Joel Harden MPP / Député, Ottawa Centre

Government of Ontario

MPP Harden's Letter to Motion Assistive Devices on Behalf of David O'Brien

Published on October 8, 2021

June 17th, 2021

I am writing to express my concern over the situation faced by Laurie O’Brien and her family. Mrs. O’Brien has given me permission to share her story in the hopes that we might be able to draw attention to the concerning practices involved in the sale and maintenance of products sold by Motion.

Mrs. O’Brien’s son David suffered from a degenerative condition and as a result had mobility issues that required him to be in a wheelchair from the age of thirteen. Through Motion, David was provided with Permobile wheelchair. It was recommended that David have straps to secure his upper body in the chair, as he could not support himself due to his condition.

It took weeks for Motion to come get the chair to install the chest straps. In order for the chest straps to be used safely, David’s parents and the Personal Support Workers involved in his care had to meet with a representative from Motion as well as an Occupational Therapist so they could be taught how to use them properly. However, that appointment was cancelled twice by the Motion representative, in spite of the fact that David’s parents and all his PSW’s needed to arrange their schedules so that everyone responsible for David’s well-being could be in attendance. While waiting weeks for the appointment, David passed away due to asphyxiation. He was found by his father, collapsed forward in his chair facing a wall. Because of the emotional stress they had endured, the family chose not to have an autopsy conducted, so the exact cause of death was not determined.

David and his family waited four months to ultimately never receive a simple, but medically necessary adjustment to his wheelchair. 

There are no provided general timelines or service standards on Motion’s website, although the expectation from the Ministry of Health is that vendors of chairs work with customers within 72 hours of a reported breakdown. This was certainly not the case for the O’Brien family, nor for many other recipients of assistive devices through Motion.

The response to Mrs. O’Brien’s complaint about the quality of service that Motion provided did not adequately address her concerns, nor was there any explanation for the extreme delays in providing proper instruction for the use of the straps. In addition, the letter Mrs. O’Brien received did not take responsibility for the wait times experienced by her family and the impact they had, and therefore also did not stipulate how Motion would address the problem in the future.

I encourage Motion, as the sole vendor of electric wheelchairs funded by the Assistive Device Program, to review their maintenance standards and procedures, and to utilize accountability measures to ensure a consistent standard of care. Part of that accountability needs to include a proper complaint process for customers to get their concerns addressed in a timely and efficient manner. It is unacceptable that customers who rely upon Motion’s assistive devices for their wellbeing and dignity be kept waiting for weeks for basic services. While it is not possible to know whether the chest straps would have prevented David from dying on that day, it is certain that had Motion fulfilled its obligation to David and his family, he would not have been found face down in his chair. 


Joel Harden

MPP for Ottawa Centre