The first two years of Charlie’s life, we used loaner equipment: A Penguin stander with failed velcro, a giraffe stander that we never had enough pieces for, a handful of Rifton chairs, and a loaner gait trainer that we only had about half the time.
For the most part, I wasn’t very concerned. I don’t love equipment (does anyone?) and we were able to creatively overcome issues that came with the loaner equipment. Besides, when stuff is free, you tend to care less.
But then it was time to purchase Charlie’s wheelchair.
Wheelchairs are expensive. They’re also an integral part of your life. It’s a big decision and most insurance companies will only pay once every couple of years for a chair, so you better pick the right chair.
My experience with chair purchasing was less than stellar: we were given a choice of two chairs, we were given no choice with regards to seating, our dealer had out-of-date information, we ended up with parts we’ve never used, and the footplates have never been right. This is in addition to the insurance snafu that almost cost us two thousand dollars.
We also had issues when we obtained our very own gait trainer. We ordered every available part from a particular manufacturer and when it all arrived, we realized that we still didn’t have a pelvic piece, and consequently, Charlie won’t use it at all. We ordered the missing part, and six months later, it still hasn’t arrived.
Needless to say, these experiences left a sour taste in my mouth. Your purchases are only as good as the information you have–and in many cases, the information is lousy. Specific complaints of mine are:
- There are usually no available pictures of equipment with all of it’s accessories.
- There’s rarely pictures of the additional accessories you’ll be ordering at all.
- There’s often no way to “test drive” equipment before purchase.
- If you’re working with a dealer, they might not even carry the piece of equipment that would be the best fit for your family.
- After you get the equipment in your home, it can be difficult to figure out how to adjust it so it works as well as it should.
- It’s difficult to compare different brands and types of equipment.
So I want things to change. I want to take the power away from dealers and give it back to the people who are actually doing the buying. I’m going to start with the things that I can control–information. After Charlie’s wheelchair debacle, I got a little crazy. I researched wheelchairs for weeks–I made charts. I compared this chair to that chair. Like I said, crazy.
But now I know a lot about chairs and I want to share it with you guys. I’d like to eventually add pages on other types of equipment as well. This is not designed to replace professional help when selecting a piece of equipment. Rather, this is to help families who don’t have access to professional help or even to help professionals keep abreast of changes on the equipment front. I hope it helps. Also, please let me know what kinds of products you would like me to review/cover in the future–educational materials, other equipment, etc.