Steve Grammer is only 35 years old, and already, he has spent nine years of his life in a nursing home.
Grammer is living with cerebral palsy, a disorder that impairs one’s control of movement and speech.
For a while he lived at Raleigh Court Health and Rehabilitation Center, but wasn’t happy, because he didn’t feel like he fit in with the age group. After hearing about his situation, Ken Schoff, who was the activities director at Salem Health and Rehabilitation Center at the time, began including Grammer in Salem outings with people closer to his own age.
Grammer transferred to Salem for a while. However, Grammer still wasn’t happy with his living situation.
Now, he lives independently in an apartment in the Grandin area, which is well equipped with the tools he needs to be on his own, such as handicap accessible doors. He is also happy that a grocery store is right across the street, and that he isn’t far from downtown attractions. Still, he isn’t satisfied with the transportation options available to those living with disabilities in the Roanoke Valley.
In 2012, Grammer began working for the Salem Red Sox handing out scorecards with the help of a communication device. He was traveling by RADAR, a paratransit and senior transportation service, but since he had to catch the last bus at 8:15 p.m., only an hour after game time, he decided to quit this past May. He also said the $6 bus fare cut too much into his minimum wage pay.
He is mostly frustrated with LogistiCare, though, because the service requires at least a five-day notice, and many people living with disabilities don’t live on the bus line. He said it is especially hard when he needs to schedule a doctor’s appointment, and oftentimes, people with disabilities are forced to go to the emergency room for minor illnesses.
He has spoken with local bus lines, but has repeatedly been told that extending public transportation, even by one hour, would be too expensive.
Grammer said he is just like anybody else, and wishes lawmakers would take the concerns of people with disabilities more seriously.
“I like to do what young people do,” Grammer said. “I like to go out to eat and to concerts. I feel like people with disabilities don’t have a nightlife because there’s no night transportation.”
“I have a life like you have a life, but the government doesn’t see it that way,” he added. “Money. That’s all they care about.”
Grammer is passionate about music, especially love songs and ‘80s tunes, and wrote his first song when he was just a kid. He attended Cave Spring High School, but dropped out to pursue his GED his junior year. He hasn’t written music for some time, but says he eventually wants to get back into it.
“I would like to get another job,” he said. “My dream is to be able to work at a radio station, because I love music.”
Grammer is a 2013 graduate of the Partners in Policymaking program, which teaches how to be an advocate for those with disabilities. Since, he has written multiple letters to Congressman Goodlatte. In his letters, he pleads with Goodlatte to take the issue to lawmakers in Richmond.
Although he sometimes feels discouraged, he knows what his purpose is, and strives to set a positive example for others who may be struggling.
“Every day is a challenge but I tell people that no matter if someone gets in your way, don’t give up,” he said.