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It's an odd phenomenon what little financial priority those of us with disabilities place on funding our own mobility needs, often expecting everyone but ourselves to pay for our wheelchairs and equipment. Really, it doesn't make sense, as why would one gladly pay $300 for a new netbook, for example, while simultaneously squawking and refusing to pay out-of-pocket for needed new power wheelchair batteries, effectively choosing a want over a need?

A man I know of notable financial means recently asked me why he should pay $800 out-of-pocket for a scooter when Medicare might just as well pay for one? I, of course, was appalled by his questioned, and explained that while I understood that he'd paid into Medicare, such mobility funding truly is for those in need, and a man of his means arguably should do right by paying out-of-pocket, buying the scooter he wished instead of relying on governmental insurance – plus, paying out-of-pocket would avoid any delays, allowing him enhanced mobility immediately.

There are such an extraordinary number of individuals in need of mobility products, with such little funding, that the time has arrived where those of us who can afford to fund our own mobility truly should assume accountability in paying out-of-pocket toward our own mobility, and stop expecting all others to pick up the full tab.

I was at a provider, and the young man who does the home deliveries noted that he regularly encounters situations where he delivers serviced mobility product to half-million-dollar homes, with luxury cars in the drive ways, and the wealthy customers will throw fits over $100 co-pays. “How come people will gladly pay for every luxury in the world, but not want to pay a dime toward something like a wheelchair?” he asked me.

He raised a great question. I often discuss that we all are entitled to mobility as a basic human right. However, that position shouldn't be confused with an entitlement to funding. If you can afford to pay for your own wheelchair, you should – after all, you're the one solely benefiting from it. The mentality that no matter one's wealth, someone else should pay for one's wheelchair and service is absurd, demonstrating the lack of personal accountability toward one's mobility (although, we can't discount the emotional perspective that some deeply resent using a wheelchair, and certainly don't want to pay for what they unfortunately see as an evil in their lives).

Not too long ago, wished a new manual wheelchair specifically to use on my boat. Without question, I knew that it would be unethical for me to expect anyone but me to pay for that wheelchair. I didn't use my health insurance or pull a wheelchair out of my company's inventory, but I actually ordered my manual wheelchair through a local provider, and paid for it myself. I didn't financially burden anyone with my wanting a new manual wheelchair, and I supported a local provider in the process. My point is, my disability is my responsibility, and in having the financial means, so are my mobility products. And, the money that I spent out-of-pocket on that manual wheelchair has benefited me far more than anything else that I could have bought with the $2,000 or so.

Now, I know better than most that many with disabilities are on very limited incomes, rightfully relying on Medicare and Medicaid funding – I work with consumers every day facing such financial limitations. However, even for those on very limited means, assuming some financial responsibility over the long term toward your mobility is a very sound decision. Many power wheelchair options – for example high-speed motors, elevating seats, and so on – aren't funded by insurers, so paying out-of-pocket is the only option if one wishes them. Think long term, and save $20 or $30 on a monthly basis, and when it comes time for a new power wheelchair in several years, you'll have a mobility nest egg of sorts to cover that option or two you wish. Also, maintenance issues can arise that aren't covered by insurance or warranty, so having money set aside for mobility needs can prevent a crisis.

In the larger picture, spending money toward our own mobility products and equipment is among the best investments that we can make toward our quality of life. For example, many insurers illogically will not fund a $300 pressure management cushion unless you've already had a pressure sore. In such cases, it simply makes sense to spend the $300 yourself before having pressure management issues, and dramatically protect your health and quality of life.

And, indeed, quality of life is the ultimate reason why we should fund our own mobility products and equipment: You get what you want, when you need it – and you're the one in complete control of your mobility.

Published 8/2010, Copyright 2010, WheelchairJunkie.com