Today, about 5.5 million Americans depend on wheelchairs to get around. According to an article published by Boston University’s radio station WBUR, over 50% of wheelchairs break down over the course of a 6-month period. The number of needed wheelchair repairs for the same 6-month period rises to a steep 88% for veterans.
Wheelchair owners often go without routine maintenance and repair of their wheelchairs as modern power models become complex. Wheelchair owners can experience delays of up to many months to get repairs done due to required insurance documentation and a shortage of parts or repair shops. Massachusetts wheelchair owners are at even more of a disadvantage as they are limited in where they can get repairs done due to warranties and a limited number of local companies that can fix wheelchairs. Delays in repairs of broken wheelchairs often leave owners with no option but to be homebound, leading to greater chances of increased isolation and health complications. In addition to the repair delays, wheelchairs and wheelchair repair is extremely costly, particularly for good quality electric wheelchairs which are needed for many with permanent disabilities.
According to the Disability Law Center, wheelchair advocates recently gathered in the State House to push for the Wheelchair Repair Bill, which would expand warranty coverage for wheelchairs, provide temporary chairs while repairs are made, and hold providers accountable for repairing chairs in a timely manner.
For 50 years (roughly 1929 – 1979), Lend A Hand Society loaned wheelchairs to individuals and social workers. Demand for both short and long term usage was great during this time, leading to waiting lists for wheelchairs. On one occasion, a donor even bought a much needed wheelchair for LAH as a memorial gift due to the short supply. Today, LAH provides support for wheelchairs through financial emergency assistance grants to those who need help paying for wheelchair purchases or repair.