Shopping for an Assistive Technology Device

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded

Persons with disabilities may face challenges with everyday tasks like getting around, speaking or reading. "Assistive devices" offer help with such important activities. Examples are a wheelchair, a braille printer or tools used to reach for objects or get dressed.

When you need an assistive device, it's a good idea to be sure to get one that works well and does what you need it to do. Learning as much as you can about a device and testing it before you buy can prevent problems. It is worth the time to make sure the device you choose helps gain more independence, better health or a fuller use of your abilities.

Some Questions to Consider
Before deciding what type of device to get, ask some questions about what you will use it for and where you will use it. What will it help you do? Will you use it at home, at work or at school? Will you move the device or will it stay in one place? Can you use it on your own or will someone help you? Do you have any physical limits or other limits that would make it hard to use some kinds of devices?

Usually a doctor, a therapist or other health care provider will recommend that you get an assistive device. Ask this person to help you choose a device. Also, if you have insurance, the company may have some requirements about equipment for which it will pay.

Depending on what you need, there may be a number of brands and styles from which to choose. If you have an interest in a particular assistive device, the manufacturer or dealer of the device should give you written information on the product. Before you agree to buy or lease anything, you should ask to test it where you will use it.

It may not be possible to test the actual device that the manufacturer or dealer would sell you. But you can ask to test a demonstration model or one like it. Here are some points to consider:

  • How well does the device work for you? Is it comfortable?
  • Can use it in the places where you will spend most of your time?
  • Will you have to make any changes to the places where you will use it?
  • Can you use it both indoors and outdoors?
  • Will you need any other equipment to use the device? For example, if you use a wheelchair you may need to build a ramp or buy a lift.
  • Will you or others need any training to use the device?
  • Will the device need any maintenance work?

Find Out About A "Trial Period" And Use It Wisely
You can ask the person or company that sells you a device to give you a trial period to test it. If you have a trial period, use that time to make sure the model you have meets your needs. A physical therapist or an occupational therapist may be able to help you test the device. If it does not work for you, the seller should allow you to return the device during the trial period. What happens if a device does not work properly after you buy it?

Where To Get Help And Advice On Assistive Technology Purchases
In Iowa, you can get details about assistive devices from Iowa Compass at University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City. Iowa Compass can send information on assistive devices. Although they cannot tell you whether you should buy a particular device, Iowa Compass can give you advice and shopping tips. Iowa Compass will be able to find the closest place to buy what you need. They may be able to tell you about the experiences of others with a certain device. The toll-free number for Iowa Compass is 1-800-779-2001 and ask for Iowa Programs for Assistive Technology (IPAT).

Last Review and Update: Mar 28, 2011

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