Children can be difﬁcult to buy for. The smallest thing can mean that they don’t like or won’t use a purchase as you’d hoped. Then there’s the fact that they seem to grow out of things in minutes – and then there’s their disability to consider.
Disability equipment isn’t cheap, it can be limited in choice and it needs to be used properly if it’s to have any beneﬁt for its user at all. Here is our checklist of what to think about and how you can accommodate some of these issues, when you’re shopping for disability equipment.
Fit for purpose
When buying any equipment, make sure you start at the beginning. In other words don’t rush the process but think carefully, starting with what the nature of the challenge really is and what the solution (or solutions) might be.
Keep in mind how you’ll live with the equipment you have in mind; whether, for example, a wheelchair accessible vehicle will ﬁt on the front drive or if your doorway is wide enough to get a powered wheelchair through.
You need to understand how the piece of equipment will be used so as not to blow the lid off the budget unnecessarily or ﬁnd yourself needing to re-think the whole idea and make another purchase sooner than you’d hoped or anticipated.
Everyone’s a critic these days but this can be helpful since with discussion forums and comment sections the norm all over the internet and in various social media communities, you can ﬁnd an opinion about pretty much anything you can type into a search engine. You will need to use your sense to establish either how biased or representative such views are but it’s a start.
Regular readers of Able Magazine will know already that every issue of the publication includes product reviews with our unique star ratings system.
A good ﬁt
There is always the temptation to buy some growing room when purchasing items for children. The fact is that at certain ages they will almost certainly have growth spurts that can shift them up several sizes, very quickly.
It’s important to realise that equipment that is too big or too small can be counterproductive and sometimes dangerous. A wheelchair, for instance, that rubs or chafes, can quickly produce a nasty sore which in the worst case scenario can require invasive medical treatment.
The good news is that these issues are considered by manufacturers who often build in adjustable features that will enable a wide range of different sized children to get the best out of the item – or otherwise incorporate at least some growing space.
Buy the right one
Clearly parents and carers understand their children and the challenges and environments they deal with better than anyone. Nevertheless, if you’re planning on making a big ticket purchase it’s deﬁnitely worth speaking with an occupational therapist or other specialist, especially if they’ve been involved with the child in question over time. Their knowledge is likely to be wide ranging and based on experience. Furthermore, they’ll be able to predict, to a point, how a piece of equipment will inﬂuence the life of a child today and into tomorrow.
An occupational therapist will be able to establish how a piece of equipment will help with immediate and long term issues and should also be able to discuss other options. These might show you a different methodology and in some cases prevent children from becoming over-medicalised, for example.
Disability equipment, as we all know, is expensive. Fortunately there are organisations that will provide grants to help cover the costs, with some, such as Whizz-Kidz, for example, speciﬁcally focused on the needs of disabled children. Each organisation or charity will have their own procedures and funding application route which may involve parents and carers needing to prove their income – and also to send proof of their child’s disability, such as beneﬁt awards letters and the like. Your ﬁrst port of call in most cases will be the NHS who may, in certain circumstances, be able to work with organisations and charities to help with purchase costs of equipment. Similarly, there may be scope for two or more funding streams to work together to raise the necessary funding you’re looking for.
Buying used equipment
Buying second hand doesn’t have to mean broken down and useless, it can mean ‘nearly new’ or ‘ex-display’ and is certainly an avenue worth exploring. An internet search will bring up results for consideration in your area, though keep in mind that generalist selling sites will not necessarily understand disability in the way that a specialist organisation will. In any case, you should explore returns policies and ﬁtting options as well as asking about equipment guarantees – especially where refurbishment or repairs have taken place.
Hiring equipment from organisations in your local area might also be an option. Use your local disability information and advice line to ﬁnd out more.
Children, in particular, are notoriously crafty at ‘forgetting’ to use equipment whenever they can, from glasses to larger items of equipment. Naturally, they will start to strain under the inevitable pressure to conform and it can be difﬁcult to make sure they’re getting the use from equipment when your back is turned, especially if they start to feel self-conscious.
By necessity, equipment can only be disguised to a certain extent although, increasingly, especially for paediatric use, manufacturers are starting to think about this in their designs and utilise a range of colours to soften the look of items.
Buying for carers
Carers might also have equipment needs that help them to lift and carry children or feed or wash them and so on. All of the advice on these pages still applies since the beneﬁciary is still, ultimately, the disabled child.
Disabled people and people living with a long term illness are not charged VAT on products speciﬁcally designed or adapted for their own use. This can include items such as adjustable beds, wheelchairs and other mobility equipment. (The product and your disability have to qualify.)
It’s also worth remembering that if your home needs to be adapted to meet your child’s needs, you may be able to get a Disabled Facilities Grant to help with the costs.
Recycling disability equipment
Children’s disability equipment is usually quite robust stuff and in many cases is still in usable order even when ﬁnished with – and it seems a pity to put it into landﬁll when other people are struggling to ﬁnd ways to pay for new items.
Local organisations and charities can help you donate or sell used equipment (or parts). No matter what you’re getting rid of, somebody else might be able to use it. Larger items can be refurbished if necessary and used again, whilst smaller items, including things we regard as disposable, such as glasses, can be sent to charitable schemes helping people abroad.
See: Brighter Future Workshop www.bfworkshop.com