Butt Weight, There's More!
After more than two years of fighting with the State of Arkansas' Medicaid program for authorization, I finally received a powered wheelchair this past Christmas Eve.
It is Invacare's top of the line M 41 Pronto with "Sure-Step," it retails for six thousand dollars, and it it is wholly inadequate for my needs.
It has less than two inches of ground clearance and gets stuck three out of every four times trying to get over the 3/4" high threshold of my front door. It cannot make it over cracks in the sidewalk to take my trash from my apartment to the dumpster. When the hard plastic drive wheels are even just a little bit damp, they spin uselessly. It should have come with a membership in an auto club because it leaves me feeling as though I will need to call for a tow truck every time I leave my home in it.
What I have learned about the powered wheelchair business is frightful and disgusting and has both disappointed and angered me; so of course I want to share it with all of you. lol
Sign the Petition!
It has been twenty-six years since George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990, granting disabled persons legal rights to access all public lands and spaces, at least on paper and in theory. The A.D.A. states in plain English that, "People with disabilities have the right to choose whatever mobility device best suits their needs."
Federal Medicare and Medicaid programs put into place prior to 1990 have never been brought into compliance with the law, however, and offer disabled Americans no voice whatsoever in deciding what device they need, still stipulating that the mobility devices they provide are for "in-the-home" use only. These federally funded insurance programs are, therefor, very obviously in violation of the A.D.A, leaving disabled Americans left with a pig in a poke when it comes to what sort of mobility device we end up with.
Failure by our elected representatives to have addressed this oversight for more than a quarter of a century is nonfeasance at best. Once a representative has been made aware of the problem and does nothing to rectify it, their failure, neglect or refusal to do so becomes actionable malfeasance.
Therefor, I am proposing an open assault on congress by every disabled person in America to demand that Medicare and Medicaid be made to comply with and adhere to the A.D.A. by having all references to mobility devices in federal Medicare and Medicaid documents that use the term, "in the home" amended to say, "in the home or on any public lands or in any other places that the disabled have legal access rights to under the A.D.A." and that all references to mobility devices be amended to include the phrase, "of the disabled person's own choice."
Please help to bring Medicare and Medicaid into compliance with the A.D.A. by contacting your senators and congresspersons with this demand. Please sign this petition to the President and both houses of Congress to bring Medicare and Medicaid into compliance with the A.D.A.
We disabled represent the single largest minority group in these United States. We come in all sizes, shapes, orientations, colors and denominations. It is time that we came together to (figuratively) stand up for our rights as a single group and demand that we no longer be held prisoners in our own homes by archaic, obsolete, immoral, unethical, unjust and discriminatory practices of State and federal Medicare and Medicaid policies.
Adding Insult to Injury - Literally:
Last summer the city of Shreveport, Louisiana received so many complaints about the same police officer parking in the shaded handicap parking spot at a local mall that they eventually painted over the handicap emblem and removed the "Handicap Parking Only" sign to allow the police officer to continue parking in the shade without eliciting complaints. Pigs is pigs.
Access Advocates investigates complaints of non-compliance with the ADA but they haven't responded to my pleas for help getting Medicaid / Medicare to comply with the ADA and provide real world wheelchairs.
Here in the U.S.A, where a Tankchair Speedster ($17,500) or a Bounder Plus High Volume Low Pressure Off Road chair ($18,000) cost more than a new 2015 Toyota Corolla (MSRP $16,900) and a 13" scissor lift upgrade ($5,980) to reach top shelves in grocery stores cost more than three times as much as a 9' Mark Lift ($1,800), Medicare and Medicaid only provide power chairs designated for "in-the-home use only."
Wheelchair manufacturers and their sales weasels - together with the insurance industry - are taking unfair advantage of disabled Americans and profiting from the misfortune of others by robbing them (and by "them," I mean "us") with impunity. I refuse to believe that there isn't anyone out there who can manufacture a decent indoor/outdoor real world power wheelchair and market it with something less than a 1,000% to 2,000% mark-up on materials and labor.
We need chairs that will navigate real world scenes like this one!
