Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Assembly OKs Sen. Dodd’s bill to lift barriers for wheelchair users

SACRAMENTO – The California Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would grant wheelchair users the right to have their own equipment repaired, eliminating manufacturer delays that could leave them immobilized while reducing costs to one of California’s most vulnerable populations.

“Today we take a step toward enhancing quality of life for people with mobility issues,” Sen. Dodd said. “My bill allows power wheelchair users to get their wheelchairs fixed in an efficient and timely manner when things go wrong. It prevents manufacturers from imposing onerous repair restrictions, ensuring those who rely on wheelchairs can be operating as soon as possible.”

The power wheelchair industry has historically profited by limiting what it spends on technicians and repairs, frustrating wheelchair users as they try to maintain their equipment.

Last year, Colorado became the first state in the nation to address the issue, adopting a right-to-repair law that granted wheelchair owners and independent shops access to parts, manufacturer software, specialized tools and other items needed to ensure timely and affordable wheelchair repair. Manufacturers could be cited for failing to comply.

Sen. Dodd’s Senate Bill 271 would ensure the same right to repair for California wheelchair users and streamline the process for getting complex rehabilitation technology repaired.

SB 271, which is supported by advocates including Sacramento disability rights activist and wheelchair user Russell Rawlings, was approved by the Assembly by a unanimous vote.

It heads next to Gov. Gavin Newsom for a signature following a Senate concurrence vote.

“If you have a power chair and are using it daily, it needs regular maintenance,” Rawlings said. “But the industry as it stands has very little interest in making repairs. There can be months if not longer of wait time. This bill seeks to change that by making it easier for owners and smaller shops to fill the repair need. Also, power chairs are increasingly controlled by software that is currently restricted to a small number of vendors. Owners having access to these tools would enable more freedom and ability to control their driving experiences.”

Dodd represents the Third Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Solano, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties.

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