Advocates Reflect on Historic Win for New Mexicans and the Community at Large
By Mike Crist, Editor
Like most 10-year-old children, Callaway Lewis finds her greatest happiness when she is on the move.
Whether she is climbing rocks, playing a sport, or popping wheelies while she gives her brother Mav a ride in her wheelchair, Callaway is not one to sit still.
And speaking of wheelchairs, thank you, but she does not need any help, even when she is traversing Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
“Who wants to be pushed in a wheelchair anyway?” Callaway said.
The passage of the So New Mexicans Can Move Act, legislation that the Lewis family passionately advocated for, will allow for many more people in her home state to join Callaway on the go.
The Amputee Coalition was also there in New Mexico to advocate. The legislation requires insurance plans in the state to cover orthoses and prostheses at an equivalent level to Medicare and to cover a second device to be used for physical activity.
Other forms of physical activity require a different prosthesis than the one used for walking.
This makes it the most comprehensive prosthetic and orthotic coverage in the nation. So New Mexicans Can Move passed the state House of Representatives and Senate unanimously. When this edition of inMotion Magazine went to print, it was awaiting the signature of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to become law.
“This is just the beginning,” said Kyle Stepp, another advocate who elevated his voice in New Mexico. “This is just the beginning of seeing what’s possible. I am so excited to see what’s possible for the limb loss and limb difference community now that they have access to the human right of physical activity.”
Kyle, 28, who is also a cancer survivor, is a true kindred spirit of Callaway’s. An athlete before he became an amputee, he continues skiing, rock climbing, and cycling, and he has become an elite para triathlete.
On March 12, shortly after So New Mexicans Can Move passed in the Senate, Kyle competed in the Americas Triathlon Para Championships Sarasota in Florida. He placed fourth in the race, which combines a 740-meter swim, an 18.3-kilometer cycle, and a 5-kilometer run.
Kyle is ranked 13th in the world in the PTS2 division for ambulatory athletes with severe limitations, and he has his eye on the 2028 Los Angeles Paralympics.
“When I crossed the finish line, I was just overwhelmed with emotion,” he said. “I was thinking about how this unlocks the possibilities for people to have the same exact access to races and events like this as everyone else. Whether it’s a dad who just wants to play with his kids, or somebody who just wants to walk their dog every day, every single person with limb loss and limb difference can start their own race now.”
The Lewis family watched online as the Senate ratified So New Mexicans Can Move during a nighttime session. “It was really awesome,” Callaway said.
Laura Lewis, Callaway’s mother, felt gratified that it passed without opposition. Even lobbyists who ostensibly were there to oppose it spoke in its favor.
“Many people were dumbfounded that this wasn’t already a thing,” Laura said. “One of the legislators told me that this was the best bill of the year. And you know they pass a lot of bills.”
The premise of this legislation is simple. Physical activity, which is everyone’s right, is instrumental to long-term health.
The Amputee Coalition plans to pursue similar legislation in other states so that more members of the limb loss and limb difference community will gain access to this right.
Despite a heavy schedule of competition and training, Kyle wants to remain a part of the movement.
“That’s the next step,” he said, “taking what I’ve learned here in New Mexico and applying it to other places. I want to be a mentor for people to help them do that in their own backyard.”
Laura Lewis said she and her family also would like to remain active in support of the cause. They are not yet sure what kind of role they will take.
She said she is grateful for the support they received throughout the process.
Callaway’s classmates and friends at Alice King Community School in Albuquerque wrote letters to state legislators to advocate for So New Mexicans Can Move. The legislators enjoyed hearing from their young constituents.
“If we could continue to make a difference, we definitely would like to do that,” Laura said.
“We lose faith in democracy, but I think it was good to see democracy working in this case,” she continued. “You can stand up for you, and you can stand up for others.”
To learn about the Amputee Coalition’s advocacy efforts, please visit our Advocacy & Awareness page: www.amputee-coalition.org/advocacy-awareness