Choosing an Ultralight

I have been meaning to write more about our decision making to purchase a custom fit ultralight wheelchair and the process of funding and acquiring it.

It's been a grueling 1 year project, but we are finally making some progress (or so I think). One day, I plan to come back to this post and talk about the process for anyone who is new to the ultralight Even being somewhat technical, I have found it to be daunting, to get educated on possibilities, and make sure those possibilities work together into a safe and usable chair.

Until that time, here is an excerpt of what we are looking for. I hope when I get the time, I can explain why, and give some of the thought process that goes into it i.e., expectations, real world issues, and hopefully an end result. It really has been a learning experience, and one that I hope I can share with others in a similar situation to make it a bit easier.

In summary, we are looking for an ultralight rigid frame wheelchair with the following specs. Some of these specs are out-of-date, because until we place the order, it is a moving target.

1. Rigid titanium or aluminium ultralight everyday wheelchair 16 x 18
2. Not custom made, but custom fit
3. Adjustable sizing for front/rear seat height, COG, backrest height, footrest depth, etc.
4. Flip-up individual footrests for foot propulsion (for the TiLite ZRA this is DU100082)
5. Folding back and fold down push handles
6. One-hand unilateral brakes/locks
7. Swing away arm rests
8. Spinergy LX wheels, Schwable Marathon tires, NaturalFit Surge LT handrims, ADI seat back, seat base and folding sideguards, Varalite Evolution PSV cushion, and a FreeWheel.
9. Reinforced frame for supporting a ZX1 power add-on or similar and transit brackets.
10.Ability to swap some parts (brakes, wheels, casters) with a TiLite 2GX
11.Ability to purchase parts and options online without needing to go through a local supplier
12.Ability to ship to the Netherlands or other locations without needing to go through a local supplier
13.Ability to order from someone with a high level of English skills
14.Ability to have CAD drawings of the wheelchair and any modifications
15.Ability to have all documentation, options, and parts lists in English
16.Competitive pricing and not priced higher than MRSP
17.Ability to provide quotes and invoices as required by the local government
18.Ability to accept electronic bank wire transfers for payment
19.Chair that can be ordered in early December 2012 for delivery no later than the end of January 2013 (this date was set, after already having many other dates set. Just for fun, I'm leaving it in here, to see if we get any were near it).

The bureaucracy of funding

To acquire an Ultralight Wheelchair in Holland takes a lot of perserverance. In general, you are expected to purchase what an “advisor” thinks is necessary, and then the government provides the funding based on a quote from a dealer.

Although the dealer was good overall, unfortunately, on a few points the dealer did not help. like saying that we did not need a reinforced frame, even though it was required by the TiLite warranty because we were getting a power add-on. They also did not seem to want to go to the level of detail that we felt was needed. This meant we needed to spec out the chair on our own, and convince both the dealer and an "advisor" about some of the options needed. That also required a lot of extra work and delays.

When acquiring a chair in Holland you are expected to purchase what an "advisor" thinks is necessary, and then the government provides the funding based on the quote from the dealer.  In our experience, after having 2 "advisors", they are not really up on the latest technology and there are no standards or protocols for what they "advise". They also did not seem very interested in following what occupational and physical therapists said. It also seems that occupational and physical therapists are reluctant to advise in writing, so that also made this more work. In other words, it's a crap-shoot, and you really have to fight for what you need.

There are also few standards with the government for what they allow, and how the process works, meaning it is not at all transparent and they provide nothing in writing. For example, we were told that we must have a "fitting" with a specified dealer and "advisor". Unfortunately, the dealer was one who we had already had very bad experience with, including them taking 81 days to fix a wheelchair that caused my husband a big injury, and being in the middle of a dispute with them (still not resolved). We had to fight hard to have the dealer we chose do the "fitting" instead, but we still needed to get the quote from the bad dealer to use for the government budget. This also caused a lot of extra work and delay.

You are suppose to be able to pick the dealer of your choice to purchase from, but in reality, the dealer who does the "fitting" has a huge impact on the budget, and choice is limited to the actual products that they sell.

I'm absolutely sure that they are not accustomed to someone ordering add-on options in different countries, and not ordering a chair complete locally. It also works different municipality by municipality, even though we pay into a national funded insurance program for these services via taxes.