If you’re a wheelchair user like me, no doubt you’ve gone through the experience of having something on your chair break. Maybe it’s not something catastrophic, but the fact is, if you rely upon a piece of technology and/or machinery to get through life, at some point, something is going to break. And whether it be something major (like the frame, wheel, or seat cushion) or something minor (the dozens of screws and rivets that hold everything together) you’re going to have to figure out how to get things fixed in a hurry.
The optimal solution of course is that you can do it yourself, but that means that you’ve got a dedicated workshop with tools, spare parts, and a healthy dose of know-how to get the repair done. For most of us however, if something breaks, we’re not going to have the full faculty of resources necessary to get things rolling again. Most of the time that means we are left with finding the closest medical arts center to do the repairs. These places are sparse, and not to mention the fact that for any major repair, they will require you to leave your chair with them for days or weeks at a time and can cost hundreds of dollars in fees.
Enter: Home Depot.
Home Depot is many things to many people, but one of the things it has always been to me is a place where a lot of men and women go to work because they enjoy helping people figure out their home repair problems. This comes in handy when your mode of lifestyle is a piece of equipment that relies on the very things that Home Depot provides – metals, screws, rivets, and binding elements. In any metropolitan area, it is a given that the number of wheelchair repair sites are going to be outnumbered by Home Depot stores. Therefore, it is important to be acclimated with the Orange and White banner and aisles upon aisles of wheelchair bandaids.
But here is where it gets interesting, and most importantly, critical for adaptive athletes.
Did you know that Home Depot has a policy (maybe written, maybe not) that they will voluntarily do basic wheelchair repair and replacement parts, free of charge? Yes, it is true. I learned this several years ago when I needed to replace some screws in my chair frame. I approached their ‘pro desk‘ simply looking to locate the proper screws and nuts necessary to replace something that had broken.Their response was as unexpected as it was serendipitous – not only would they find me the pieces that I needed, but they would install them for me and provide those pieces for me completely free of charge.
The funny and encouraging thing about this policy is two-fold: 1) most Home Depot workers aren’t even aware of this policy; and 2) as soon as I inform them, they will absolutely jump at the chance to help you.
At first, I was a little uneasy at making the request when something broke. After all, what for-profit business offers parts and labor free of charge? But after 2 or 3 additional visits to my local Home Depot, with each and every time the store and workers providing exactly what I needed, I realized one important thing. The parts themselves are often minuscule, as they frequently will be a couple of dollars’ worth of screws and nuts. However, the real value is in the professionals there who are willing to stop whatever it is they are doing and begin trying to solve whatever it is that you need help with. And this is what is true and important for people to realize – every single Home Depot person on the floor is eager and dare I say excited to jump at the opportunity to help a wheelchair user who needs basic repair.
Why is this?
Today, I needed some repairs on my wheelchair’s armrest and backing. I came in with my two little kids and was mostly just hoping for them to have the time to stick a new screw in a few places and send me along. Instead, two of the men in their pro shop leapt at the opportunity to help me and spent nearly an hour to do it. My new friends Joe and Chris, who can be seen in the photo above, were ready and eager to do whatever it took to make my wheelchair workable again. Whenever I insisted that a solution was ‘good enough,’ they immediately said, ‘No, we can do it better.” And then took additional parts and additional time to make it so. Through the course of it all, I realized that: a) Home Depot employees love to help people; and b) they love to solve problems. And each and every time I’ve gone in to seek minor repairs, these facts have been a consistently reinforced reality.
I’ve asked Home Depot employees to help me with issues from as simple as a broken washer all the way up to figuring out why my front caster shimmies (a recurring mystery on the level of the Lost City of Atlantis) and each and every time two or three people have eagerly answered the call to help me out, just like Joe and Chris did on today’s occasion.
Suffice to say, Home Depot gets the big ‘Thumbs Up!’ from Parawod, and if you’re a wheelchair user and are in need of a quick tweak to your chair, head over to the orange and white and rest assured that they will help you to the best of their ability.