How To Get a Free Wheelchair: Online and Local Resources to Help

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Wheelchairs can be expensive. And, for many seniors, insurance might not be an option. Here are some public, private, and nonprofit sources for free wheelchairs that might be able to help.

senior couple thankful for getting a free wheelchair
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Coming to the realization that you need a wheelchair in order to stay mobile can be a scary, vulnerable moment. Whether you only need a mobility device help for a short period of time, or it becomes a permanent fixture in your daily life, having to use a wheelchair can be a huge change in your life. Being able to get a free wheelchair can make this readjustment a lot less challenging.

On top of having to worry about using a wheelchair from now on, you also have to take the cost of wheelchairs into consideration. Wheelchairs aren’t cheap, and buying one can make a big dent in your budget. If you’re also dealing with medical bills and other health-related expenses, paying for wheelchairs can become nearly impossible.

When you need a wheelchair in order to have mobility and perform your daily routine, not having access to one can have an intensely negative effect in your life.

Once you get the mobility device you need, you’ll be able to live a more independent and normal life with better mobility. Having your own wheelchair will enable you to move around on your own and develop your own routine.

And so the question arises: Where can I get a wheelchair for free? Is that even possible? And if it is, how do you go about getting a free wheelchair?

Fortunately, the answer is yes!

There are several ways in which you can get a free wheelchair. Read on to find out how to get a free wheelchair.

happy man in his new free wheelchair

Private Insurance Plans

If you are covered by a medical insurance plan, the first thing you need to do is find out whether this plan can cover the expense of a wheelchair for you. Check your medical insurance policy to find out which types of wheelchairs it will cover. In some cases, your insurance policy won’t pay the full cost of a wheelchair, but they will almost always cover some percentage of the wheelchair’s price.

Medicare / Medicaid

Organizations such as Medicaid and Medicare are also great places where to get a free wheelchair. You will have to meet certain requirements in order to qualify for a free wheelchair. In most cases, your physician will conduct a face to face mobility evaluation which confirms the fact that you need a wheelchair, and explain why you need a manual or electrical wheelchair.

ALSO READ: The Absolute Best Wheelchair: Comfortable and Lightweight Manual Wheelchairs

Medicaid’s requirements and guidelines can vary from one state to the next, so you will need to verify your eligibility depending on where you live. They will usually cover the cost of manual and electric wheelchairs if it is needed to complete your daily routine.

Medicare, on the other hand, will not cover for the entire cost of a wheelchair. Depending on your circumstances, however, they can cover up to 80% of the cost, which means you’d only have to pay for 20% of the original amount! If you also have a private medical insurance policy, they might be able to cover that remaining percentage for you. You can also rely on a combination of Medicaid and Medicare in order to cover the total cost of your new wheelchair.

In some cases, Medicare can also cover the lease for a wheelchair for up to ten months; this is a great option if you only need to use a wheelchair for a certain period of time. It also works for you if you are waiting for your insurance company to approve the purchase of a new wheelchair. After the ten month period is up, Medicare can buy the wheelchair if you still need it and desire to do so. Many medical equipment distributors can also help you obtain a refund through Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance companies, so you might be able to get some percentage of your money back.

family pushing their grandmother in a new wheelchair

Private and Nonprofit Organizations

In addition to these programs, there are also many organizations that can help you get wheelchairs for free. I’ll talk about some of the main resources you can use in order to get a free wheelchair.

The Wheelchair Foundation

The Wheelchair Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to providing easy access to wheelchairs globally. Thanks to the funding they receive, they have donated or committed over one million wheelchairs around the world. They don’t assign or deliver the wheelchairs personally; instead, they purchase the wheelchairs and work with local organizations which handle their delivery.

In the US, The Wheelchair Foundation works through the Salvation Army, Catholic charity organizations, and goodwill industries. They also have a wonderful page that contains the contact information for many other organizations that provide free wheelchairs .

LifeNets Wheelchair Project

The LifeNets Wheelchair Project is designed to facilitate the exchange of wheelchairs that aren’t currently being used to someone who needs one and cannot afford it. They are a nonprofit organization that operates in the United States. This site works like an online bulletin board where people looking for mobility equipment can post their need. Also, people who have wheelchairs that aren’t being used can post those details too. When a need matches an available piece of equipment, the parties can make contact and arrange for the transfer.

Free Wheelchair Mission

The Free Wheelchair Mission provides free wheelchairs to people with mobility challenges in third world and developing countries. The Wheelchair Mission is unique in that they can manufacture and ship a wheelchair for as little as $80.00. They are a Christian faith-based organization and accept monetary donations (not equipment). For the areas and locations that the Free Wheelchair Mission serves, check this page.

Direct Relief

Direct Relief is an international charitable organization that aim to improve the lives and health of people in need who are affected by poverty and emergencies. In the United States, they run health centers and clinics for those who cannot afford insurance, and in many cases, live below the poverty line. They can also provide free wheelchairs for people with mobility problems and can’t pay for them.

Pass It On Center

Depending on where you live, you can also find local organizations that provide free wheelchairs. The website Pass It On can help you contact organizations that can provide no cost mobility equipment near you.

Local Loan Closets

And of course, a simple Google search can also be extremely helpful. There are programs called “loan closets” which allow people to borrow durable medical equipment at low or no cost. A web search will allow you to locate loan closets near you, or you can call charitable organizations in your area to find out if they know of any loan closets that operate close by.

Wrapping Up

So if you’ve been worrying and wondering “Where can I get a wheelchair for free?” now you know that it is indeed possible to find a free wheelchair. This will increase your self-confidence by allowing you greater independence to carry out your daily tasks. Although wheelchairs can be very expensive, you can use these resources to find this and other mobility equipment at low or no cost.

Keep in mind that many of these organizations cannot deliver wheelchairs personally. Since they are nonprofit organizations, the costs of delivery or shipping might be too expensive for them to cover. In these cases, consider asking someone close to you –a family member, friend, or neighbor- to pick up your new wheelchair for you.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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