Writing 'the next chapter' in seating

Friday, March 20, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – More than 2,000 people from 37 countries flew into Nashville, Tenn., in February for the 31st International Seating Symposium. Mark Schmeler, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation and ISS course director, spoke with HME News about this year’s conference and what the future holds for wheelchair seating and mobility.

HME News: What was the theme of this year’s conference? 

Mark Schmeler: The theme was “The Next Chapter.” This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. However, there’s still high unemployment among people with disabilities and insurance companies have created policies, such as not covering wheelchairs for outdoor use, which fly in the face of that. So “the next chapter” refers to the next movement in the support of people with disabilities. 

HME: What were attendees talking about at the conference?

Schmeler: The necessity of high quality complex rehab devices to meet consumers’ needs versus lower quality devices to satisfy payers’ balance sheets. For example, insurance companies are saying, “We don’t want to pay $3,000 for a wheelchair—we’ll pay $1,200,” and then suppliers and manufacturers agree to that. It’s a challenge to get everyone on the same page. 

HME: What did attendees take away from the event?

Schmeler: They are not alone in their local issues. Collective and global efforts can drive change, as long as we work together. Even though there’s a perception that the situation might be deteriorating, attendance at ISS continues to grow, there are new innovations in technology, people are sharing strategies, and outcome management systems are coming together.