabled and a senior citizen. I need major work on my property, the sewiage is many years old and needs total new material, is there an agency I can go to or call to get assistance for the work or an agency that can do it for free? I have no money at hand and can’t get credit for such a task that needs to be done. I sure hope you have something for me to check into. If not, oh well at least I asked. Happy 2017.

    • I think it makes sense to
      1. google and see what organizations serving “seniors and disability” are in your area. Ask them.
      2. connect with your local branch office of CIL (center for independent living) and ask them.
      3. check in with the Foundation Center (listed in the post) for an organization that has grants for seniors/disabled (or both), and apply for the funds to fix it.

      I truly hope something works out.

    • Denise Patterson Reply

      Check with your county and state goverments. Many have resource for a person just like you. My county has a list of vetted contractor that charge disable and seniors a deeply discounted rate. Every company and every employee is checked out. I’ve had handyman services, guttering, a retaining wall replaced and a porch addtion. And never had a problem!

  8. Darlene Chock Reply

    Thanks I appreciate having this information all in one place. Also for the tip, special needs=educational term, disability=cultural term. I have been looking for information using the incorrect term. Wondered why I kept getting information regarding school or school based activities. Here where I live, “special populations” also means kids and adults with disability. Since the community center has activities or functions specifically for ages 16+ or ages 8+.

    • oh, trust me, people here say “special populations” too, when talking about disability. Drives me nuts, because it’s so incorrect…

  9. Manuel Vasquez {Manny} Reply

    well is so hard tray to expain after my assault and robbery because almost lost my life. Im a crime victim; Im diisable person to under medication{depression-mayor}. Now I need contacts to persons with information regarden to jobs, links, etc. TKY Manuel
    vasquez. 3124396271

  10. Thanks for this list! I live in NZ so they don’t really apply but I love that you’ve written it. I found this in my search for activities for my husband who has brain cancer. He has a numb right side (so he cant write or walk well), he’s got communication problems (he cant really understand or talk at all) and has memory problems. And hes in a wheelchair- So hard to figure out what fun activities we can do within our small budget. Do you know where I might find some ideas (Im looking on Pinterest) for a 30 yr old man that cant talk, has the use of one arm, low energy and cant walk?

    Any ideas are appreciated!

  11. Phillip smith Reply

    How do I become involved and not seem weird or over eager. The lady I met is wonderful and I’d like to not be so in the dark

  12. just got disabled bus cards but looking for disabled free options iam not asking for a car iam asking for disabled electric bike please 38338 Jeanette st Palmdale ca 93550 JoseLuisMariscalReyes

  13. does medicare count to go too college a disabled electric bike

  14. Thank you so much for this list. I have a brain injury (front temporal lobe) and it was very easy to follow/understand- i didnt get lost navigating it (yay…meaning…i didnt end up getting overly frustrated and just leaving the site)!!! Much, much, much appreciation to you!!!

  15. About a paragraph in, I knew I was going to comment and say thank you for posting this article. You must be a special kind of person to take the time to research and put this information out there. I had cancer when I was 24. I’m cancer free now at 28 but the treatment left me with a long list of “issues” and sometimes it’s hard to look on the bright side. Anyway, I did read through the other comments and I just want to add that besides being wonderful for contributing the article, I also want to commend you for putting up with those who 1) criticized you over your choice in punctuation 2) criticized you for not including more resources for people who do not live in the same country as you or 3) essentially gave you their sob story and their contact information and asked you to find them a job… To those folks, I just want to say.. 1) Are you kidding? Stop complaining. Your complaining about things that don’t matter is more harmful to disabled “adults” than any quotation marks will ever be. 2) Are you kidding? You really expect this one individual to come up with a list of resources for every country? The US is a big place! And 3) If you are looking for help, see the list of resources above. Did you even bother to read the article? Also harmful to all disabled adults are those who take advantage! Don’t be so lazy!

    • Ha! Thank you so much!

      When I first read the comments about wanting specific help (that had been listed), I felt the same way, like, “um… it’s there – just read through it!”, but to be honest, there have been hundreds of those comments now (a lot of them are sent privately), so it’s all water off a ducks’s back now.

      This piece is due for an update – do you know of anything good to add? Thanks again

  16. Theresa Beltz Reply

    Hello : ) I am a 50 year old single mother of a 32 year old son named Ryan, who is Mentally Handicapped (Special Needs) and has ADHD, Depression, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder. I,myself, am disabled and suffer from Bipolar Disorder, Severe Depression and Anxiety, along with physical ailments such as Hypertension, Diastolic Dysfunction,Cervical Disc Herniations, and Spinal Stenosis. *** My son has been living in a group home for many years and is about 45 minutes away from me. I pick him up and he stay with me in the house I am renting, as much as possible. *** Due to my very low income, I am not able to meet all his needs and treat him to any gifts or recreational activities. Lack of food, money for gas and limited resources, keeps me from seeing him as much as I would love to. If I could provide for him and meet his needs, I would love to have him move back home with me, and give him the world ! ***Does anyone know if there are any programs, foundations, or agencies that might be able to help me ? *** My dream would to be able to have a tablet or updated computer with a printer to teach him basic computer skills, allow him to print out photos of his favorite things, and educational materials. (All I have for him to use is this 11 year old, outdated laptop) ***Ryan loves watching professional wrestling, and Music is his Life !!! *** I would love to be able to take him to concerts and musical events. We love to be in nature and enjoy camping and beaches. So, another dream would be able to rent a cabin in a state park, or a cottage on the lake. (We live in Western New York and have wonderful lakes around us) ***Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read this, and God Bless !

