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The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD): Working to Advance Economic Empowerment

Diane DeAngelis*

AAPD, founded in 1995, is a national membership organization that advocates for political and economic empowerment for the more than 56 million adults and children living with disabilities in the U.S. AAPD is widely acknowledged as the country's largest cross-disability membership organization, with nearly 100,000 members.

AAPD promotes public policies that advance the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. AAPD operates programs in four core areas: Advocacy, Disability Mentoring Day, Disability Vote Project, and Leadership Development (Paul G. Hearne/AAPD Leadership Awards, AAPD Congressional and Federal Internship Programs, the Henry B. Betts Award, and AAPD Leadership Gala).

A Unique Partnership Providing Financial Services to the Disability Community

In June of 2002, AAPD finalized a partnership with the Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) that affords AAPD members the opportunity to access a broad range of financial opportunities not generally available to people with disabilities. It was the first time a major financial institution had committed its resources to serving the financial needs of the disability community.

DCU offers two special loan programs with extended payback terms to accommodate people with disabilities. Mobility Vehicle Loans, for adapted vehicles, can be arranged for up to 120 months and up to120% of the purchase price can be borrowed ($5,000 to $100,000), enough to cover sales tax, filing fees and other associated expenses. Access Loans, for any product, device, or building modification designed to assist someone with a disability, are available from $1,500 to $25,000, with extended payback terms of up to 72 months. In addition to these two loan programs, DCU offers AAPD members their full range of financial services, including mortgages, standard auto and personal loans, credit cards, ATM cards, IRA's, CD's, and checking and savings accounts. DCU has provided more than $50 million in Mobility Vehicle Loans alone to AAPD members. Sharon Beebe, AAPD member from Iowa, comments about her experience with getting a Mobility Vehicle Loan from DCU: "This is the easiest loan I have ever gotten! We had our money in less than a week after applying to DCU. The loan process was super easy. DCU was very, very helpful. Thanks to AAPD and DCU I have my mobility back!"

People can join both AAPD and DCU at the same time by calling the credit union at 1-800-328-8797 or 1-800-395-5146 (TTY), or from their website: AAPD annual membership is only $8, $15 for two years and $20 for three years. There is no fee to join DCU.

Additional AAPD member benefits include AAPDNews, a quarterly newsletter that keeps readers informed with AAPD program and legislative updates, announcements and latest news on national disability policies and issues, and a Leadership Gala issue with in-depth stories about emerging and established disability leaders; discounted healthcare and pharmacy benefits from VictoryPlus; magazine subscription discount; Life Insurance; and car rental discounts. AAPD's website,, provides continually updated news on legislation, disability policy and issues and an extensive list of website links to other disability organizations and resources. Also available on the website is the opportunity to sign on to Justice for All, AAPD's email listserv for receiving timely email alerts about national disability issues.

* Diane DeAngelis serves as the Director of Marketing and Member Services for American Association of People with Disabilities
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