Uploaded:  2/10/2008

Author:  SA
Exchanging Special Needs Equipment and Supplies

The unfortunate truth is that most medical supplies and pieces of special needs equipment are exorbitantly expensive.  The reasons for the high costs are multiple, and include higher production costs since the items are not mass marketed, lack of competition, and an expectation that insurance companies will pick up costs.  For those of us who are already plagued with high medical bills from doctors and hospitals, the last thing we need is to pay out huge sums for equipment and supplies.

What do you do when insurance will not cover a desperately needed item?  One solution is to exchange used or extra equipment and supplies with other families. Some families simply donate their items to other families, while others choose to sell used items at a lower cost. 

I have compiled a list of organizations and other resources to try to help you find or exchange used equipment and excess supplies.   So pull out your wishlist, clean out your basement and get started! 

Local hospitals, clinics, therapy centers, schools, and disability organizations.  Many local groups receive used equipment and donated supplies from patrons.  At times, they also need to get rid of older equipment used within a facility.  While the selection and quality varies widely, it is worth a few phone calls to see what is available.  Hospital clinics are often great sources for smaller items like specialty formulas and disposable supplies.

National Disability Organizations.  Several national organizations are known for keeping "lending closets," distributing free donated equipment, or hosting equipment exchanges.  All accept donations of equipment or supplies.  Some of these organizations include:
  • Easter SealsMany local branches maintain lending closets.  Search for your local branch on the website and call to find out if this service is available in your area.
  • MDA:  This group accepts donations and passes them on to other families in need.  Search for your local branch and call to see what is available in your region.
  • UCP Infinitec Durable Medical Equipment Exchange:  Infinitec lists a wide variety of items, mostly large pieces like wheelchairs and standers, that are typically available for free.  Several states participate in the program, and items can be mailed nationwide through a special program with FedEx.
  • Shriners Hospitals:  Shriners receives a lot of donated equipment that is then passed on to other children.  Contact your local hospital.  In many cases they keep waiting lists for each type of item (stander, gait trainer, etc.).
Special Child Equipment Exchange.  This organization consists primarily of a very active email list.  Individuals post to find or offer items, ranging from medical supplies to standers and wheelchairs.  While some items are free for the cost of shipping, others are for sale.  See the website or sign up for the email list directly.  Please note that any item paid for by insurance or Medicaid cannot be resold.  It must be donated or given away.

Other Internet Exchanges.  There are a wide variety of other internet exchanges available.  Some are part of foundations or support sites.  I have listed just a few of these.
  • Oley Foundation Equipment Exchange:  Items are primarily enteral or parenteral feeding supplies.  All items are free for the cost of shipping.  They also accept listings for supplies that you wish to donate.
  • Parent-2-Parent Marketplace:  An informal exchange of all types of supplies and equipment.  Most items are offered for the cost of shipping.
  • ATMatch:  An internet site that allows you to buy and sell equipment.  It does not appear to have many listings at this time.
  • An Angel's Attic:  A consignment store for used equipment.
State Assistive Technology Programs.  By law, each state must have an assistive technology program, most of which include equipment loans and exchange programs.  You can find a list of these programs at RESNA.

The Pass It On Center keeps a focused list of many of the better programs, as well as an exhaustive list with multiple search options for finding local organizations with equipment programs.

Non-profits and Charitable Organizations.  Many organizations accept donations of used equipment, particularly wheelchairs and other mobility items.  Some of these groups also allow you to apply to receive items.  I have listed an assortment of these below.
Ebay.  Ebay is a great source for inexpensive used equipment and supplies.  The category of Medical, Special Needs contains most durable medical equipment items.
You can also search for equipment by type or brand (such as Zevex, SnugSeat, etc.).

Local Exchange Boards.  While not for special needs in particular, many local exchange boards include listings for used equipment or supplies.  You may also list your items, usually for free.  Two of the major national groups are: