’Tis the season

‘Back to school is a big time for us,’ says one provider
Friday, September 11, 2015

YARMOUTH, Maine – While teachers ready their classrooms for the arrival of new students, pediatric wheelchair providers prepare for the surge of school-related service calls. 

“Back to school is a big time for us,” said Angel Pardo, president of DMR in Doral, Fla. “Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming.”

Between August and September, Pardo estimates that he receives a 10% to 20% increase in service calls for pediatric wheelchairs. That’s to be expected, he says.

“If you’re in retail, you get ready for the Christmas holidays,” said Pardo. “If you deal with pediatrics, you see an increase (in business) at the beginning of school.”

Common adjustments include wheel locks, new tires and seat extensions.

“They’ve grown over the summer and now the existing seat has to be modified or it’s time to order a whole new system,” said Pardo. 

During the first six weeks of school, provider Jessica Vozzella says she gets about a dozen calls per week from teachers, OTs and PTs, calling to say a student’s wheel locks need to be tightened, the headrest readjusted, or the harness stretched.

Her company, DME Shoppe in Fort Myers, Fla., often goes straight to the source. 

“We see children mostly in schools,” said Vozzella, office manager. “Unless it’s an emergency, we try to make three of four appointments in one day at the same school.”  

But the beginning of school isn’t the only time providers see a spike in the number of parents bringing their children’s wheelchairs in to get checked.

“Typically, we see an influx three times a year,” said Claude Levesque, director of complex rehab and accessibility at Black Bear Medical in Bangor, Maine. “Generally, they come in during Christmas vacation, because they have the time, and then again toward the end of the school year parents want to make sure they’re ready for summer use or for camping.” 

Most providers offer wheelchair safety checks for free.  

“From a provider standpoint, (safety checks) are good because they prevent accidents and falls,” said Pardo. “It’s no different with a car. If you don’t maintain it, it’s no longer safe to use.”