Brute Force to Fix a Wheelchair?

Here is a story of how a Medical Supply company, who I'll leave nameless, tried to fix the bearings in the front wheel of my power wheelchair. It's hilarious... and infuriating.



To start with, it's important for you to know I'm a woman (who is often viewed as not knowing what I'm talking about) by the men. With that in mind, picture this.



The repair guy comes to my place with his set of tools knowing the bearings in the fork, not the wheel, are shot. He takes off the plastic cap and proceeds to try to get a ratchet head on it to undo the bolt. None of the heads fit. The bolt is huge. After almost an hour of playing, I made a few suggestions that I thought might work, he muttered they wouldn't and for awhile did nothing while he waited for the more experienced tech, whom he'd already called, to come in. He must have been listening though, because a short while later he started playing with the wheel again. He took an Allen wrench, stuck it in the hole between the bolt and the shaft, and spun the wheel. The bolt came lose.



He then tried to pull out the bearings. He could look down the hole and see they were shot, but try as he might, he could not pull them out of the hole. What did he do? He took a screwdriver, stuck it in on top of the bearing, and started smashing it hard with a hammer.



Now, if anyone knows anything about how bearings go into a wheel, they would know that they more or less have been tooled to slide neatly into the hole. If they're old, it may take a bit of jockeying, but they will come out without the need for brute force. A shot of WD-40 will also help to ease this process. However, he did not think of that. After smashing away at it for awhile, he called in another tech to assist.



For the next 45 minutes the 'experienced tech' (with close to 10 year's experience) smashed away at the screw-driver that was stuck in the hole on top of the bearing. The hits were hard enough, that the handle of the screwdriver now looks a little woe-be-gone. There was also sparks coming out of the hole from the impact of metal on metal, but still he would not quit. Finally he had success! The bearing broke into little tiny pieces and the ball-bearings went scattering all across the floor. Some little white plastic chips fell out as well.



He picked them up, showed them to the second tech, and said what the heck is this? He tried to look down the hole. He then lay on his back and tried to look up the hole. He couldn't see anything so I handed him my camera. I said why don't you take a picture of it pointing up the hole so you can take a better look? He did and he said, oh no. I just broke a piece of plastic. I have no idea what it is, or what it's purpose is. I'll have to take your chair back to the shop. And off he went with it.



This morning I phoned him to get an update - I was planning to go to the Sheep Dog Trials for the day. He said he had to call Sunrise, the chair manufacturer. I decided to go to the Sheep Dog Trials with my broken manual chair and postpone the repair on it, until Monday. It has a broken axle. I refused to stay at home because of the blunder to my power wheelchair because I'd made plans to attend with a friend and I wasn't about to let her, or myself, down by missing it. I had no idea I would get out there and see tons and tons of hills with grass to wheel over. So much for touring around.. I was stranded. My friend was not able to help push



To make a long story short, I did find a solution. I called the medical supplier that had my power chair and asked them to bring the chair out to the Sheep Dog Trials instead of to my home, and then take my manual chair back to my home. Thankfully they agreed and I got to enjoy the trials.



The chair still has to go back into the shop - it only has a temporary fix and the wheel is still rather weak, but my question is this. Who's going to pay for the 4 hours of labour that's been done on the chair so far, or pay to replace the damaged piece that was caused by their use of brute force to remove the bearings?



I hope this story amuses you - helps you to envision some of the nightmares people with disabilities have to go through almost continuously. If it isn't the chair, it's the lack of easy access to public transportation, the lack of accessibility of stores and services, the lack of ability to get a job because of the barriers, etc.



I sincerely hope that the enforcement mechanism for the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarian's with Disabilities Act) fixes these problems because, not being able to work, I'm forced to deal with another time-consuming and very frustrating bureaucracy as well.... ODSP (the Ontario Disability Support Program). It too, is rife with problems. I'll leave that story for another day.



Please read my other Blogs:

Transit: http://wheelchairdemon-transit.blogspot.com

Health: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

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