A Guide on How to Get a Wheelchair for Free

One of the challenges faced by the differently-abled is a lack of easily accessible information about the different programs and facilities available to make life easier.

A Guide on How to Get a Wheelchair for Free

With this article, we aim to provide you with a comprehensive list of options available if you, or someone you know, needs help getting their hands on a subsidized/free wheelchair.

There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good work, locating and collating resources to facilitate mobility aids for anyone who might need them. Various healthcare and insurance plans — government and private — include provisions to facilitate getting mobility aids for free, or at subsidized rates.

So, before choosing a wheelchair and buying it at full price, let’s take a look at the other options available out there. Several private corporations, service clubs, and charitable foundations also run wheelchair donation programs. Here is a list of places that could help:

Medicare

Medicare B covers outpatient services — ambulances, home care services, durable medical equipment (DME), lab tests, etc. Wheelchairs fall under the DMEs. Medicare may not pay the complete cost of the wheelchair but a sizeable portion of it. Visit https://www.medicare.gov/ for details.

Coverage under Medicare B depends on:

  • National coverage decided by Medicare authorities
  • Local and Federal laws
  • Medical company decisions with respect to local coverage policies

Programs to Get a Wheelchair for Free

Medicaid

Medicaid provides cover to people from low-income groups and covers a wide range of costs. Based on the criteria fulfilled, a person may be eligible to receive a wheelchair for free (usually manual, but sometimes electric) or get the costs partially covered. Manual wheelchairs are easier to procure under these schemes.

For an electric wheelchair, the applicant must:

  • have a doctor’s note about the extent of disability
  • need the wheelchair to perform essential day-to-day activities
  • be able to fulfill all necessary criteria under Medicare and Medicaid

 

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Wheelchair Foundation

This charitable foundation gives away hospital-style free wheelchairs to people in need. Visit www.wheelchairfoundation.org for more details.

Orphaned Wheelchair

In partnership with the Wheelchair Foundation, Orphaned Wheelchairs takes donations of new and used wheelchairs and gives them away to those in need. Visit www.wheelchairfoundation.org for more details.

Chariots of Hope

The sole purpose of this organization is to collect, repair, and redistribute used wheelchairs free of cost to anyone who might need them. Visit www.chariotsofhope.org for more details.

 

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American Mobility Outreach

This foundation takes in donations of used and new wheelchairs, repairs, and refurbishes them in order to redistribute them to those in need free of cost. Visit www.americanmobilityoutreach.com for more details.

Direct Relief International

Direct Relief provides wheelchair donations to community-based organizations on over 140 countries. Visit www.directrelief.org for more details.

Policy Programs to Get a Wheelchair for Free

FODAC

Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) works toward providing free wheelchairs and other assistive devices to people with disabilities in the metro Atlanta, Georgia area. Visit www.fodac.org for more details.

 

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Hope Haven International

Hope Haven International has tie-ups with international sponsors. It manufactures pediatric wheelchairs and refurbishes mobility wheelchairs to distribute them to those in need throughout the world. Visit www.hopehaveninternational.org for more details.

The Kids Equipment Network

This organization provides differently abled children and youth from low-income groups with refurbished mobility aids. Visit www.tken.org for more details.

LifeNets – The Wheelchair Project

LifeNets works in collaboration with medical missionary organizations and individuals to collect and match donated wheelchairs with people who might need but cannot afford them. Visit www.lifenets.org for more details.

 

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Alternatives in Motion

Alternatives in Motion is a non-profit that helps provide free wheelchairs to people who do not have health insurance. Visit www.alternativesinmotion.org for more details.

The Mobility Project

The Mobility Project serves differently-abled people from low-income groups by fitting and delivering free wheelchairs and other mobility aids around the world. Visit www.mobilityproject.org for more details.

Medshare

Medshare encourages people and organizations to donate reusable and surplus medical equipment so that it can be refurbished and redistributed in underserved areas around the world. Visit www.medshare.org for more details.

 

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Mobility Unlimited

Mobility Unlimited works with disabled working professionals in Oregon by helping them obtain mobility devices in order to maintain employment and live independent lives. Visit www.mobilityunlimited.org for more details.

How to Get a Wheelchair for Free

Special Kids Fund

This program is a coalition of schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations that provide donated wheelchairs and wheelchair vans to children with special needs and at-risk youth from low-income groups. Visit www.specialkidsfund.org for more details.

Wheelchair Recycling Program

This program makes low-cost, refurbished mobility aids, like wheelchairs, available to disabled people from low-income groups. All the equipment distributed comes in the form of donations from individuals, corporations and other charitable organizations. Visit www.wrp.org for more details.

