Nancy Starnes recalls her motivation to recover after a private-
plane accident in 1973 left her with no sensation below her hips.
"I knew my 5-year-old son and my husband needed me. I didn't
accept that I couldn't recover. I was committed to gaining mobility
and control over my life," says Ms. Starnes, now senior vice
president of the National Organization on Disability.
Ms. Starnes was required to rely on a wheelchair. After nine
months of difficult rehab, she returned to the brokerage firm where
she had been training to be a trader. The firm encouraged her to
return, staying in contact and assuring her that she would have a
job when she was ready.
Since then, Starnes's has held position in local elected office,
county disability associations, and, for the past 10 years, at
national disability associations in Washington.
"One doesn't have to walk in order to work. Focus on how you can
stay employed. The ability to work is a major component to
recovery," she says.
Few readers may identify with Starnes, unable to forsee a future
where disability affects their opportunities to work, care for
themselves, or enjoy personal pursuits. Unfortunately, many
experience a car accident, sport injury, or household fall that may
cause short-term disability (defined as lasting less than 90 days),
according to the Social Security Administration. .
"This is a community that anyone can join in an instant," reminds
Mike Deland, president emeritus of the National Organization On
Craig Gray experienced this at age 24 when an auto accident left
him a paraplegic. Mr. Gray was fortunate that his employer, K-Mart,
where he was working as a sporting-goods manager, had a long-term
disability policy that enabled him to acquire retraining as a
Gray's first job as a programmer in the disability-insurance
industry eventually led to his current position as vice president in
the "Return To Life" program at Prudential Insurance. He echoes
Starnes's sentiment about recovery. "You need to regain a sense of
yourself, retrain, and then return to work. A disability policy
gives you the asset-base support needed in those transitional
A disability during your working years can leave you deprived of
income and the ability to make major payments. Without disability
support, a vicious cycle of financial reversals quickly occur.
Except for those with a large amount of savings, people who suddenly
become disabled are often unable to pay their mortgage, healthcare
premiums, credit-card bills, auto loans, utilities, and any pension
or college-savings contributions. …