3 Pieces of Advice for Acquiring a New Wheelchair

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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Purchasing a new wheelchair is no easy feat. In addition to getting your insurance provider to cover the cost, you also have to make sure that the chair you are acquiring will meet your needs and has all of the proper accommodations. Read this article from the Washington Post by SMA author Ben Mattlin that explains these difficulties in more detail.

Here are some tips that will help make this process as smooth as possible:

Find a good specialist who can work with you. 
Value your wheelchair service provider the way you value your doctors. There are companies across the country that have specialists on hand to assist if you need an adjustment or a repair. Before looking into a new chair, make sure to find a service provider that will listen to your needs and work with you every step of the way.

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Determine what specific accommodations you need.
Every SMA patient is different. This is especially true when it comes to getting your wheelchair tailor-made to meet your needs. Everything from seat width to where the joystick is placed to lateral and hip supports come into play here, and it’s important that the patient vocalizes their needs. If you’re the parent of an SMA patient, make sure your child understands this. No matter how good the service provider or specialist is, it’s not their job to guess the patient’s needs.

Prepare for the worst when it comes to insurance.
Sadly, insurance companies are always going to be a nightmare to deal with and they keep getting worse. Many people in the SMA and muscular dystrophy communities have told stories about their insurance providers denying them for a new wheelchair multiple times, and there’s absolutely no justification for it.

If this happens to you, try first to work with your wheelchair service provider and any other specialists to try to appeal to your insurance company. Having the right wheelchair for you or your child is an absolute must, so if that doesn’t work, crowdfunding is a good alternative. Many patients and their families have had major success with GoFundMe campaigns, used to acquire everything from robotic arms to accessible vehicles. Promote it on social media, reach out to local news sources and partner with small businesses to do fundraisers, and it’s very possible you’ll be able to raise the money in a few months. In the age of technology and social media, there are more resources than ever before for SMA patients and their families.

MORE: Five tips for going to school with SMA

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