Personal health equipment
This page does not deal with personal health equipment and aids like wheelchairs or hearing aids. There is a separate section about personal equipment.
Large items or permanent fixtures
If you're physically disabled, and especially if you're a wheelchair user, you may need to get equipment and have permanent fixtures installed at home so that you can live there independently.
Examples of equipment and adaptations include:
- stair lifts
- ceiling hoists
- powered or manual height-adjustable beds
- powered leg-lifters for people who have difficulty lifting their legs into bed
You may also need to have adaptation work done in your home - for example, having doorways widened or a ramp installed.
Everyday items to make life easier
A wide range of gadgets and devices are available that make everyday tasks easier for people with specific disabilities. Some examples are:
- clamps and holders to keep jars stable so they can be opened with one hand
- talking kitchen scales for people who are blind or visually impaired
- alarm clocks that vibrate under the pillow for deaf and hearing impaired people
- kettle tippers for people who have limited arm strength or restricted movement
- devices that remind people with memory loss or learning disabilities to do a daily task, for example taking a pill
Depending on how important your local trust feels these items are to your independence, you may have to pay for them yourself. You can use your direct payments for the larger items that make the biggest difference to your ability to live independently.
Different ways to do everyday things
Sometimes equipment may not be the best way to meet your needs. Instead of buying equipment, you may be able to change the way you do everyday things to make them easier. An occupational therapist may be able to suggest ways of doing things that you have not considered.
Telecare and personal alarm systems
Being able to summon help immediately in an emergency is often an important consideration for people with disabilities wanting to live independently at home. A personal alarm system could be the answer.
Personal alarm systems can take many forms. Some depend on someone to be nearby - for example in another room or next door.
Telecare alarms, known as community alarm services, are very useful for people who live alone. They work through a base unit in your home, which is connected to your phone line. By pressing a button on the unit or on a pendant that you wear around your neck, you are connected with an operator who can arrange the help you need.
Some telecare alarms have movement sensors that can detect if someone has fallen and cannot get up, or leaves a certain area. Those alarms will be activated automatically, so the person does not need to do anything to summon help.
Telecare devices that can detect smoke, water flooding, gas leaks, room temperature and more are also available. Many of these can be particularly useful for forgetful people.
Find out about community alarm services locally
Many local trusts provide community alarm services.
Having the right equipment at home can make a real difference to your quality of life, so it makes sense to get advice and try equipment out before you buy it.
The Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) provides factsheets about things to consider when choosing a wide range of daily living equipment, such as:
- bath lifts
- bath seats
- telecare alarms
- walk-in showers
- household gadgets
- communications aids
- DLF factsheets
Equipment in the workplace
If you are disabled, you may need special aids and equipment in your workplace to help you do your job. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, your employer has a duty to consider making 'reasonable adjustments' to allow you to do your job. This may include providing aids and equipment.
Your employer can get financial support from the 'Access to Work' programme to help pay for the costs of any equipment or adjustments you may need. You do not have to pay anything towards this.
Occupational therapists can give specific advice about individual items of disability equipment. They can also be helpful if you've recently become disabled and are unsure what equipment you may need.
You can find an occupational therapist through your local trust. They can visit you at home and help you decide what equipment is right for your lifestyle.
Trying out equipment before you buy
You should try out all equipment before you buy it. If you're considering buying an expensive item, ask to use the equipment for a trial period in your own home.
Help with buying equipment
Using direct payments to pay for equipment
If you're getting direct payments from your local trust to arrange and pay for your own care and services, you may use the money in any way you want as long, as it is to meet your assessed needs.
You may use direct payments to buy or hire disability equipment or to have equipment repaired and maintained.
If you plan to use direct payments to pay for equipment, find out whether you or your local trust will own the equipment and who will be responsible for maintaining it.
Always check with social services before you buy any large equipment, as local trusts have to make sure you're using your direct payments to meet your assessed needs at a cost that the council considers reasonable.
If you want to buy a piece of equipment that is more expensive than the one your local trust has agreed to pay for, you may be able to pay for it through a combination of direct payments and your own money. Talk to your local trust before you do this, as different councils may have different policies.
Disabled Facilities Grants
Some large equipment may be classed as adaptations which are the responsibility of the housing department of your local trust. You may be entitled to a Disabled Facilities Grant to help pay for these.
VAT relief on products and services
People with disabilities don't have to pay VAT when:
- they buy equipment that has been designed for people with disabilities
- they have equipment adapted so they can use it
There are strict conditions about what types of equipment qualify for VAT relief and who can buy equipment without paying VAT. Always ask the supplier whether the equipment qualifies for VAT relief before you buy it.
Hiring equipment instead of buying
You can often hire disability equipment, either instead of buying it or as a way of deciding whether the equipment is right for you before you buy it. Some disability organisations keep a stock of equipment that they will loan out to members on a short-term basis.