Disabled Australians made to pay more for essential technology

The June 11 Sydney Morning Herald reported that people with disabilities in Australia are paying up to five times more for essential equipment than their overseas counterparts.

The article said wheelchairs, walking aids and other vital products are available overseas often for thousands of dollars less than in Australia. But, as a result of pressure from Australian companies, overseas websites are prevented from shipping their products to Australia.

The article said advocacy groups are concerned “say millions of dollars in government funding are being wasted on overpriced equipment while disabled Australians wait a year or more for equipment because of funding shortage”.

Women with Disabilities Victoria executive director Keran Howe said: “If we were paying less for our equipment then we could afford more of it and the government subsidies [for the purchase of such equipment] would be able to reach more people.”

The article gave the example of a height chair available in the US for $160 compared with $1200 in Australia, and a walking aid that cost $1700 in the US but $3000 in Australia.

Dejay Medical and Scientific sells overseas brands. The SMH said Tony Mason from Dejay admitted to trying to prevent international competition. “I would like to see it [overseas shipping to Australia] stopped and sometimes we've been able to do that,” he said.

Frustrated families, people with disabilities and advocacy groups — such as Youth Disability Advocacy Service — are calling for an inquiry into why Australian companies are able to charge so much more for equipment, and whether stopping overseas shipping breaches competition laws.