Meet our 2020 ABLE NRC Ambassadors

Leah Campbell

Leah is a self-advocate who began losing her vision at the age of 10 and became paralyzed at the age of 22.
Mustang, OK
ABLE Program: Oklahoma STABLE

Leah works to improve the quality of life for people living with physical limitations as an Advisor at Full Circle Home Technologies. Hearing the word “no” motivates Leah, who uses an ABLE account to gain independence and save for her next accessible vehicle.

Leah Campbell and her service dog
Leah Campbell and her service dog. Leah is being pushed up the ramp of an accessible van.
Leah Campbell sitting at her computer

Leah Campbell first learned about ABLE accounts at the start of last year’s #ABLEtoSave campaign when the Department of Rehabilitation Services referred her to a Benefits Counselor who encouraged her to check out the campaign and learn more about ABLE. Within just a few months, she had not only opened her ABLE account, she became such a strong proponent for ABLE accounts that she also applied to become an ABLE National Resource Center Ambassador. ABLE NRC accepted her application and Leah officially became a 2020 ABLE NRC Ambassador.

“Once I learned about ABLE accounts, I immediately wanted one,” Leah shares. “This is something that was doable. Initially, diving into the #ABLEtoSave campaign, with all of the new terminology and possibilities, was a bit much. I hadn’t listened to or thought about anything financial as a possibility for the last 18 years since becoming paralyzed. My head hurt at first just trying to absorb all of the information. Here it is a year later and there is more I need to know or want to know. I’m definitely glad that I have the opportunity to save.”

Leah is 41 years old and lives in Oklahoma. She has a rare autoimmune disorder called Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) and began losing her vision at age 10. When she was 22, she became paralyzed. Leah is on Medicare, Medicaid and receives SNAP/food stamp benefits. Her goal is to gain increased independence by paying for housing and assistive technology including an electronic Hoyer lift with scales to replace the manual one that Medicare provided, her next accessible vehicle and other disability-related expenses. In order to meet her goals, Leah has to be able to save more than $2,000 while not losing her benefits. This is where her ABLE account comes in. In fact, she recently started saving $375 more a month in her ABLE account after paying off her current accessible vehicle and depositing it into her ABLE account instead of spending the extra money.

As someone who has an autoimmune disorder, Leah says, “I’m staying in a lot and only engaging virtually during COVID-19 in order to maintain my health.” All of the downtime has given Leah a chance to learn more about ABLE accounts. “It has also given me an opportunity to get ready for next month when my Medicaid and SNAP benefits are up for renewal. When you list your expenses that Medicaid doesn’t cover, if your expenses go over, Medicaid asks if someone helps you pay for those additional expenses. If you say ‘Yes,’ they say that person’s help is countable unearned income.” Leah states that, “Now I can tell them I have an ABLE account I use to cover my expenses beyond what they cover. There is a possibility, as a result of reducing countable resources with an ABLE account, that I may qualify for additional SNAP benefits.”

A member of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Federation for the Blind, Leah is also an Ambassador for Oklahoma for the Sumaira Foundation for NMO. She is also a co-group leader for the Oklahoma Chapter of the Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association, which serves people with a spectrum of autoimmune disorders.

Leah shares what she has learned about ABLE accounts with these groups and others, telling people, “Open an ABLE account. Don’t think you need to learn all you need to know about it before opening it. You can always transfer to another state’s ABLE program if you need to or make other changes as you move forward.”