 

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Wine for Wheels

An association of wine aficionados from around the world, Wine for Wheels provides wheelchair donations and other support to those in need. Visit www.wineforwheels.org for more details.

Kansas Equipment Exchange

The Kansas Equipment Exchange accepts wheelchair donations and helps needy residents of Kansas get access to affordable medical equipment and mobility aids. Visit www.equipmentexchange.ku.edu for more details.

Variety – The Children’s Charity of Wisconsin

This charity works with the physically challenged children of Wisconsin by funding wheelchairs and other mobility aids for children 21 years and younger from low-income groups. Visit www.varietywi.org for more details.

 

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The Wheelchair Society

This organization distributes free wheelchairs to the differently-abled in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC — with a particular focus on disabled people who may not be covered by government-aided or private healthcare. 

American Wheelchair Mission

The American Wheelchair Mission is a non-profit organization that delivers new, free wheelchairs and other mobility aids to disabled children, teens, and adults from low-income groups across the world. Visit www.amwheelchair.org for more details.

Easter Seals (Canada and USA)

They raise funds for various services for the differently abled in Canada. They provide services to people of all age groups with all forms of mental and physical disabilities. More information can be found on their website.

 

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Muscular Dystrophy Association (Canada and USA)

This is a nonprofit organization that helps people with neuromuscular disorders (or NMDs). Aside from financial assistance for mobility aids and other assistive devices, MDA also helps with rehabilitating and providing nutritional guidance for people with NMDs.

Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada is a Government of Canada department that provides financial and other assistance to eligible veterans of CAF (Canadian Armed Forces), RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), and their dependents.

POC 13 covers special disability aids such as wheelchairs, scooters, and other power mobility aids. More information can be acquired by contacting the local Veterans Affairs Canada office or on their website.

Guide on How to Get a Wheelchair for Free

Canadian Wheelchair Foundation

This global organization provides free new wheelchairs to people who do not have the resources to get one. They collaborate with partners and nonprofit organizations and cover all age groups.

They work by handing over wheelchairs to partner charities. This foundation has so far delivered over 1200 free wheelchairs in Canada.

 

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March of Dimes Canada (MODC)

They are a registered national charity that assists in the form of aid and rehabilitation programs. They also hold job fairs for the disabled to provide employment opportunities. Visit https://www.marchofdimes.ca/ for more information.

Canadian Red Cross

The Health Equipment Loan Program provides medical and health equipment aids on loan for up to 6 months. A charity program that runs on donations, this could work as a stop gap arrangement while you look at other avenues to get a wheelchair for free, or at subsidized rates.

Free Wheelchair Mission

A faith-based charity that accepts and assigns donated wheelchairs to the physically challenged. This charity has given away more than a million wheelchairs in 46 countries in the last twenty years.

The primary focus of the mission is largely non-USA countries, but it might be worth your while to visit freewheelchairmission.org for more details.

Community Programs

Some churches and other charitable organizations run programs that provide free wheelchairs. They usually raise funds through charitable fundraisers.
It is always a good idea to contact them and ask for any assistance available. Asking members of the community about charities and churches is also a good idea.

 

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Insurance Companies

Wheelchairs, medical beds, canes, insulin pumps, etc. are usually covered under Durable Medical Equipment (DME). Check with your insurance company to see if they cover wheelchair expenses. Often, they may cover both manual and electric chairs, if deemed necessary.

The need and extent of the cover provided is determined by the insurance company on a case-by-case basis. They may also have schemes that partially cover costs.

Refund Experts at Medical Retailers

Medical supply retailers have refund experts who can help you get a wheelchair at subsidized rates. These experts work with healthcare providers like Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance companies. Once they have determined what kind of wheelchair — manual or battery-operated — best suits your needs, they can arrange for your insurance provider to pay for your wheelchair.

Income Tax exemptions: It is important to mention that certain tax benefits are applicable to mobility aids.

All medical and other assistive aids are exempt from HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) — a combination of Provincial Sales Tax and Goods Services Tax — though some may require a medical practitioner’s prescription for the exemption to apply. Medical expenses can also be claimed while filing income tax returns.

For Canada, the medical tax benefit at the provincial or territorial level is subject to the area. The website of the Canada Revenue Agency provides more information on the subject.

Wheelchairs and other mobility aids can be a considerable investment. This article hopes to have provided crucial, helpful information so that you can get the help you need in getting a mobility aid that suits your needs — for free or at subsidized rates.

Because everyone should have the right to enjoy the independence that comes with mobility.

Happy hunting!