Sales: 1-877-275-4907 Service: 1-877-275-4912Rentals: 1-877-275-4915

Grey’s Anatomy Conveys Public Service Announcement for the Amputee Coalition

Kudos to Grey’s Anatomy in providing a recent public service announcement for the Amputee Coalition and for bringing awareness to the rehabilitation process that amputee’s experience. The emotions, courage and eventual triumph that Doctor Arizona Robbins depicted in her recovery was an inspirational message to their more than 11 million regular viewers.

In this year’s story line of the award winning drama series, Doctor Robbins returns after having been in a plane crash with several other doctors. Robbins loses her leg in the crash and then struggles emotionally with her loss. After a season-long journey of recovery, including being fitted with a prosthesis and physical therapy staff, Robbins makes her way back to performing  surgery (now with a prosthetic leg). In writing and filming the series, the writers went to the Amputee Coalition for advice in making the script as realistic as possible. 

Grey's Anatomy star provides a public service announcement
Shown above is actress Jessica Capshaw (Doctor Arizona Robbins) providing a public service announcement on limb loss and the Amputee Coalition.

“This is the first time on national television that viewers will be shown the arduous journey following amputation,” said Kendra Calhoun, President & CEO of the Amputee Coalition.  According the coalition website, they worked with Grey’s Anatomy to provide insight into limb loss and the journey to recovery and readjustment. Now in its 9th season, the popular ABC drama has been nominated for 25 prime time Emmy awards.

Part of the Amputee Coalition’s mission is to promote limb loss prevention. To learn more about the organization and how you can help, visit //amputee-coalition.org and the Limb Loss Center for more information.

Worker’s Compensation Claims Requiring a Mobility Vehicle

This article was originally written  for the summer issue of the Georgia State Bar Workers Compensation Law newsletter by Michael Dresdner, MobilityWorks Director of Customer Care

When I first entered the field of accessible transportation in 1990 consumers as well as payers had few choices as to what was provided to a claimant. Additionally, there was little adherence to safety standards and mobility equipment dealers were literally praised for forging raw steel into useful transportation solutions and alternatives. Very few “manufactured devices” were available and if instructions were provided they contained phrases like “field modify as necessary”.

A great deal has changed in 22 years. There have been improvements in how products and solutions are provided. Most devices and conversions are now precision-manufactured by high quality companies. Much has been accomplished and changed for the better, but there is still work to do. In many cases the knowledge of these changes and how to leverage that knowledge to insure the best outcome for the claimant has not kept pace. Many rehabilitation professionals in the field of workers’ compensation infrequently work through the details of providing mobility vehicles or mobility equipment and therefore never become “experts”.

Unlike the way mobility equipment dealers operated in 1990, we are now typically a well run enterprise resembling an auto dealership, stocking vehicles as well as equipment that can be readied in days versus months. Clean, fully accessible facilities are now the norm. In today’s world vehicles as well as equipment and the installation of the equipment must meet multiple federal standards. Mobility equipment dealerships mandate that employees receive ongoing training and certification in their unique fields of expertise.  Vehicles now have advanced electrical systems that require significant skill to troubleshoot and repair. Where we were once praised by payers and consumers for the rudimentary devices we cobbled together, both now have serious expectations of mobility equipment dealers and mobility vehicles in general. In many cases all parties hold us accountable to the highest standards of quality, safety and functionality. Unfortunately, in some cases, expectations are not clearly outlined or properly communicated and less than ideal outcomes occur.

The process of providing a transportation alternative to a person with a disability has become a complex task. When you merge the complexity of our products and services with the “unique cocktail” that is the workers’ compensation system, sometimes the outcomes do not make sense. These mixed outcomes are what motivated me to write this article. The pressures from the workers’ compensation system often force the sourcing of product through odd channels, and the end result befuddles everyone involved! It is not uncommon for three or more different parties to request a quote from a mobility equipment dealer and the party that makes the purchase is often influenced by factors that do not prioritize the claimant and keenly focus on his or her needs. For example, a request for a quote could potentially come from an insurer, a re-insurer and a managed care provider and sometimes from a local case manager or possibly an outside “consultant” — or any combination of the five! This chaotic mix rarely yields the best outcome and it may not end up being cost effective. Controls are often sacrificed due to the multiple parties involved with their differing agendas.

