By Bob Katzen
The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would strengthen consumer protections for wheelchair users. Current state law does not set any timeline for assessing repairs and does not require dealers to offer wheelchairs on loan within a fixed time period.
Provisions of the bill include requiring that wheelchair manufacturers, lessors and dealers provide customers with written notification of the warranty for their wheelchairs; increasing the minimum duration for an any warranty from one year to two years; mandating that if an in-warranty wheelchair stops functioning, manufacturers, lessors and dealers must assess the wheelchair within three days, provide a temporary wheelchair on loan within four days and cover any other costs to the user; and authorizing the attorney general and consumers to bring legal actions against any violation of provisions protecting wheelchair users from unfair and deceptive business practices relating to warranty-fulfillment.
Supporters said wheelchair repairs pose substantial problems for people with physical disabilities. The noted that it is not uncommon for those who use wheelchairs to wait for weeks for repairs. This leaves these individuals stranded at home and unable to go to work, school, medical appointments, grocery shopping or elsewhere. This creates a crisis for individuals and families and often exacerbates other health conditions. Existing state law does not set any timeline for assessing repairs or require dealers to offer wheelchairs on loan within a fixed time period.
“This bill’s passage is an important step forward to protect wheelchair users and their families,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. John Cronin (D-Lunenberg). “The bill implements critical protections in the law to prevent wheelchair users from being stranded in their homes for prolonged periods when their wheelchair or mobility device becomes inoperable.”
“I have fought my entire career to make Massachusetts a more inclusive place for people of all abilities to live, work and play,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “It is especially fitting that the Senate has passed these bills on the same day that we adjourn in memory of Paul Spooner, a committed and tireless disability rights and inclusion activist working in MetroWest and a dear friend of mine. By helping us move closer to our goal of ensuring that all people have opportunities to live independently, we honor Paul’s legacy and make the Massachusetts a more compassionate and accessible commonwealth.”