Quarter of wheelchair users have to re-buy chairs, report reveals

24% of wheelchair users have bought a second wheelchair because their first one was uncomfortable while nearly half only find a chair they are happy with after a year. A further 7% of people say they have never been happy with their chair.

That’s according to a new report which has revealed a number of trends showing the challenges faced by disabled people looking for suitable mobility equipment. The survey had 540 respondents.

One of the challenges outlined is finding trusted sources such as health professionals. Respondents ranked wheelchair services as the fifth most trusted source of expertise followed by sales representatives.

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The research also highlighted the funding obstacles encountered by users. 39% of users paid for their own chairs while 26% used the NHS voucher scheme, according to Back Up, an organisation that supports people living with spinal cord injuries.

The report shows that people generally use a mixture of funding and also found that users indicated that the voucher system is not generally enough to cover the cost of a wheelchair that allows someone to lead a full and active life.

Many users reported that disability equipment is very expensive, placing them in a difficult position: they can choose an affordable wheelchair, that may not meet their needs, or pay a vast sum to get the chair that gives them the best quality of life.

The report showed that users commonly research online prior to purchase, particularly looking at wheelchair manufacturers’ websites. Over 70% of people also said they trusted other wheelchair users’ opinions when choosing a new chair.

Back Up said that its findings are “worrying”. The report said: “What should be a seamless and painless experience – since it often follows a devastating injury – is in fact rarely straightforward, prohibitively expensive, often disproportionately time consuming and the outcome is frequently unsuitable.”

Meanwhile, one respondent commented: “I took the free NHS [wheelchair] instead of the voucher the first time I needed one, but found it far too heavy and cumbersome for easy/sensible use.”

Another said: First chair was a ‘temporary’ steel-framed monstrosity which I had for three years before the NHS could be persuaded to replace it with my current, made-to-measure aluminium-framed chair.”

Table showing how users fund their chairs

Paid for it myself 39%
Paid for by friends / family 8%
Grant from a charity 7%
Wheelchair voucher scheme 26%
Access to work 8%
Finance scheme 1%
Motability 1%
Free option from Wheelchair Services 37%
Other 12%

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