My chair will get me killed in this real world situation!
The majority of power wheelchairs available to disabled Americans are designed for indoors only, primarily for use in hospitals and nursing homes, while the majority of disabled Americans in need of power wheelchairs live in the real world, where street-corners, shopping malls and even many government buildings are inaccessible to such wheelchairs.
The present unlawful policy of Medicare and Medicaid paying only for power chairs for in-the-home use notwithstanding, compliance by cities, townships and municipalities with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act is a sad, sick joke, as these photographs clearly illustrate, and Americans with disabilities are being kept prisoner in their own homes by Medicare and Medicaid policies that do not comply with the A.D.A.
There are only a handful of power wheelchairs being manufactured and marketed as "off-road" chairs that meet the criteria that allow access to public parks, street-corners without ramps and other real world locations that able-bodied Americans take for granted. The advertisements for such chairs almost never disclose the prices, however, and it is more true than anywhere else that, in the case of real world power wheelchairs, if you have to ask how much it costs, you most certainly cannot afford it.
These chairs typically have a base price between $10,000 and $30,000 U.S. Dollars, with accessories such as lifts that allow access to high shelves in grocery stores and lights for going safely outdoors at night available at additional costs. Adding such accessories to the power chairs designated as "off-road" chairs raises the price to around eighteen thousand dollars, higher than that of many brand new automobiles.
Automobiles cannot be used in the aisles of grocery or other stores and require licensing and insurance. Automobiles cannot get a disabled person into a theater, a doctor's office, waiting room, examination room or the dressing room or rest room of a department store, either conveniently or legally, and are not covered as medical necessities by any insurance policies that I am aware of.
The real world needs of disabled Americans are not being met by makers of conventional hospital wheelchairs, the insurance industry or State and federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, and disabled Americans are being very badly taken advantage of by those very same groups, businesses and government programs. In the plainest language possible, a power wheelchair with which to navigate the real world should not cost more than a new automobile.
To prove the point that power wheelchairs made for the real world actually do cost more than many new automobiles, I have compiled a price comparison between three of the most popular power wheelchairs for the real world and more than a dozen 2015 automobiles:
Tankchair Speedster @ $17,500 as shown.
Each of the chairs pictured above cost more than any of these these new 2015 automobiles:
Honda Fit - MSRP $15,650
Chevrolet Cruze - MSRP $16,170
Nissan Sentra - MSRP $16,480
Dodge Dart - MSRP $16,495
Toyota Corolla - MSRP $16,900
Ford Focus - MSRP $17,170
Mitsubishi Lancer - MSRP $17,395
Bounder Plus High Volume Low Pressure Off Road @ $18,000 as shown.
Adding accessories such as lights and on-board chargers to these and other chairs can raise the price to $28,000 or more, higher than any of these new 2015 automobiles:
Subaru Impreza Sedan - MSRP $18,195
Subaru Impreza Wagon - MSRP $18,695
Jeep Patriot - MSRP $18,895
Chevrolet Colorado - MSRP $20,120
Chevrolet Trax - MSRP $20,120
Toyota Tacoma - MSRP $20,765
Mitsubishi Lancer - MSRP $20,995
There is a chair on You Tube that is called the "Explorer 4x4" but I cannot find very much information on it. I think that it may be made in Russia because the videos I have seen are captioned in Cyrillic. It looks cool and is compact enough for indoor use but what makes it stand out from most chairs other than the ones with tank treads that can't really be considered housebroken is that it can climb stairs. I will link to some videos soon.
Magic Mobility's X8 Extreme is a superb example of what a real world power chair can be. It also climbs stairs! The base, without a seat, starts at $15,200 and the entry level seat is an additional $2,900 according to the order form they sent me. The "Magic" is that they can take $2,000 worth of materials and turn it into nearly ten times as much money in profit.
I'm pretty sure that this is the same chair or at least made by the same people for $10,000 ($12,000 on Amazon) being advertised as a "Stair Climbing Wheelchair" although it does not appear to be able to climb actual stairs with more than a six inch rise. It's a start, though, a "step" in the right direction.