Not only do disabled people face challenges in their day to day lives but even accessing the equipment they need to live independently can be a significant obstacle. Whether it is through statutory provision or private providers, wheelchair users across the board report long waiting times, expensive equipment and aids which do not wholly meet their needs, according to new findings.
A recent report has highlighted some of the trends apparently being felt by disabled people looking for equipment and has produced “worrying” results, according to the organisation which carried it out. Back Up, a group supporting people with spinal cord injuries, conducted a survey recently which revealed 24% of wheelchair users have had to buy a second wheelchair because their first one was uncomfortable while nearly half only found a chair they are happy with after a year. A further 7% of people say they have never been happy with their chair.
Although the survey had a somewhat limited response of 540 people, it is nevertheless a useful insight into the specific obstacles end-users come up against when accessing equipment.
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.
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. The report showed 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 says.
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.
On the findings Back Up says: “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.”