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Why Getting a New Wheelchair Is Often Difficult

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It is no secret the past 19 months have been nothing short of traumatic for me — more than I give myself credit for getting through sometimes. The journey started with a tibia and fibula osteotomy surgery to correct the alignment of my leg bones that became displaced as a result of my disability. I left college in the middle of my senior year and ended up having to learn to do all kinds of things all over again.

When I was in rehab for a month, I stared the process of getting another wheelchair because the one I had at the time was non-functional and too small after my legs were restructured. I remember quite clearly sitting on a PT mat, hardly able to hold myself up while the Numotion wheelchair representative examined the state of the wheelchair I had with me, and realized how urgently I needed a new chair. After rehab, I went back to school, but continued to struggle with recovery and the progress of obtaining my chair. Come to find out, it had been six months and no paperwork was ever submitted anywhere.

Due to my urgent need for a new chair given my medical struggles, I asked for another company to take on my case. This time it was Frederick Medical Supply’s turn to let me down. After about six months of working with this company, no one was returning communication with me. I found out the company closed the local office without the decency to give me a heads up.

The common denominator in all of these situations is that I, the patient, had to continue to call and ask for updates instead of the company simply doing their job.

Next and lastly comes my experience with National Seating and Mobility. This experience was a little better. No one closed their business on me, but I did have to fight my own battles between insurance and the company for seven months because there was a lack of communication somewhere. After a while, my case manager from the hospital completely gave up on me.

When I finally went to the meeting with National Seating and Mobility, I was frustrated and honestly at a point where I didn’t care what my chair looked like as long as it was functional. I should never feel this way — a wheelchair should be something I feel mentally and physically comfortable using. A wheelchair becomes a part of the identity of someone with a disability. It should be treated as such.

People with disabilities have enough to deal with in life without also having to fight battles when others don’t do their job. If you work in customer service of any kind, especially for people with disabilities, please don’t put the workload on them. This happens all too often and it shouldn’t. We need and deserve your services and support.

If you’re struggling to get the mobility equipment you need, never give up. The fight may be long, but I promise in the end, you’ll become stronger than you ever thought possible, even without the support of people who should be there.

Advocate for yourself. It matters. You matter.

Originally published: August 5, 2019
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