Shopping around for disability aids and equipment
If you’ve decided to buy disability equipment privately, perhaps because you need it quickly, you want greater choice, or you’re spending your own personal care budget, here’s some advice on how and where to shop around for the most suitable product at the cheapest price.
Get expert advice
Ask your occupational therapist or physiotherapist
An occupational therapist or physiotherapist can advise you on whether a particular piece of disability equipment or adaptation is likely to meet your needs.
You can ask for an assessment by an occupational therapist or physiotherapist at:
- the hospital
- the social services department of your local authority
- an Independent Living Centre
Know your own needs
It’s a good idea to spend some time deciding what you want from the product you’re buying. You might find it useful to jot down a checklist of requirements.
Alongside your personal needs, you might want to consider some of the following:
- Does the company you are buying from offer an ‘after-sales service’?
- Does the product come with a guarantee?
- Can you get hold of spare parts easily and cheaply?
- Does it need to be serviced regularly? Who will you use to do the work and how much will it cost?
- Does it comply with the necessary British Standards? If it’s been tested and approved it will have the BSI (British Standards Institute) Kitemark.
- What is the company’s returns policy? Do they offer a buy-back guarantee if your needs change?
Try before you buy
Independent Living Centres
Independent Living Centres (sometimes called Disabled Living Centres) can give you advice about disability aids and equipment and have products on display that you can try out.
Disability equipment exhibitions
One way of finding out what equipment is available, especially products that are new to the market, is to go to an exhibition. These vary in size from local events to national exhibitions with suppliers from all over the UK and abroad.
Short-term hire of disability aids
If you need to try out a disability aid for an extended period of time to help you decide whether it’s suitable for your needs, hiring it on a short-term basis might be a useful option.
You can borrow or hire disability equipment from:
- your local British Red Cross centre
- specialist hire companies
- the manufacturer or supplier
Finding a local supplier of disability aids and equipment
Buying locally can have some advantages. For example, you might not have to pay for delivery and if there’s a problem with the equipment when you get it home, it can be quicker and easier to resolve it face-to-face.
The Living Made Easy website has an impartial database of UK suppliers of daily living equipment. You can search by region or county.
Buying second-hand disability equipment
Buying second-hand can be cheaper, but always check that what you are buying is in good working order.
Second-hand items must be accurately described by whoever is selling them, including details of any faults.
There are two main sources of second-hand equipment:
- disability equipment retailers who either recondition second-hand items or sell ex-demonstration models
- private individuals
Comparing prices of disability aids and equipment
Many more retailers are now entering the market for disability aids and adaptations. The market is no longer restricted to specialist providers.
If you know exactly what product and supplier you want, then a web search for the exact product will allow you to compare deals.
Alternatively you could compare similar products and prices to work out what’s available for your budget.
Don’t forget to claim VAT relief
If you have a long-term illness or you’re disabled, you don’t have to pay VAT on equipment designed to help with daily living. The supplier needs to be registered for VAT and you have to sign a form declaring that you have a long-term illness or you’re disabled.