Having a mobility aid can be the deciding factor between moving into assisted living and maintaining your independent lifestyle in the comfort of your home.
Speaking from experience, I understand that medical equipment and mobility aids can cost hundreds of dollars if you don't have coverage.
Thankfully, there are systems and programs in place (that I wish I'd known about) that are designed to give financial assistance to qualifying individuals, as well as provide resources to organizations that are determined to get you your equipment at little to no cost.
In this guide, we'll cover the many programs that are set up in the US to help you get a free wheelchair, free mobility scooter, and other free mobility aids (or at least substantial coverage on medical equipment).
By the end of this guide, you'll have a better grasp of what's available out there, so you can quickly get started on the help that you need!
Getting a Free Mobility Aid in the US
There are a bunch of programs and financial assistance available in the US to help you get the mobility aids you need at no cost to you. First, we’ll discuss general programs that are out there, and then we’ll review Medicare/Medicaid-specific programs that are available to you.
1. The Center for Assistive Technology Act Data Assistance
The goal of this act is to provide assistive technology to people with disabilities so that they can easily land a job and get an education despite their condition. Under this act, all 50 states receive funding for the Assistive Technology Act Project (ATAP) which provides medical services for people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, and service providers. These services include:
Services vary by state, so click here to learn what services are available in your area.
2. Easter Seals
Easter Seals is a nationwide organisation that provides resources for individuals with disabilities, veterans, seniors and their families. They offer a variety of life-changing programs at their 69 locations across the US that help people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and caregivers live, learn, work, and play in their communities.
3. The American Outreach Foundation
4. The Wheelchair Foundation
The Wheelchair Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to spread awareness of people all over the world who have disabilities with no resources for medical equipment and share the joy of providing free wheelchairs to people who can’t afford them. They help out several organizations that provide free wheelchairs and other related mobility aids to those in need.
You can go to their website or contact their programs directly to find assistance for the things you need.
5. Grants & Legal Help
In the US, there are a vast number of grants that are available to qualifying people who have a disability. Most grants come from tax-free non-profit organizations that are committed to getting you the help that you need. Like scholarships, grants are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis and have long waiting lists, so it’s important that you learn what local grants and charities are available to you so that you can apply as soon as possible.
Additionally, there are legal organizations set up to provide free legal help for people with a disability who are having trouble with their service provider, doctor, or employer. Having legal help can help you overcome unjust barriers that are preventing you from getting your mobility aids. To help guide you in the right direction, here’s a detailed list of charities and grants that are available for qualifying people.
Mobility equipment, also referred to as Durable Medical Equipment (DME), is covered by Medicare Part V. Its coverage, if allowed, will reimburse you up to 80% of the cost of the medical device. In some cases, Medicare will only cover the amount allowed on the total cost of the product. Keep in mind that they’ll choose whichever coverage option is cheaper. Whatever Medicare doesn’t cover will be your responsibility.
You can only receive DME coverage if your doctors and medical suppliers are enrolled in Medicare. Also, they must follow strict guidelines and meet certain standards in order to reap the full benefits that Medicare offers. As far as mobility equipment, DME covers the following:
Recently, there has been confusion regarding Medicare coverage for stairlifts. Originally, Medicare did NOT cover the cost of stairlifts because they were considered health benefits that require daily maintenance. However, as of 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented Medicare Advantage (MA) plans that provide already available supplemental benefits. To receive these benefits, the medical device has to be recommended by a health care professional, and the device must:
Furthermore, the CMS also announced in 2019 that in 2020, Medicare Advantage plans will now be offered to people who are diagnosed with a chronic illness. This could mean more coverage for stairlifts in this new year.
They typically cover the full cost of medical assistance for qualifying people, and eligibility varies by state. To qualify for Medicaid assistance, you must meet the following requirements:
In regards to stairlifts, because Medicaid coverage differs by state, it is possible to receive financial assistance through your state’s Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers. These waivers enable seniors with an opportunity to remain living at home and avoid going to a nursing home. HCBS waivers offer home modifications benefits, including stairlifts.
8. Tyler Schrenk Foundation
The Tyler Schrenk Foundation is a Washington-based non-profit organization focused on independence and assistive technologies (AT). The Demonstrating Independence Grant provides several recipients with assistive technologies, enabling a more independent lifestyle. Apply here.
9. United Way
United Way’s mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good. They have locations all across the nation and your local chapter can help you with finding all kinds of assistive equipment.
Find your local United Way here.
10. Hope Haven
Hope Heaven is present in counties in Iowa and Minnesota, and the International Ministries impacts the lives of people in 109 countries. They have many programs to serve the communities and providing mobility through worldwide wheelchair distributions.
11. Joni and Friends
Joni and Friends is committed to bringing the Gospel and practical resources to people impacted by disability around the globe. Wheels for the World provides life-changing mobility along with the hope of the Gospel to people impacted by disability around the world.
