A University of Pittsburgh-led study showed that nearly half of all individuals with spinal cord injuries have wheelchair breakdowns at least once within a six-month period.
The author of the study, Dr. Mike Boninger, says the people involved in the study were asked how many times they had breakdowns within the last six months and what the consequences of those breakdowns were. He says ten percent of the people who had wheelchair breakdowns were either left stranded, missed an appointment, or were injured as a result.
Boninger says the problem is not that these wheelchairs can’t be repaired. The problem is that they breakdown too frequently, and health insurance does not provide a backup wheelchair to use while theirs is being fixed. Also, the restrictions of health insurance regulations are such that they only buy wheelchairs for a person about every five years, which means though they may continuously repair a wheelchair, they will rarely replace it.
He says healthcare pays a flat rate for wheelchairs, which then gives manufacturers incentive to make the cheapest chair for the most profit. The manufacturers also don’t individually test chairs, causing breakdowns to occur more often. Both of these factors play into frequent wheelchair malfunction.
Boninger says his solution would be independent testing of the wheelchairs, and the improvement of insurance reimbursement policy.