Wheelchair Accessories - Customizing Your Wheelchair

Wheelchair Accessories - Customizing Your Wheelchair

Wheelchair accessories help customize your wheelchair so that it offers the most effective benefits to meet your needs. Accessories may help make your life easier, more productive, or offer a greater deal of independence. Accessories can be common or customized, depending on where you live and what you need.

Some accessories are fairly common and may include but are not limited to:

  • Hand rims
  • Pouches and other holders
  • Brake locks
  • Wheels
  • Wheelchair gloves
  • Wheelchair cushions
  • Cup holders
  • Customized backpacks

Wheelchairs may also be accessorized with anti-tip devices, glow-in-the-dark wheelchair lights, special backing, and even specialized wheelchair wheel rims. There's no limit to the types of accessories that individuals can outfit their wheelchairs with, although some of these accessories may not be covered by typical medical insurance plans, including Medicare.

What Does Medicare Cover?

Basically, Medicare will cover wheelchair accessories and options if the senior can demonstrate legitimate or honest need for the equipment or accessory. Most equipment for wheelchairs and accessories must meet specific criteria by Medicare in order to qualify for reimbursement.

Such equipment should also follow written instructions by a doctor, as well as reasoning behind the need for the equipment, documented in your medical records.

Some of the most common claimed accessory options for wheelchairs include:

  • Reinforced back and seat upholstery - seniors must demonstrate that they weigh over 200 pounds for such reinforcements to be improved and/or approved.
  • Accessories that support specific body parts - such needs must demonstrate that the accessory will help improve the function of the specific body part.
  • Adjustable arm height - even to customize the arm height of wheelchair arms, you'll need to specify your height, weight, and arm length and the time you spend in the wheelchair must be a minimum of 2 hours on a daily basis. In some cases, you may also receive an extension fork hook for headrests, again specifying need.

Some wheelchair options and accessories not considered medically necessary may include:

  • Crutch and cane holders
  • Snow tires
  • Shock absorbers
  • Crutch, cane or walker holders
  • Bags, baskets or pouches to carry personal items
  • Automobile wheelchair racks
  • Wheelchair ramps

Depending on physical condition, capabilities, or injury of the individual, some approved by Medicare may include :

  • Headrest extensions
  • Fully reclining back
  • Batteries
  • Solid seats
  • Reinforced back upholstery
  • Adjustable arm height
  • Adjustable leg rests

However, consumers should remember that all accessories should be under a doctor's written order and the supplier must have the order in their files before billing for such purchases. Most of these accessories are limited to use for activities for typical daily lifestyle and living inside the home, and not outside the home.

Clear Wheelchair Work Tray

Seniors are often required to pay 20% co pays after yearly deductibles have been met for accessories approved by Medicare. Durable Medical Equipment is covered under Medicare Part B, but how much an individual will pay depend on where the equipment is purchased and whether or not the accessory supplier accepts assignments. Generally, Medicare will pay 80% of approved purchases, with the senior paying the remaining 20%.

Seniors who also have Medicare Gap or supplemental insurance policies may end up paying nothing for the wheelchair accessory, depending on the specifications and limitations of the supplemental insurance policy.

When choosing a wheelchair accessory provider, make sure they are Medicare approved. Accessories and suppliers must meet specific qualification standards and should also have a Medicare supplier number.

If the supplier is not approved or enrolled in Medicare, Medicare may still pay for any type of wheelchair accessory or equipment.

For example, some suppliers may be enrolled in Medicare but choose not to participate.

Wheelchair Comfy Seat

Seniors may still adapt their wheelchairs as long as the suppliers agree to accept the Medicare assignment and have agreed not to charge more than Medicare's allowed amounts. They also agree that they will collect 20% co-pays for accessories.


When accessorizing your wheelchair, take into consideration the benefits of the accessory as opposed their cost, especially if you have to pay out-of-pocket for such accessories. In many cases, the need for the wheelchair accessory is balanced over the long term by its benefits in greater independence, ease of use, and comfort for wheelchair users.

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