Executive Director, CoPIRG
Executive Director, CoPIRG
DENVER – Consumer and disability advocates are celebrating the passage of HB22-1031, the Right to Repair for Wheelchairs bill, by the full Senate. This first-in-the-nation bill is one step away from the Governor’s desk. The bill would require manufacturers of powered wheelchairs to make available parts, tools, repair manuals, and digital access to owners and independent repairers at fair and reasonable prices to fix their wheelchairs.
The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senators Rachel Zenzinger and John Cooke, passed on a 30-5 vote. It will return to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote before heading to the Governor’s desk.
“If a part breaks on someone’s wheelchair, it needs to be fixed quickly. Going days or even weeks with a broken wheelchair can result in sores, injuries or someone can no longer leave their home,” said Julie Reiskin, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition executive director. “Many of the things that break are easy repairs that we should be able to do ourselves or take it to someone we trust. We need the right to repair our stuff. We also need to reduce barriers in Medicaid to get repairs done quickly and we need to hold companies accountable that do not respond to their customer’s needs.”
“For decades, if something you owned broke, you could fix it yourself, take it to an independent repair shop or go back to the manufacturer,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG executive director. “Unfortunately, as more of our stuff, from blenders to tractors, becomes digital, manufacturers are able to lock us out, undermining the repair marketplace and driving up costs and inconvenience for consumers. We were able to retain the right to fix our vehicles through a state bill. Now, we need to do the same thing for powered wheelchairs. If we can independently fix our cars that go 70 mph, we should be able to fix our wheelchairs that go 7 mph.”
Many requested repairs from wheelchair users are simple fixes like batteries, wheels, joysticks and bearings. If service delays drag on for weeks or even months, wheelchair users need to be able to access the necessary parts, tools and information to get them moving again on their own. Failing to have access to a wheelchair for even a day or two can lead to sores, injuries or health emergencies because of the critical role these mobility devices play for people who rely on them.
“This is a quality of life issue,” said Katz. “No one should be left with only one option for repair, especially when that option has a track record of stranding people without access to mobility.”
“As a rural resident of Colorado living in Lamar, it is common knowledge that I will wait weeks for even the simplest electric wheelchair repair because Numotion will not respond to a rural call for just one customer,” said Kenny Maestas. “Going weeks without repair has consequences and has left me in an emergency situation on more than one occasion.”
Last month, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition and CoPIRG released a storybank from powered wheelchair users from around Colorado who shared their repair horror stories. You can find those stories here.