Striving for independence: Help Kayla purchase much-needed vehicle

Kayla Reichel is hoping to get the community’s support. Photo: Melinda Jane
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For Penrith resident Kayla Reichel, living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy is both isolating and independence-stripping.

Born with the condition, she requires the use of a wheelchair due to being too weak to stand and having limited use of her arms.

Whilst she is a bubbly, intelligent 26-year-old university student, Ms Reichel longs for independence, as she is forced to rely heavily on others for everyday tasks.

“I can’t walk or do daily activities that everyone takes for granted like showering or getting dressed by myself, I’m not even able to cook my own food, I am very limited in what I’m able to do,” she said.

Spending most of her time at home, she feels extremely socially isolated.

Even travelling to Western Sydney University, where she studies a Bachelor of Psychology, is a difficult task, with weather restricting her attendance.

“I can get a bus but the stop has no shelter and rain can cause damage to my chair, then getting a taxi instead is ridiculously expensive. It costs me $10 to get there and $10 to get back so I tend to miss out when it’s raining,” Ms Reichel said.

To help adults living with disability combat isolation, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) fund vehicle modifications for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants that allow those who rely on wheelchairs to drive themselves.

The catch – all vehicles must be less than three-years-old and under 45,000kms.

This is due to the expensive equipment that must be installed, with older cars posing a ‘value for money’ risk.

A spokesperson from the NDIA said higher mileage cars can sometimes be considered if they are in good condition.

The spokesperson said they will not fund the purchase of a car as it is considered something “a person would normally be responsible for purchasing themselves”.

But living on a disability pension and with conditions that restrict the ability to work, simply buying a brand new car is out of reach for most.

That’s why Ms Reichel is now trying to raise some money, in the hope that she can finally live freely.

“This will open the world back up to me,” she said.

“It will just give me a lot more freedom to be the independent 26-year-old girl that I want to be.”

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