March 22, 2022

BILLS TO PROTECT WHEELCHAIR USERS AND IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY ADVANCE

Representative David Ortiz sponsored four bills to improve accessibility for wheelchair users and Coloradans with a disability

DENVER, CO – Bills to protect the rights of wheelchair users and improve adaptive mobility today moved forward.

“My wheelchair provides more than just mobility, it’s tied to my health and safety too,” said Rep. David Ortiz, D-Littleton. “These bills are designed to affirm the rights of wheelchair users so we can rent a car, get our mobility device repaired in a timely manner and save money. Without a functioning mobility device, some could be faced with a life or death situation and I’m working to help solve some of the accessibility issues faced by the adaptive mobility community. We’re leading Colorado in the right direction towards improving accessibility for wheelchair users and folks who use mobility aids while building more equitable communities in the process.”

HB22-1290, sponsored by Representatives David Ortiz and Brianna Titone, would improve existing Medicaid rules for repairing wheelchairs, adaptive seating systems and other mobility devices. Specifically, this bill would eliminate the need for prior authorization for any repair of complex mobility devices, including powered wheelchairs. If passed, this bill would save Coloradans money on costly wheelchair expenses and repairs and expand access to an urgently needed service. HB22-1290 passed the House Health & Insurance Committee by a vote of 8 to 3 and works in tandem with HB22-1031.

“The right to repair wheelchairs in a prompt, less costly way is imperative for equality, health and safety,” said Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada. “Many wheelchair users can only turn to manufacturers to repair or perform routine maintenance on their mobility devices, which drives up costs and wait times. Our bills cut the red tape surrounding wheelchair repairs and gives more repair options to save Coloradans money and hassle. We’re working to break down barriers that hinder accessibility and leave wheelchair users with limited options for fixing their necessary mobility device.”

HB22-1031, sponsored by Representatives David Ortiz and Brianna Titone, would require powered wheelchair manufacturers to provide parts, software and tools to independent repair providers and wheelchair owners. Typically, wheelchair owners and users can only seek repair, modification and maintenance of their wheelchair from manufacturers. This market monopolization drives up costs for Coloradans and leaves them without their mobility device for longer. Under this bill, independent repair providers and owners would have the tools and manuals to perform regular maintenance, diagnostic or repair service themselves. This will save Coloradans money and allow them to get their mobility devices repaired sooner. HB22-1031 passed the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee by a vote of 11 to 1.

Representative Ortiz also sponsored HB22-1253, which unanimously passed the House Transportation & Local Government Committee.

HB22-1253 would require rental car companies to provide leasers with an online option to secure a vehicle with adaptive equipment such as hand controls, pedal extenders, left foot accelerators and spinner knobs upon request. This bill would also protect disabled vehicle leasers by allowing the recovery of damages if rental car companies violate the adaptive equipment requirement in the bill.

In addition to the three bills advanced by committees, the House passed a bill to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities by a vote of 56 to 8.

HB22-1255, sponsored by Representative David Ortiz, would create an advisory committee in the Department of Education that will develop a report with recommendations to improve outcomes for students with disabilities attending state institutions. Higher education completion rates for students with a reported disability are significantly lower than students without reported disabilities. This bill aims to level the playing field to make it easier for students to succeed.