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Surely those who have never received a new mobility product must find it a bit peculiar that among the most exciting moments of some of our lives is the day when we receive a new power wheelchair. The promise of its liberation alone – how it will take our lives further than ever before – is in itself awe inspiring: The sparkle of the high-gloss paint, the smell of the new upholstery, and the whisper of the motors all fill our senses. Truly, there's nothing that's closer to a bright spring day than receiving a new power wheelchair – it enlivens even the most jaded person.

Yet, among the excitement and joy, there's still business at hand, where, as a consumer, you must ensure that your new power wheelchairs is correct upon delivery, that you're getting what you ordered, and receiving what you paid for, ready for peak performance when you roll out the door with your new beauty. And, not unlike the final inspection upon launching a yacht, there’s a systematic protocol that you should follow, ensuring that all aspects are correct before accepting delivery of the power wheelchair that will be your new dream machine.

1. Delivery Starts with Ordering
Interestingly, the power wheelchair delivery process for consumers should actually start at the ordering stage. When sitting with your provider during the ordering process, you should ask for a copy of the final, itemized order, so that you have a record and full understand exactly what's being ordered. Further, it's very important to emphasize to your provider that if any changes are made to the order – and, changes often occur whether due to funding restrictions or recent product changes made by the manufacturer – you want to be informed of them immediately. Often a consumer believes that he or she is getting an 8 mph speed package, only to receive the standard 6 mph speed package because the insurer denied the upgrade, or a tilt with an 18” seat-to-floor height, only to receive a 20” seat-to-floor height because there was a conflict among components – so, it's important to avoid surprises by staying informed to any order changes. Some providers aren't mindful of keeping consumers apprised of order status, so it's vital that you self-advocate your interests up front to stay informed.

2. Make a List Along the Way
In-between the ordering of the power wheelchair and the final delivery, while you’re waiting, keep an ongoing, written list of questions and concerns that come to mind in preparation of delivery day. Again, the delivery of a new power wheelchair is exciting, and it's easy to forget important details in the moment, so by compiling a list prior to delivery, you can ensure that you don't overlook any vital interests.

3. Check the Checklist
When you meet with your provider to take delivery of your new power wheelchair, be sure to have both the original order and your list of questions in hand. Firstly, compare the original order to the final power wheelchair, item-by-item. If you ordered flat-free tires, make sure that they are there; if you ordered high-speed motors, make sure that they are there; and, so on. Put simply, use the original order copy as a line-item checklist, and compare it to the power wheelchair in front of you.

Ideally, you'll find that the delivered power wheelchair matches your order exactly. However, if you discover that components are missing or are different than ordered, then you need to clarify them with your provider. If the insurer denied or changed items based on funding limits, there's little that can be done to resolve it (but, again, you should have already known this based on ongoing communication). However, if the missing or incorrect item was the provider's error, then you have three choices: Accept the power wheelchair as-is; accept the power wheelchair and require that the item is resolved at a later date; or, refuse entirely to accept delivery of the power wheelchair, by not signing for it, until the item is resolved (in most cases, this prevents the provider from receiving payment). Which route you choose is based on your comfort level: Are you comfortable accepting the power wheelchair as-is; do you trust the provider to correct the situation at a later date; or, do you prefer not accepting the power wheelchair until all is correct? Additionally, the severity of the error should be taken into account for such an issue, where, if the power wheelchair has a much taller seat-to-floor height than ordered, preventing transfers, then you likely don't want to accept the power wheelchair until the issue is corrected. Yet, if the arm pads aren't correct, it may not be a consequential issue, so accepting the power wheelchair, and noting that the arm pads simply need replacing, may be a logical choice.

4. The Fitting
Once all is “inspected,” transfer into the power wheelchair, and ensure that the seating components are adjusted to your needs – including the backrest, armrests, leg rests, joystick, and so on. Based on the complexity of one's positioning needs and the seating technology, the initial “fitting” may take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Additionally, many consumers find that making fine-tunes on their own after some use is helpful, as well as seeking a follow-up visit by the provider in the weeks to come for any needed adjustments.

5. Learn the Ropes
After the power wheelchair seating is initially adjusted, have the provider review all operating procedures with you. Power wheelchair electronics, especially, have become far more advanced in recent years, so if you're used to older, standard electronics, there is a learning curve toward reading drive screens and navigating the system.

6. Take the Test Drive
When ready to roll, take the power wheelchair for a spin, seeing how it handles – that is, does the programming require any obvious adjustments to your needs? If so, have the provider plug in a programmer, and make adjustments on the spot. However, again, after several days of use, you may discover the need for additional programming, and your provider will perform a follow-up visit.

7. Don't Forget Anything!
Now, review your notes one more time, following up with any questions that you may have, and discuss a follow-up appointment in case further adjustments are needed.

8. Give Yourself Time to Adjust
Of course, with all of this work put in, your new power wheelchair will likely still feel... well... new. It takes the average consumer approximately three weeks to adjust to a new power wheelchair – from its seating to its driving characteristics. Therefore, don't expect to have a new power wheelchair that's as comfortable as your old one upon delivery – give yourself time to adjust.

Delivery of a new power wheelchair can be both exciting and overwhelming at once. However, when you begin preparing for the day of delivery in advance – starting at the time of ordering, then updating a list of questions as you go – and then ensure that you move through the inspection, fitting, operational, trial, and follow-up processes with your provider, you'll be well on your way toward optimized mobility. No, your new power wheelchair may not feel exactly as comfortable as your old one from the start; but, in no time at all, you'll experience levels of liberation never known before – a “springtime” of your mobility, you might say.

Published 3/2010, Copyright 2010,