DRM wheelchairs take us nowhere

Cory Doctorow writes about the appalling reality of DRM wheelchairs. When these devices fail they trap people in their homes and beds, and manufacturers use copyright law to prevent them being repaired by anyone except themselves.

So why is it so hard to fix wheelchairs? Writing for Kaiser Health News, Markian Hawryluk explains that the powered wheelchair industry is dominated by just two private equity-owned companies: Numotion and National Seating and Mobility, both of whom made deep cuts to their service budgets as part of their private equity owners' plans to realize a profit on their investments.

… in the meantime, the DRM in wheelchairs prevents wheelchair users and independent technicians from diagnosing routine problems with the chairs' electronics. It also stops wheelchair users from making routine adjustments to their wheelchairs, as when "a wheelchair user with a balky wheel or failing motor may need to adjust the power wheelchair's speed damping setting, which is accomplished using the administrative software" or when "a wheelchair user who installs a different tire on their chair for navigating inclement weather may want to access administrative software features to adjust the chair's grip parameters."