by Maxwell T. Goldman
I’m a great shopper, and thanks to the web, most people are. With so many choices, and so many retailers online and in stores, getting exactly what I want, when I want it is easier than ever. In the rare instance when I do make a bad purchase, I can always return it or sell it to someone else.
However, this is not the case when it comes to purchasing mobility equipment. Shopping for mobility equipment is extremely stressful and unpleasant. So far, I’ve run into a variety of problems, big and small. I’ve outlined three of the most common challenges in this blog post.
Challenge #1: No Test-Drive
The usability, comfort, and fit of mobility equipment are critical. I’ve had good experiences when I’ve been able to test equipment out before purchasing it, and stressful experiences when that has not been possible.
In high school, the first mobility equipment I had was a pair of forearm crutches. Fortunately, I was able to go to a local drug store, test them out, and purchase them on the spot. When I began college, my mobility had declined, and I needed to purchase a mobility scooter. My doctor’s office coordinated a presentation with a scooter vendor, so I was able to view several different scooters. After comparing them, I chose the one I liked best and compared prices online. I was able to buy the model I wanted, new and heavily discounted, online for about $500 less than the vendors were offering.
The most challenging thing about having a scooter has been transporting it independently. In college, I drove a sedan, which meant that I could not transport it myself. As my mobility got worse, I decided it was time to find a solution where I would not need to rely on others to put my scooter in my trunk. My solution was to find a lift that I could put in an SUV to do the lifting for me. It took three different cars, two different lifts, lots of money, and lots of frustration, to find a solution that works. All this happened because there is no way to test lifts in vehicles without installing them, and there are no “demos” anywhere to test out. Today I have a satisfactory solution that involves a ramp instead of a lift.
Challenge #2: Cost
The cost of mobility equipment is high and is rarely covered by health insurance. Medicare usually covers 1 piece of mobility equipment per person, but as you can imagine, this is not enough it you want to get around, get in and out of your house and get in and out of your car, because heaven forbid your mobility needs are different indoors and outdoors! I’m more than a few decades shy of qualifying for Medicare, so I have had to navigate the private insurance market. Even after upgrading to one of the most deluxe (and expensive!) insurance plans, I’m still forced to pay out of pocket for all my equipment.
Challenge #3: Resale and/or Disposal
As someone with an evolving disability, my mobility is sometimes better and sometimes worse. This means that sometimes I need new equipment and sometimes I need to get rid of my old equipment.
A few years into college, after two years of daily use and countless potholes, my “new” scooter was beginning to fail. Its “One-Year Warranty” had expired, so I had the choice to either fix it or buy another one. I chose not to look at used scooters because it was difficult to find something of decent quality that was still under warranty. I ended up buying another new scooter on SpinLife, the same website I used to buy the old one and have been pleased with it, even after two years.
Till this day, however, I’m still trying to get rid of the old scooter, and no matter how much I discount it, it appears that nobody is interested because it’s used. I’ve had the scooter listed on Craigslist for over a year, and at this point, and I think I will donate it. Organizations like MassMatch and MedShare allow people to donate used mobility equipment to people in need both locally and internationally. The REquipment program at MassMatch gives people access to a diverse inventory of high-quality used equipment, all at no cost. For more information about recycling used mobility equipment, the Wheelchair Foundation provides a list of organizations that can help.
My primary goal in writing this post is to educate others about shopping for mobility equipment and perhaps save someone the frustration I went through during my trial and error. My larger goal is to start a conversation about how to improve the experience of shopping for mobility equipment and ensure more people get what they want for a fair price.
 “Financial Assistance and Payment Options for Wheelchairs and Mobility Scooters.” Paying for Senior
Care, May 2016, www.payingforseniorcare.com/financial-assistance/paying-for-wheelchairs-and-scooters.html.