10 Ways To Avoid Broken Equipment

Three people, including the wheelchair user, lean over to check out the axel of her manual wheelchair
Like Kristina Yancey you'll want to prepare for the unexpected equipment failures that might occur while abroad. These 10 tips will get you started.

Access the transcript for Kristina Yancey's vlog in Documents.

Adapting mobility equipment you use for a new environment and preparing for potential breakdowns and repairs can go a long way towards ensuring a hassle-free, rewarding international experience.

  1. The Tire Factor: Consider replacing a wheelchair's high pressure tires with tires that have extra tread. This can provide a better ride as well as better grip and durability.
  2. Road Conditions: Consider wider front caster wheels and those with shock absorbers like Frog Legs for difficult terrain. Casters smaller than five inches in diameter can get wedged in storm grates, cracks, or holes so a third-wheel attachment like FreeWheel lifts them up. Traveling somewhere snowy or icy? Wheel Blades are adjustable clamp closure covers that span caster wheels 1 to 6 centimeters wide.
  3. The Tune-Up: Check your equipment for cracks or loose parts that can impact function and listen for abnormal sounds. Bring in for a maintance check before traveling.
  4. Just in Case: Research who is responsible for major repairs or replacements, including costs, before traveling abroad.
  5. Local Assistance: Identify the nearest wheelchair or bicycle repair shop abroad in case of emergencies. For example, someone with welding equipment may be able to repair crutches.
  6. The Back-Up: Consider locally available alternatives if equipment breaks down. Possibilities include a different type of crutch, cane, or wheelchair for rental, loan, or donation.
  7. Repair Toolkits: Assemble an emergency kit of frequently-broken or worn parts and tools like lubricant, bolts, wrenches, allen keys, duct tape, patch kits, extra tubes, cane tips, extra stump socks or shrinkers, etc. Learn simple fixes you can make. Parts may be expensive and difficult to find in rural areas or developing countries.
  8. Voltage Differences: Make sure to have proper outlet adapters and voltage transformers for charging any electrically powered equipment, or to take a battery charger that works for the host country's electricity.
  9. Air Travel Tips: Check airline policies on transporting wheelchairs, as many air carriers have policies on packing power wheelchair parts or wet, dry, or gel batteries. Some chairs may need to be dismantled completely for flight. If you travel with a power wheelchair, you risk damage each time you check in, so prepare your chair for travel, and stay involved with the process right up until the time you board the plane.
  10. Insurance: Be aware that travel insurance typically does not cover durable medical equipment (like power wheelchairs) related to a preexisting condition. However, if mobility equipment is broken in flight, travel insurance can assist with airline claims for damaged equipment, locating rentals abroad and coordinating repair services.

And of course, ask detailed questions about the location of overseas program activities to anticipate possible barriers to participation and request alternative arrangements.

Do you have other advice from your own firsthand experiences overseas? Share your ideas with us.

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