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Handicap equipment business provides resale options for patients

BY LAUREN COFFEY | APRIL 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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People outgrow and buy new material items constantly — shoes, clothes, and bicycles, for example. But for some situations, getting a new item to replace an older possession is not as easy as heading off to a store.

The equipment referral service, operated within the Center for Disability and Development through the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, is available to help those with physical disabilities in those situations.

The service has been around since the 1980s, allowing customers to either call in to make a transaction or use the website — an option made available a few years ago which has allowed the service to take off in the past few years. The website is hosted through Iowa Compass, a disability resource database.

“You’re able to work with the person one-on-one and really see the buyer has no financial options,” said Michael Lightbody, used equipment referral service coordinator at Iowa Compass. “Sometimes, [the seller] will sell [the piece of equipment] for free because they just want it to go to a good home. They don’t want to sell it to someone who will turn around and sell it somewhere else.”

Marla Roos, a user of the equipment referral service, started using the service around six years ago after her son had passed away. She said the service not only helped her family pass off the equipment they had but was also helpful to anyone else who is in great need of equipment at a low cost.

“My son passed away, and we didn’t have any need for the equipment,” the Sheldon resident said. “We definitely wanted it to go to a good home, someone who needed it and used it. It’s a nice service for both people who are buying and selling — to use when you don’t know how to get it out there and also when you may not be able to afford brand-new equipment.”

Another client of the service, Michelle Carden, has been using it for around five years for her 9-year-old son and prefers it to an alternative online marketplace such as eBay Inc. or Craigslist.

“I just wanted to use this because it was a little more convenient than Craigslist because it’s in the area,” the West Branch resident said. “And you get a lot of weird stuff on eBay, since you never know the people and if they really have a disability or not.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said believes the service is essential to providing families with special needs.

“Obviously, providing technology can be costly,” he said. “It’s an important service to obtain expensive technology in a very cost-effective manner. It also provides connections and face-to-face interactions with [the clients].”

Lightbody said the service is focused on bridging the gap between customers to provide them the best service possible.

“It’s a big issue with both sides, finding people who need equipment and finding people who have it,” he said. “Hopefully, this will bridge the gap and keep them in communication.”


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