How to Get a Free Wheelchair: Several Charities and Organizations to Check Out

Coming to the realization that you need a wheelchair in order to stay mobile can be a scary, vulnerable moment. Whether you only need the wheelchair for a period of time, or it becomes a permanent fixture in your daily life, having to use a wheelchair can be a daunting change in your life. Being able to acquire a wheelchair easily can make this readjustment a lot less challenging. But, do you how to get a free wheelchair?

Costs of a Wheelchair

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 a wheelchair 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 wheelchair you need, you’ll be able to live a more independent and normal life. 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.

man in wheelchair with daughter waling beside him

Your Insurance Plan

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 medical equipment it will cover.

In some cases, your insurance policy won’t pay the full cost of a wheelchair, but they will almost always have to cover some percentage of the wheelchair’s price.

Medicare and 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 need to provide a letter or report which confirms the fact that you need a wheelchair, and explain why you need a manual or electrical wheelchair.

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 a manual or electric wheelchair if you need one 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 rental of a wheelchair for up to 13 months. This is a great option if you only need to use a wheelchair for a certain period of time. After the 13 month period is up, Medicare will buy the wheelchair if you still need it and desire to do so.

Most medical equipment distributors can also help you obtain a new wheelchair through Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance companies.

women using 2 different types of manual wheelchairs

Other Sources

In addition to these programs, there are also many organizations that can help you get wheelchair for free. Here are some of the main resources:

The Wheelchair Foundation

The Wheelchair Foundation is an 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 can’t afford it. They are a non-profit organization that operates in the United States. Learn more about them by clicking here.

Direct Relief

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

senior couple traveling with a wheelchair

Local Organizations

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 free wheelchairs near you. And of course, a simple Google search can also be extremely helpful. There are programs called “loan closets” which allow people to borrow medical equipment at a low cost or for free. 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.

Other Tips

Keep in mind that many of these organizations might not be able to deliver the wheelchair to you personally. Since they are non-profit 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.

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 life-changing medical device for free.

Do you know of any other ways to get a free wheelchair? If so, please share them in the comments section below!

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Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather | Scott Grant is dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, he enjoys early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. He is also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's.

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