  17. I’m 40 year old single woman in ohio. I have been doing a lot of research over the last few months and so glad when I came across your post. You are a true heaven sent and an angel to share all this easy to follow information. To those that are lazy taking you for granted they aren’t worthy to be enjoying your info. This had to take so much of your time. One thing is like to add is check with a local senior center even if your not a senior. As an adult with disabilities they will also help (at least I’m Cleveland Ohio). I have found help with moving, if your a home owner you can get help with drive, fridge, furnaces, hot water tank, roof, Windows, and also a wheelchair ramp. Don’t get me wrong it’s all based on funding available and only so much per year they will do. Another thing is talk to your social worker if they aren’t helping find another. Also contact utility companies some offer programs to help you be more “energy efficiency “. Thanks for all your time effort and energy!!! God bless and happy New year!

    • Calling local sr center. Great idea I had not thought of since I’m disabled but not a senior. Thank you.

  18. Ernest Smith Reply

    I love to fish but im disabled after paying my bills. I really cant buy what * need to go fishing with Thanks

  19. Is there any place in so Calif to help a multiple handicap adult with CP who is also blind with the mind set of a 1 yr old for BRACES FOR HIS LEGS diapers, pads, ECT. He is on medical which stopped everything. Any HELP would be greatly appreciated.

  20. Bill Monson Reply

    Cedar Point Amusement Park (Sandusky, Ohio USA) offers Free Admission for people with Disabilities and Non-Profits every year. Limit 4 Free Tickets per year. Applications for these Free Tickets can be found online between January – Mid February every year.

    https://apps.cedarpoint.com/public/admission/charitable/index.cfm?

    I also have Cedar Point Guide where I list offers year round for Free & Discounted Cedar Point Admission Tickets. The website is updated weekly. The website is also available in 105 Languages.

    https://phatwalletforums.com/topic/419/cedar-point-2018-season-free-discount-tickets-bus-charters-hotels-videos-news-contests-jobs-year-round-master-thread

  21. As you say, there are hundreds of discounts. There are a couple worth mentioning as they apply to anyone low income. Housing energy assistance (LIHEAP) for one, and an exception to trash and recycling fees on your sewer bills for another. Check with your county office to find these. Both of these are extremely common expenses that there is assistance available for.

  22. Patty Tollari Reply

    My son is 17 and will be 18 next year in June. He has a spinal cord injury from a diving accident which left him a tetrapalegic..where should I turn to for that in between age. He is 6’2 and weighs 180 pounds so no equipment in the children’s free sites will fit him. Or will they what are the sites to look into for used equipment. For children and adults. We are located near Pittsburgh PA
    Thank you,
    Patty T.

  23. Doreen Luck Salter Reply

    In Waukesha, WI there is a place called Katy’s Closet (katyscloset.com), which will lend you assistive devices for adults and children (i.e. crutches, leg braces, shower bench, raised toilet seat, walker, tricycles, highchairs for kids with Cerebral Palsy, incontinence products, wheelchairs, and the list goes on and on). These items have been donated by people who no longer need them and you can borrow them for as long as they are needed. There is no cost ever. They will never ask you to return them. I have made many donations of items that my parents or myself no longer need. I have Fibromyalgia and have had both my knees replaced which resulted in four surgeries and am on disability. I will do some research and submit other resources.

    Meriah, what a wonderful contribution this site is for all of us.

    • thank you!! that is an awesome resource, and I would certainly appreciate any others you find. xo m

  24. I was able to get a free cell phone (nothing fancy) and free monthly service because of my disability. Its a government program through a company called Q Link. It was super easy to apply, just a quick form on their website. I think the only paperwork I supplied was a photo of my Social security tax form showing the benefits I receive, and maybe my ID. Beware…eligibility is based on income limit, thats it. Hope this helps. God bless.

    • I don’t know of a specific one… just the compiled places in this post. Good luck!

  25. Meriah…..thank you, I just googled “Free or discounted for the disabled”. Several sites came up and yours was the first. I am very thankful for this list and that there are other sites to look at! I am used to being my own advocate and every else should else should be as well! Hurricane Florence hit me hard. Since September I have been trying to find every resource available. You gotta do what you gotta do to get by.
    Thanks, Kim

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