- By Laurie Watanabe
- Jun 01, 2022
HELP SIGN: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/BUNDIT YUWANNASIRI
While working on this issue, my MacBook’s battery died. “Service
battery,” the MacBook said. Our IT department sprung into action.
You know what they didn’t do? Ask me if I still needed a laptop to do
my job of writing and editing a magazine.
And you know what I didn’t do? Try to
get at that dead internal battery myself.
More states are introducing “right-to-repair”
bills; Colorado’s bill was signed
into law in June. These bills, which include
wheelchairs, basically give consumers
the right to buy parts and do the repairs
How many wheelchair owners or their
caregivers — excluding CRT professionals —
truly want to do their own repairs, let alone are qualified to? I can’t believe
very many would want to — how many car owners change their own oil? Yet,
right-to-repair bills are multiplying and enjoying strong support.
If people don’t enjoy repairing their own wheelchairs, why are so many
rallying to do so? It’s a symptom of a larger problem: frustration over a
lengthy, unwieldy system that can cause repairs to stretch on for months.
One of the common reasons for delays is the need to get funding sources
on board before repairs begin. Suppliers who don’t get that blessing upfront
can end up holding the bag for both their time and whatever parts were
required for the repair.
Recently, I’ve read a couple of mainstream media stories on right-to-repair
bills, and CRT doesn’t look good in them. In a Kaiser Health News article,
the wife of a power chair user with multiple sclerosis lamented that their
CRT supplier doesn’t buy and maintain a wide inventory of switches… even
though the supplier can’t know when or if those switches will ever be used
But while understanding why suppliers cannot maintain huge inventories
of CRT components, I still felt this woman’s pain and frustration. I know this
is a complex issue. But she loves her husband; she rightly worries about his
immobility while his chair is down. It shouldn’t take weeks or months for a
wheelchair to get repaired. But that doesn’t mean right-to-repair bills are a
Truly helpful actions could include lowering unreasonable barriers to
repairing medically necessary wheelchairs already approved by insurers.
Another helpful change, suggests the University of Pittsburgh’s Mark
Schmeler, Ph.D., OTR/L, ATP, is for insurers to pay for preventive wheelchair
service, perhaps every six months… just as dental insurance providers
routinely pay for six-month dental cleanings in the hopes of catching any
problems early, before more costly and painful treatments are needed.
The take-away from right-to-repair bills isn’t that untrained consumers
would make great repair techs. It’s that consumers are desperate for a real
fix, and desperation makes us consider all
options, even ones that don’t ultimately
solve the problem. The industry’s challenge
is to find an actual way forward... one that
consumers will also embrace.
This article originally appeared in the May/Jun 2022 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at [email protected].