Monday, 22 April 2024

Sen. Dodd introduces bill to lift barriers for wheelchair users

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

“This measure is about enhancing quality of life for people with mobility issues,” Sen. Dodd said. “It allows power wheelchair users to get their wheelchairs fixed in an efficient and timely manner when things go wrong. By doing so, it ensures those who rely on wheelchairs can be operating as soon as possible.”

Under existing law, manufacturers of power wheelchairs are not required to provide information or replacement parts directly to consumers or independent repair shops.

Colorado became the first state in the nation to address the issue, adopting a right-to-repair laws 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.

In California, Sen. Dodd has introduced Senate Bill 1384, which would ensure the same right to repair for California wheelchair users and streamline the process for getting complex rehabilitation technology repaired.

Among other things, it requires independent repair shops to require written notice to consumers before conducting repairs and establishes guidelines on what parts can be replaced.

The bill is supported by advocates including Sacramento disability rights activist and wheelchair user Russell Rawlings. It is expected to be heard in committee in about a month.

“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 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Solano, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties.

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