Users make statement in customized wheelchairs

Byond chrome and black: With endless options, wheelchairs are more than just pieces of equipment
Friday, April 25, 2014

WASHINGTON, PA. – With lighted casters, colored frames and more, wheelchairs are endlessly customizable. As Progressive Mobility President Brian Matthews recently tweeted, “#wheelchair, it doesn’t have to be boring!”

Social media is the newest way for Washington, Pa.-based Progressive Mobility to spread the word, but Matthews says customization has been part of the company’s standard offer since he took over a decade ago. 

As part of the intake process with new patients, the company learns what they want and need from their chairs, and how they’ll use them.

“I just got to know my customers and started to make suggestions, because everyone thinks a wheelchair has to be chrome and black,” said Matthews. “Once you show them the options, it becomes more than a piece of equipment.” 

Some customers want secondary chairs that are fancier than their everyday work chairs. Others want to show their personality. One recent customer, a dog groomer, wanted a dressier chair for movies and dinner dates. She chose a frame in her favorite color—purple—with zebra stripes to show her love for animals. 

When out-of-pocket funding is unlimited, so are the options, said Matthews. Manufacturers have been offering fewer color options with their standard models in response to lower reimbursement, but a wide variety of colors are still possible with upgrades.

To help with the selection process, in Progressive Medical’s 7,000-square-foot showroom, clients can look at demos and try setups that mimic what they want to order. They can also scroll through images on the company’s conference room screen.

“When you get to know your client kind of on a personal level, they end up being a client for life,” said Matthews. “It’s really rewarding.” 

So what’s cutting edge in the custom-wheelchair world? Lighted front casters and seat backs with logos are just a couple favorites. 

“What’s becoming really more and more popular, especially with the younger crowd, are the wheels,” Matthews said. “They’re getting away from the old-school spokes and going to mag-style wheels.”