Why It’s Nearly Impossible to Thrive With Broken Chairs

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As most of you know I use a power chair to get around most of the time. I’ve had power chairs since age 6. Given my kind of CP and involvement: power chairs make the most sense for me. My diagnosis means all my limbs are involved. My right hand is half a hand, at best, most days. This fact makes me being able to push myself an impossibility. In high school when my power chair had an issue: one of the guys who are my chosen brothers, now, would push me in my manual chair from class to class. When I went to college such a solution was impractical and not something I was comfortable with. The best option was to have two chairs at all times. Generally, insurance pays for a new chair every 5 years. Past five years expensive electronic components of chairs start to need replacing, so instead insurance opts to spend the money on a new chair.

I’ve only ever had one brand of power chair: Invacare. Invacare is known as the best power chairs and the work horses. I need that kind of reliability and performance. I choose to live my life as fully and as regularly as possible. I am well aware that many with my condition don’t have such an ability, but I do and choose not to waste such a gift. I have been a big fan and a loyal Invacare customer for decades. However, given the last few weeks: I am seriously considering other power chair brands when it comes time to get a new chair. Invacare: this is your notice that I am neither a happy or satisfied customer.

Let me take everybody back to August 2019. I thought I had a flat tire, and had an appointment in downtown Atlanta that afternoon. I didn’t have a flat tire (thankfully), and tired to put what I felt out of my mind. Everything was good for a few weeks after that, but in late September I heard a noise no power chair user wants to hear: the grinding of gears. This noise means a motor or both motors are going out. I told Dad who agreed with my assessment. He’s my local mechanic. We set about trying to determine when my most recent chair was delivered, and if the motors were under their usual five-year warranty. My chair just had its third birthday on December 28th. We read the book and it seemed the motors were under warranty for five years. YAY!

Our celebrations were premature, however. My motors are actually only under warranty for a year. The motors that are under warranty for five years are only on the cheapest chair(s) Invacare makes. This is my first chair where that is the case. My chair is the most expensive chair Invacare makes. My chair is supposedly their best. It also has a price tag to match this assertion. Imagine my confusion: I have a fully loaded Cadillac Escalade of a chair with the cheapest, worst, motors basically? That makes absolutely no sense to me. Does this make sense to anyone else? If so, feel free to explain such logic to me. Why in the world would Invacare do such a careless thing?

My insurance would cover the motor replacement, but it would take months and lots of red tape for them to do so. Months I don’t have to wait. My provider sold them to me at cost because I wanted to pay for them. They got half payment on December 12th. I’m still waiting on new motors because the kit to put them on with is back ordered. Really Invacare? This is not a toy that needs replacement parts. It is my legs and my independence. Y’all think this is bad so far? It gets worse.

5 days before Christmas my back up chair’s joystick gave me a joystick communication fault error message. No, I prayed. Please let this be a technical glitch. It wasn’t. On Christmas day: my backup chair’s joystick died. What do I do now, I asked through lots of tears. The day after Christmas my provider put a loaner joystick on my backup chair. My backup chair celebrates its tenth birthday this month. A new joystick for it is on order as well. The new joystick will be the sixth joystick in ten years to be on my backup chair. This count includes a joystick recall and the two loaner joysticks I’ve had on it. I’m angry and frustrated beyond belief. When my chairs are broken I can’t thrive.

Invacare: what has happened to the quality and reliability of your products? What do you plan to do about the obvious quality and reliability problems your power wheelchairs have now? Do you no longer give decent warranties on your best chairs? Do you care at all about your customers? Do you care about your company’s reputation? I hope the answer to those last two questions is a resounding yes. However, given my current situation I have serious doubts. Telling my story in a blog post is the only way I could think to help others considering a power chair for themselves, or someone they love. It was also a really positive way to deal with my immense anger and frustration at your company. Emotions I have every right to feel. Please take my words to heart and fix the obvious problems your power chairs have. Your company’s bottom line and reputation depend on you doing as far as I’m concerned.

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