Buying a Wheelchair: Big Box Store or Authorized Vendor?

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Looking for a Wheelchair? evika can help you!

evika is an educational platform. We don’t sell anything, but we can help you find the products you’re looking for.

We provide information that can help people with disabilities make decisions about what technology can help with their specific needs.

Should I Buy a Wheelchair from Amazon?

Hi everyone, welcome to a Minute with Markie. 

When looking to purchase a new mobility aid, such as a wheelchair or a walker, what’s the difference between using a local retailer who specializes in wheelchairs and just ordering one from Walmart or Amazon, etc.? Can you buy a wheelchair from Ebay? Should you buy a wheelchair from Amazon? I took a deeper look into what both scenarios entail to help you make some critical choices for your care. The information in this video is relevant to Canada and the United States.

There are different categories of equipment that the industry calls “consumer products” and “rehab products”. The first, are products that require little to no configuration; so, they can be purchased and set up fairly easily by the purchaser, for example, a transport wheelchair that is used for very short periods of time and doesn’t provide any special positioning. The second, are products that require custom configuration and setup based on the clients needs and measurements; examples include wheeled commodes and all wheelchairs past a simple transport wheelchair. For the purposes of this video, I am going to focus on fitted products that require prescription for an OT or PT, as those are the most detrimental pieces of equipment to purchase online.

 

When purchasing a piece of equipment there are three things you should consider:

Is this the most suitable piece of equipment for my needs? Amazon wheelchairs may look good, but what’s going on under the hood?
What is the price of the equipment and how do I plan to pay for it? Some chairs can be thousands of dollars. Can I buy a second wheelchair from ebay?
What happens when the equipment needs repair or replacement parts? Will Walmart maintain my wheelchair?

1) Suitability: 

It is always recommended to use a registered occupational therapist or physiotherapist to assist you in choosing the right piece of equipment for your size and needs. Depending on complexity, appropriate seating is crucial in ensuring your posture doesn’t get worse as well as ensuring you are seated the best way you can be in order to be functional in your day. Here is one example of a past client of mine wherein seating made a remarkable difference in her posture; and this is not an isolated case. Wheelchairs have 10-20 page order forms for every single measurement and configuration you can think of to make that chair work for you. Walmart provides no options for configuration, it is a simple “add to cart” and “checkout”. So you don’t know what size or configuration you will be receiving if you order online. Additionally, you will not be able to trial the piece of equipment before purchase like you can when using an authorized wheelchair retailer.

2) Standards & Price: 

When looking online for equipment, you may think that you are saving a bit or time or money but the supply chain for rehab products has evolved to what it is for a reason., 

Let’s start with the manufacturers: These are the companies who spend thousands of hours designing, building, and testing wheelchairs to make sure that each one meets all of the regulations for keeping you safe. Next we have the retailers who bring together products from all of the different manufacturers under one roof to make it easy for you, the customer, to browse your options. But not all retailers are the same: There are retailers who specialize in assistive equipment, like wheelchairs, and who have been granted specific authorization by either a regulatory agency or the manufacturers to sell these specialized products. These Authorized retailers are required to have sales representatives who are knowledgeable about the products, technicians who are able to repair them , and to invest in education and training of staff. Then there are “Big Box Stores” like Walmart, who  have none of these things and come with some pretty significant financial risks for the buyers. Manufacturers do not sell their products to “Big Box Stores” like Walmart, so you will be purchasing from someone else with no regulation on price.  And if you purchase a wheelchair from a Big Box Store instead of an authorized retailer, you will not be eligible for any funding programs, such as the Assistive Devices Program in Ontario or the Alberta Aids to Daily Living in Alberta. By using an authorized wheelchair retailer, you also know that they are using manufacturers that have the proper medical device licensing and follow FDA, ISO and RESNA manufacturing standards. 

walmart wheelchair or authorized vendor wheelchair?

3) Service: 

If you purchase from a non-authorizer retailer, you will not receive any service to the equipment. If you then go to an authorized wheelchair retailer with the wheelchair you purchased online, it is up to that retailer whether they will service that wheelchair and when I asked this question to various retailers in the area, there was no consistency in their answers; so, you risk having no one available to setup, repair or ask questions about your equipment. Additionally, warranty and liability for the equipment is only held by the person who initially bought the product so you will not have access to repair or replacement under warranty, or liability if something goes wrong with it.

Are Amazon Wheelchairs Good?

Conclusion

Go through the proper channels in order to obtain the right equipment for your specific needs and shape. You can start by reaching out to your existing healthcare network such as an OT or PT, or if you don’t have one, start with your family doctor. 

But doing your own research is great, I encourage you to be informed. And you can use tools like evika.io to help you find some unique products. 

You’ll find more information below to help you start your research and find the best wheelchair for your needs from reputable manufacturers. 

You can take this information with you to your Healthcare provider to start a discussion about whether it is appropriate for you.

I hope this helps you to make smart choices when it comes to your personal health equipment so you can receive the best product for your needs and safety.

Thanks for watching and I hope you learned something new.

How can evika help you?

evika is an educational platform. We don’t sell anything!

We provide information that can help people with disabilities make decisions about what technology can help with their specific needs.

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