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Mark Smith browses his favorite manufacturer sites.

Mark Smith browses his favorite manufacturer sites.

From interactive features to Facebook pages to YouTube channels, this past year has delivered wheelchair manufacturer websites with more consumer resources than ever. Many of these sites offer a consumer-controlled multimedia experience, where from your computer, smart phone or tablet, you can access an astounding array of comparison shopping information on the latest wheelchairs.

1. Navigate the Interwebs Wisely
Remember, Web addresses don’t always align with the brand or company you’re seeking. Therefore, if you’re unfamiliar with the direct Web address, do an Internet search for a term such as, “Karman wheelchairs,” to find the true website.

2. Dig Deeper … Much Deeper
Once on a manufacturer’s website, you’ll see the obvious: wheelchair models. On each model’s page, you’ll also see typical marketing photos, an overview description, and some bullet-point specifications. Color simulators are common, as well. While this information is tantalizing and helpful toward initially narrowing product choice, it’s just the surface. As a savvy consumer, you’re going to dig deeper … much deeper.

“Specification” tabs and sheets are where the real data is, from overall length to weight to various configurations. What’s more, most manufacturers now conform specification sheets to ANSI/RESNA industry standards, so the data is uniform from one manufacturer to the next. This allows you to compare product specifications side-by-side among models.

Next, download the model’s order form. Typically, it’s on the main product page, but some manufacturers place them grouped on a separate page. Order forms are primarily geared toward therapists and providers, so some language may be foreign. However, an order form shows the vast array of selections and options. For example, a lot of no-charge options aren’t on product overview website pages, but they are on the order form, so you’re best able to see selections that you may not have otherwise known existed.

Then download the owner’s manual. Consumers rarely think to do this, but if you want to know how easy it is to adjust an ultralight manual wheelchair or how the batteries are accessed on a power chair, the owner’s manual shows all. It’s a great way to fully understand a model prior to purchase.

Lastly, download the warranty PDF (if it’s a stand-alone document). Spec sheets often give a very brief warranty statement, such as, “lifetime warranty on frame.” However, the warranty PDF covers every nuance by component, so, on a power chair, for example, you can compare models’ warranties ranging from motors to arm pads.

3. Use Social Media to Get the Scoop
From Facebook to YouTube, mobility manufacturers are all about social media these days. In fact, most new products and advancements are posted on Facebook first! Additionally, some manufacturers run contests and promotions. “Liking” manufacturers’ Facebook pages keeps you in the loop, in real time.

It’s often hard to see wheelchair models in action, but many manufacturers now have YouTube channels that give very in-depth looks at products, from features to performance. A simple search on YouTube for a specific product often turns up a video or two. You should always demo a wheelchair in-person prior to purchase, but manufacturers’ YouTube channels offer a great virtual tour of features and performance.

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