Where should I start?

If you think you could benefit from some specialised equipment or other help at home, start by requesting a free care needs assessment from the social services department of your local council. For more information on this, see Getting a care needs assessment.

A trained professional, usually in the occupational therapy team, may be involved in your assessment to help decide what equipment might help you. They will look at what tasks and activities you can still do, assess what you’re having difficulties with and consider what support you may qualify for. They may suggest solutions such as aids, adaptations or care and support.

Even if you’re planning to buy equipment privately, an assessment is a good way to find out about the different types of equipment available and get expert advice on whether they could help you.

It’s a good idea to prepare by jotting down anything you struggle with or feel unsafe doing over a few weeks, so you remember to mention them during your assessment.

Types of equipment

There are many different types of equipment on offer, ranging from small gadgets to large items like wheelchairs. Here are a few examples:

  • mobility scooters – these can help you get around independently if you have mobility problems
  • electric wheelchairs – these can help you if you find it hard to push yourself in a manual wheelchair or need to travel long distances
  • stairlifts – these can move you up and down a track on your stairs, usually in a sitting position
  • riser recliner chairs – these can help you stand up and sit down, as well as help you feel more comfortable when you’re sitting
  • small aids for daily living – these are small gadgets that can make a big difference, such as tap turners than can help you in the kitchen, or a shoe horn and stocking aid to help you put on shoes and socks. Living made easy has lots of information on this.

Our factsheet Choosing disability equipment has more information on types of equipment that can help with mobility and sensory problems. The Disabled Living Foundation has factsheets on how to choose equipment for different purposes – for example, to help with dementia or cognitive impairments.

It’s always a good idea to try out equipment before you buy. Living made easy has a list of equipment demonstration centres as well as product reviews. If you can't access a local Equipment Demonstration Centre, some providers offer home visits.

If you have a sensory impairment, our pages Getting equipment for sight loss and Help with hearing loss have more information on equipment that could help. Our webpage Getting around more easily has advice on getting out and about if you have a mobility problem.

Paying for equipment

Disability equipment can be expensive, but you might be able to get some help with the cost from your local council. If you're assessed as needing any equipment or home adaptations that cost less than £1,000 each, your local council must provide them free of charge. If what you require costs more than £1,000 each, you may be able to get help from your council to pay for this. For more information, see our factsheet Adapting your home to stay independent.

Don’t be rushed into buying something you may not need. Some things to consider include:

  • Is the equipment easy to set up and use?
  • How often will you use it?
  • Will it still be useful if your condition gets worse?
  • Would a multifunction device be better than separate devices?
  • What after-sales support is included?

If you can’t find anything for your particular needs, some charities may be able to offer tailor-made solutions, for example Remap, Designability or Demand.

The council may have preferred suppliers but you can ask for direct payments to buy the equipment yourself, if you prefer. When the council pays for a piece of equipment, they should clarify with you who owns it and who is responsible for maintenance and repairs.

If you’re paying for your own equipment, you don’t have to pay VAT on some assistive technology and disability equipment. Installation, repairs and accessories are also VAT-free. For more information, go to Gov.uk.

You could ask about paying in instalments, but check the terms as this could be more expensive in the long run. You could also consider buying second-hand equipment – you may be able to get discounts on old demonstration equipment.

Some charities offer grants for disability equipment if you’re on a low income.

Next steps

Read our factsheet Choosing disability equipment for more information about the types of equipment you can get and the help you can receive to pay for them.

Our factsheet Help with getting around has advice on the support available that can make getting around easier.

The Disabled Living Foundation has factsheets on how to choose specific types of equipment.

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