A Broken System Makes It Hard to Get the Right Wheelchair

By Ann Eubank, UsersFirst

I attend every Abilities Expo because it is the number one expo for people with disabilities and people who love people with disabilities.

They have everything there: accessible vans and cars, the latest styles of wheelchairs, very cool accessories and lots of non-profit organizations offering advice and connection. If you can get there, do it.

What I do: I focus on helping people get the best wheelchair possible to meet medical needs AND lifestyle needs. I fight the system (Medicare, Medicaid and private insurances) to urge them to make policies that allow people to get the equipment that allows them to live the lives they choose.

I work for a disability organization with a strong presence in Washington, D.C. That means our voices have a direct link to the policy makers in D.C.

Paul with President Obama

Of the thousands of people who attend the Abilities Expo each year, I believe 99.9% would want to register with me (UsersFirst) to be counted as someone who believes we should have access to good wheelchairs. With every registration we gain strength.

With a big list we can let insurance companies know there are thousands of people who care that Americans have access to a chair that works in their lives.

When I say a good wheelchair I mean one that can be adjusted to your specific measurements and meets your functional needs. It might be a lightweight manual wheelchair that is easier to push and therefore protects your hands and your shoulders. It might be a power wheelchair that has the ability to tilt so you can get the pressure off your behind independently which dramatically decreases the risk of a pressure wound.

Oh, the insurance company might approve a wheelchair, but it may look like a substandard airport transport chair. A chair that leaves you struggling like a turtle on its back.

It would seem logical that insurance companies would want us to be as independent and healthy as possible. Bottom line: when we are healthy and independent we cost less to the insurance company.

Ki Catalyst shown with access denied stamp

But, that's not the way it works.

It's getting more and more difficult to get a wheelchair that meets our medical and functional needs. This results in too many people trapped at home, unable to pursue employment because the wheelchair does not travel well, or sick because the chair doesn't tilt back, or in bed because they got a substandard cushion and now have a wound.

What we are doing: With our strength in numbers we are able to confront insurance companies and ask why their policies limit access to wheelchairs. With our strength in numbers we can send lots of emails to members of congress asking them to change a policy. With our strength in numbers, our voices are loud enough to be heard.

What we know: If we don't unite our voices and speak out, no change happens.

Insurance companies make arbitrary and discriminatory guidelines that deny us independence.

What you can do:

1.     Be counted and register with UsersFirst (we DO NOT Spam).
2.     Use the Mobility Map to navigate the process of getting a wheelchair.
3.     Follow us on Facebook (that's where the fun stuff happens).
4.     Tell your network to register with UsersFirst and follow us on FB.

What we will do: We will only email you to keep you informed of policies that affect the lives of wheelchair users. Every now and again you will receive an email from me giving you the opportunity to tell your congressional representatives your opinion.

Let's see what we can change together.



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