After collecting wheelchairs, they are restored at 15 federal, state, and private correctional facilities in 10 different states. Each recipient receives a custom-fit wheelchair and is presented with the Gospel message. Recipients also receive a Bible in their language, training in wheelchair use and upkeep, and they are connected with a local Christ-honoring church.
12. Rebuilding Together
Rebuilding Together is a national organization that repairs and revitalizes the homes of low-income homeowners. The organization helps seniors, people with disabilities and children. They repair homes, revitalize communities and rebuild lives.
Rebuilding Together’s local affiliates and nearly 100,000 volunteers complete about 10,000 rebuild projects nationwide each year. Homeowners must apply for assistance well in advance of annual rebuilding days. Click here to contact your local chapter to find out if you are eligible.
13. Multiple Sclerosis Foundation
The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, known in the MS community as MS Focus, is a nonprofit organization focused on providing free services that address the critical needs of people with MS and their families, helping them maintain the best quality of life. They may help locate, partially fund, or provide full funding for a wide range of devices as needed for personal independence. Apply here.
14. Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation
The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation's goal is to find a cure for paralysis through funding the latest in medical research and to provide assistance to those that suffer from neurological disorders. They provide grants to people who suffer from a neurological disorder with preference going to spinal cord injuries.
Examples of eligible items include upgrade and maintenance of wheelchairs, vehicle modifications (i.e., hand controls or lifts), small home modifications including ramp and lift installation, computers, and other adaptive equipment.
Charitable grants are reviewed quarterly in January, March, June, and September. Funds are limited and they generally can not support charitable grants over $10,000. The request should be for a specific item. Requests from Wisconsin residents are given precedence but are not limited to the state. Apply here.
15. Chive Charities Grant
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Chive Charities inspires a new generation to support causes that would otherwise be forgotten, targeting three specific causes: rare medical diagnoses, first responders, and veterans. This grant fund is for medically-related needs for accessible home & car modifications.
Chive Charities has helped and will continue to help, hundreds of deserving people in need throughout the country. If you have a rare medical condition and/or fall under the other two categories, apply here.
16. Gwendolyn Strong Foundation
Gwendolyn Strong Foundation works to fill in the gaps needed to create real change and build a more inclusive future for those with disabilities. They provide practical family support, fund research, and are building the first inclusive playground in Santa Barbara. We work to inspire courage, foster inclusion and create a kinder world around the globe.
SMA Community Grants range from $250 to $2,500 and can be used for home modifications. Applicants must have a Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) diagnosis. Apply here.
17. Triumph Foundation
Keep Moving Forward Grant: This grant helps individuals get necessary Adaptive Equipment for activities of daily living, make Home Modifications for wheelchair accessibility, enable the Return to Work reintegrating back into the community, and maintain Therapeutic Activities for health and wellness.
The maximum grant is $2,000 when funds are available and are paid directly to the vendor. Applicants must be citizens of the United States and priority for grants is given to Southern California residents. Apply here.
18. Starkey Hearing Foundation
Starkey Hearing Foundation gives the gift of hearing to people in need in the U.S. and around the world. They believe hearing is a vehicle to reflect caring and to improve the lives of individuals, their families, and communities.Starkey Hearing Foundation has provided more hearing help to people in the United States than to any other country.
Hear Now is our application-based program that provides hearing help to low-income Americans. Each person we help is fit with new, top-of-the-line digital hearing aids that are customized to their hearing loss.
19. Vantage Mobility International
Have you been approved for VA mobility benefits? You may be eligible for additional savings from VMI in addition to your VA benefits.
Disabled veterans may be eligible for as much as $20,235 towards the cost of a wheelchair accessible vehicle with the program.
20. National AT Act Assistance & Training Center
National Assistive Technology Act Technical Assistance and Training (AT3) Center's mission is to increase access to & acquisition of assistive technologies by individuals with disabilities across the lifespan. They provide a way to search assistive technology, device loans, device reutilization, financial loans for assistive devices, and other state financing options.
To find options in your state click here.
21. National Council on Independent Living
The National Council on Independent Living is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including:
individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States. Centres for Independent Living and Statewide Independent Living Councils are community-based, cross-disability, non-profit organizations that are designed and operated by people with disabilities. CILs are unique in that they operate according to a strict philosophy of consumer control, wherein people with all types of disabilities directly govern and staff the organization.
22. Muscular Dystrophy Association
For more than 70 years, MDA has been saving and improving the lives of kids and adults living with muscular dystrophy and related life-threatening diseases. MDA's national equipment program helps provide good-condition, gently used wheelchairs and other medical equipment, such as shower chairs, hospital beds, walkers, canes, communication devices,
etc. when available and as feasible. They can also offer assistance in locating prescribed items through referrals to community resources. MDA’s Resource Specialists will be happy to refer you to other equipment loan resources as they are available.
23. Lions Clubs
Lions Clubs, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charitable organization, are places where individuals join together to give their valuable time and effort to improving their communities, and the world.
All funds raised by Lions Clubs from the general public are used for charitable purposes. Check your local Lions Club for equipment or funding resources.