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State Senate passes legislation to aid those living with disabilities

On Thursday, Nov. 3, the state Senate passed “An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities” and “An Act relative to supported decision-making for agreements for certain adults with disabilities.” From left to right: former state Sen. Barbara L’Italien, Rick Glassman, Chris Hoeh and state Sen. John Cronin.
On Thursday, Nov. 3, the state Senate passed “An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities” and “An Act relative to supported decision-making for agreements for certain adults with disabilities.” From left to right: former state Sen. Barbara L’Italien, Rick Glassman, Chris Hoeh and state Sen. John Cronin.
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BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate recently passed two bills that could help people with disabilities live with greater independence in the state, according to a recent press release.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, the state Senate passed “An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities” and “An Act relative to supported decision-making for agreements for certain adults with disabilities.” The legislation could provide greater consumer protections for wheelchair users and promote “supported decision making” as an alternative to guardianship for certain people with disabilities, respectively.

State Sen. John Cronin, D-Lunenberg, called the new protections “critical” and praised the state Senate for its passage of the legislation.

“I am so grateful to (Massachusetts) Senate President (Karen) Spilka for her commitment to expand consumer protections to support the independence and dignity of our disability community,” Cronin said in the press release. “This bill’s passage is an important step forward to protect wheelchair users and their families.”

Wheelchair repair can pose a substantial problem to users in Massachusetts, as existing state law does not require any sort of timeline for assessing repairs, nor does it require dealers to offer wheelchairs on loan within a fixed time period.

Under the new legislation, wheelchair manufacturers, lessors and dealers would be required to provide consumers with written notification of the warranty for their wheelchairs, increase the minimum duration for an express warranty on wheelchairs to two years and, were an in-warranty wheelchair to stop functioning, to assess the wheelchair within three days, provide a temporary wheelchair on loan within four days and cover any collateral costs to the user.

To enforce the new requirements, the bill would authorize the state attorney general and consumers to commence legal actions against any violation of provisions protecting wheelchair users from unfair and deceptive business practices in regard to warranty fulfillment.

Supported decision making would allow those with disabilities to appoint one or more trusted supporters to assist in making decisions about their lives, according to the legislation.