Powerchair broken: quadriplegic man stuck at home for more than 3 months

Powerchair broken: quadriplegic man stuck at home for more than 3 months

Since June 21th 2014, Zig Blanquer, a 35 year old from Nantes, France, with neuromuscular disease cannot use his power wheelchair any longer, which is a key part for his daily life. This electric wheelchair is an extension of his own body. It is crucial to change positions, release muscular tension and serves in leading his personal and professional life. When the breakdown of his power wheelchair occurred, Mr. Blanquer immediately contacted his local service provider. The company specialising in the maintenance and sale of power wheelchairs, only intervened twice in a three-month period, with no positive results. The first intervention took place three weeks after the breakdown was reported. The local service provider being unable to solve this on-going issue sent the power wheelchair to their provider’s centre in a Parisian suburb on the 14th of October 2014.

The service provider claims he cannot loan an equivalent wheelchair to Mr. Blanquer because of the “ultra-sophistication” of the original one. The purpose of a service provider is nonetheless to sell and then to maintain in good working-condition every client’s medical equipment. Under French law, the L1110-2 article of the code of the public health specifies that in case of a breakdown, the service provider offers a “replacement equipment as close to the client’s original one as possible” within a reasonable time.

We are denouncing this non-compliance with the law. To claim these rights, we have sought the assistance of legal professionals, disability NGOs, social workers and elected representatives. The only solution suggested is to purchase a new electric wheelchair instead of a repair. Is this commercial logic at work? On top of that, this solution is not going to let Mr. Blanquer return quickly to his normal life as to get a new power wheelchair would take at least six months – time needed to fund the 20,000 euros required for the new device.

The breakdown of Mr. Blanquer’s powerchair has prevented him from living his life normally; all of his social and professional commitments are thus suspended. Working as a Disability Consultant and Computer Instructor in a nursing home, Mr. Blanquer has been stranded now for almost 4 months. At the moment, his health condition is getting worse as a result of this long lasting immobilization. This excessive situation is both physically and mentally exhausting for Mr. Blanquer and it is utterly unacceptable.

There are various similar situations that echo Mr. Blanquer’s story, which have already been covered by the press. These situations highlight serious structural issues in the medical devices’ aftersales service particularly because these devices are invaluable for disabled people’s autonomy. With no recourse for them to defend their rights, these situations have terrible consequences: physically, morally and financially.

We gathered together as a support committee for Mr. Blanquer in order to publicize this unacceptable situation and to find sustainable solutions for disabled people facing these recurring repair issues.

Our experiences brought to our attention the low political commitment of French NGOs, the poor implementation of laws and the service providers’ mind-set apparently more driven by profit than their client’s best interest. Thus, we are requiring that disabled person’s autonomy is fully acknowledged with:

– the observance of the law

– new commercial relationships where the client is consider as expert and responsible

– better access to one’s legal rights and if needed legal defence

As for us today, no physical impairment impede freedom of movement as much as social behaviours and mentalities toward disabilities. Technical equipment isn’t luxury; it is a key piece of equipment that underpins a person’s autonomy.

Support committee for the technical autonomy of disabled people.

Contact : comsa@riseup.net

Spanish translation 

French translation 

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