Equipment, technology and wheelchairs
What does a person with spinal cord injury need in the way of equipment, aids and technology to live in the community? Needs may include manual or power wheelchairs, battery chargers, portable ramps, hoists, pressure relief cushions, clothing, continence equipment, adjustable beds, heating or cooling equipment, ventilators, physiotherapy, home automation, computer and other assistive technology, and vehicle modifications.
Keep up to date with new developments through SCIA's regular column in our magazine Accord on computer technology related subjects.
Aids and equipment schemes
The state and territory government equipment schemes provide access to a range of aids and equipment for eligible people. Eligibility requirements will vary, as will the types and variety of equipment. The programs include:
- ACT: ACT Equipment Scheme
- NSW: Aids and Equipment Program (formerly known as PADP) - administered through EnableNSW.
- NT: Disability Equipment Program (DEP) (formerly known as the Territory Independence and Mobility Equipment (TIME) Scheme)
- QLD: Medical Aids Subsidies Scheme (MASS)
- SA: Domiciliary Equipment Service
- VIC: Aids and Equipment Program (A&EP)
- WA: Community Aids and Equipment Program (CAEP)
Assistive technology - which includes aids, equipment, wheelchairs, technology - is funded for under the NDIS. To read how NDIS participants can access this funding please see the information SCIA has put together about the NDIS here.
Equipment suppliers and modifications
- IDEAS Equipment Suppliers Database - a comprehensive and easy to search collection of suppliers of equipment for people with disability.
- Independent Living Centres have extensive catalogues of suppliers of specialist disability equipment. Some also have displays of a kitchen, bathroom and other household daily living equipment and accessories. Occupational therapists are available to consult on access and equipment needs:
- AbilityMate - creating open-source designs for the most-needed assistive devices. Once designed we setup hubs where these devices can be 3D printed for a fraction of the cost, in your local area.
- ARATA—Australian Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Association. ARATA’s purpose is to serve as a forum for information sharing and liaison between people who are involved with assistive technology.
- Ability Technology— provides a complete computer and home automation service for people with disabilities. Services include advice, assessments, customisation, training and technical support.
- CATS (Computer Assistive Technology Services)—Northcott Society—resource centre for computer based technology and communication options for people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities
- Comtec (Victoria). ComTEC offers services throughout Victoria to people of all ages with a disability who have communication and technology needs. The ComTEC team consists of speech pathologists, occupational therapists and IT support with expertise in communication and technology for people with disabilities.
- Home modification information - Helpful information from SCIA about the process to get your home modified.
- National Relay Service—relays calls between people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment and the wider community 24 hours, every day of the year.
- Novitatech Regency Park Rehabilitation Engineering A rehabilitation engineering centre providing a wide range of rehabilitation equipment and assistive technology for individual needs, including offering specialised mobility, seating and orthotics services, a research and development team and information on testing equipment to Australian and International Standards. NovitaTech works with children and adults of all ages and disabilities.
- Rehabilitation Engineering Unit, Royal Perth Hospital - A rehabilitation engineering centre for customising technology to suit individual needs, specialising in wheeled mobility, powered mobility, seating, pressure management and AAC.
- Spectronics—Spectronics is Australia and New Zealand’s largest supplier of special needs software and assistive technologies.
- Assistive Technology Mobility and Customised Seating - Cerebral Palsy Allliance —technology, seating, mobility, communication, computer access and environmental control to people with disabilities.
- TAD Disability Services —custom making and modifying of disability products for people with disabilities if no commercial alternative exists. There are TAD offices in most States and Territories. Click on the map of Australia on the website to locate the TAD offices in your area.
- Technical Solutions Australia—specialising in electronics for people with disabilities.
- Vision Australia – Adaptive Technology. Includes information about technology such as talking and screen reading programs.
- Voice Recognition Software - Dragon Naturally Speaking.
- Abledata (USA)—premier source for information on assistive technology.
- SCI Pilot — Contains the assistive technology experiences and insights of individuals who have had a spinal cord injury. Rather than a catalogue of products, you'll find advice and strategies from those who have first hand experience in getting and using assistive devices, and descriptions of practical, homemade inventions that solve real-world problems.
- Spinalistips—Tips and tricks from people with spinal cord injuries.
- Trace Research and Development Center (USA)—College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison—a pioneer in the field of technology and disability.
Buying and selling secondhand equipment
- ParaQuad classifieds - ParaQuad News and online
- Ebility classifieds
- Independent Living Centre - online
- Trading Post, Gumtree and Ebay
- Secondhand Rehab
- Spire Newslink Newsletter (AQA Victoria) - classifieds page.
Major suppliers in Sydney include:
- Aidacare 02 9618 5000
- A & M HENRY 02 8700 3800
- Wheelchairs & Stuff 02 4577 2225
- Gillespies 02 9411 2180
- Hospital at Home 02 9567 2980 or 1300 303 604
- Independent Living Specialists 02 9427 4995 or 1800 008 267
- Walk on Wheels 1300 766 266
- Watercomfort 02 9531 1699 or 1800 813 254
Interstate - nationwide distributers:
Importing wheelchairs and other equipment - Duty and Tax issues
If you decide to import your own equipment, products that are made solely for people with disabilities are duty and GST free. For duty information see Schedule 4 Item 28 of the Customs Tarriff Act. Items that are GST free are listed in Schedule 3 of the GST Act, and includes a wide range of products, from wheelchairs to continence equipment, specialist switches to page turners. Generic equipment and parts are not exempt however. For example, a wheelchair battery that can also be used in a golf cart; a computer or an air conditioner are not exempt, even though you might need them due to your disability.
GST exemption on purchasing a vehicle
A person with a disability can purchase a car GST-free if they are an eligible person with a disability. Click here for information on eligibility criteria and how to apply.
How and where to go to get your vehicle modified and what is involved in getting your licence to drive a modified vehicle. Read more.
Further reading and information
Please watch SCIA's What Next? videos on Wheelchair selection and Home automation and Assistive Technology.
Visit SCIA's SCI Resources Library - Equipment, Technology and Wheelchairs or to find publications, articles, websites and more.
Assistance dogs can help increase independence and reduce reliance on caregivers. They perform a wide range of tasks including: opening and closing cupboards, doors and refrigerators; picking up dropped items; retrieving items from tables, cupboards, drawers and people; loading and unloading frontloading washing machines; helping to remove clothing; pulling a basket on wheels; opening and closing wheelchair footplates; and adjusting blankets and doonas. Training programs will also meet any additional needs of recipients by teaching their dogs specifically requested tasks. Assistance dogs are placed with recipients following the successful completion of their puppy raising and advanced training programs.
Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are used in assistance dog programs due to their calm temperament and their willingness to work.
Organisations that train and provide assistance dogs in Australia are:
Assistance Dogs Australia 02 9548 3355
Australian Support Dogs 1300 788 721
Canine Helpers for the Disabled 07 3350 2090
Association of Australian Assistance Dogs (NQ) 07 4093 5265
Further reading and information
Please view SCIA's What Next? video on what is involved in having an assistance dog.
Visit SCIA's SCI Resources library - Assistance Dogs to find publications, articles, and more.
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