Steve Tremblay, a quadriplegic since a spinal cord injury in 1971, is founder and president of Alpha One, a statewide nonprofit center for independent living based in South Portland, ME. Alpha One and Mr. Tremblay are committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities, developing landmark programs in Maine and throughout the nation that have greatly expanded opportunities for people of all ages with physical, mental and emotional disabilities to live independently.
Among the most noteworthy of Mr. Tremblay's efforts is the spearheading of the creation of Maine's Adaptive Equipment Loan Program, the nation's first and largest program of its kind. The Loan Program is a $6.5 million, consumer-managed revolving loan fund that provides low-interest, long-term loans to people with disabilities and to businesses for the purchase of wheelchairs, adapted vehicles, hearing aids, TTYs, prosthetics, home modifications, voice synthesizers, braillers, and other technologies. The program is funded by a state bond issue. Twenty other states, several with Mr. Tremblay's personal assistance, have followed the lead of the Adaptive Equipment Loan Program and established loan programs of their own.
Alpha One has grown into an organization with more than 30 staff members and more than 200 volunteers with disabilities that provide a full range of independent living services, including peer support, adaptive driving training and independent living skills instruction. Alpha One serves more than 6,000 people a year.
Mr. Tremblay has lobbied the Maine Legislature to examine the independent living needs of people with disabilities, and has chaired the Commission on Independent Living, which conducted a two-year study that brought about the idea of the Adaptive Equipment Loan Program. He also has been involved in designing public and privately funded personal assistance services that allow the consumer to hire and manage his or her personal assistance provider. Currently, because of this new program, more than 500 Maine residents with disabilities, including elderly people, directly employ more than 1,500 personal assistants.