Equipping a car or van for someone with a disability is unique to that individual’s disability, lifestyle, and personal mobility device (wheelchair or scooter). The vehicle modification can yield positive outcomes, but there can be outcomes that just do not work or worse can cause physical problems for the user. One scenario that repeats itself often with seasoned claimants (those seeking a replacement vehicle) as they age is that the claimants mistakenly believe that they have good transfer skills and that they are not at risk for shoulder issues. They are often reluctant to let go of transferring to an automotive seat versus driving from the wheelchair. Someone has to say, “no” and clearly explain the risks. Many times, I have found myself as the one who seriously raises this issue.

The best way to avoid problems is to follow a plan, not unlike the claimant’s plan for rehabilitation.

Driver Evaluation, Fitting and Training

Regardless of whether the claimant is a passenger or will be an independent driver, be certain that he/she is evaluated by a CDRS (Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist). The CDRS recognizes disabilities, has an awareness of the available adaptive equipment and knows the implications each has on driving or being transported. These professionals are certified by the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. If you are not familiar with those that serve your area, find a CDRS at www.aded.net. Here in the Atlanta area we have two programs that employ CDRS’s as well as Occupational Therapists: the Shepherd Center Assistive Technology Program and Freedom and Mobility, a private firm. Both programs often travel to see a client. Your investment in a driver or passenger evaluation will definitely pay off. Without an evaluation you will not have a specific set of specifications to use to request quotes. Once “apples and oranges” get mixed, the process can fail.

The need for evaluating a driver may seem obvious, but why evaluate a passenger? There are a number of problems that can arise when a disabled passenger is not evaluated. These can include safety issues, claimant fit, as well as weight issues. Designing a modification plan is varied and complex, even for a passenger.

In addition to the initial evaluation, the CDRS should meet with the claimant and the vendor at the time of the vehicle delivery to confirm the claimant’s ability to use the equipment, that the vehicle is delivered as promised and that all the equipment operates properly and safely. If the vehicle is to be driven independently, the CDRS would confirm the placement of all driving controls (fitting), work with the mobility equipment dealer to make final adjustments and then drive with the claimant. Additional training over an extended period of time could be required depending on the complexity of the equipment or the type and severity of the disability. It is recommended that a representative from the payer be present at the delivery of a

Pittsburgh Branch Tops 500 Mark for OT Professionals In Training

MobilityWorks performs in-service seminars and training fr new OT/PTs
OT students from Chatham University at our Pittsburgh store location.

Arming Future Occupational Therapists with Knowledge to Solve Mobility Needs

For more than 4 years, the Pittsburgh team has been providing training for graduate students in occupational therapy from local universities. The university of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University have been regular participants in the one day seminars designed to help the OT’s perform clinical diagnosis, and to help them determine what kind of driving equipment would be indicated to assure that the patient can drive safely. 

Today it was the students from Chatham University that were back at the branch office for hands on training and product demonstrations. GM Lance Alexander was joined by former driving evaluator turned Certified Mobility Consultant (CMC) Clint Rabold, as well as Dr. Peter Weagraff, in presenting to the group. Pittsburgh CDRS and former ADED President Amy Lane coordinates these events between the schools and MobilityWorks, and she is the one who develops the case studies and course content for the day. 

OT/PT trainig seminars on mobility wheelchair adaptive products
Learning about alternative driving solutions such as "The Conquest" motorcycle are part of the program.

With the 38 students in attendance on June 12th, the Pittsburgh branch has now topped the 500 mark for young OT professionals who received training at the Pittsburgh facility, before going out into clinics and patient homes to begin their very promising, and long careers.

“These therapists will be face to face with patients every day who need the products and services we offer,” said Alexander. “We certainly want to arm them with the knowledge that they need to know what is available and where it can be obtained in an effort to better solve client / patient needs.”

“It’s a win-win-win,” added Dr. Weagraff. “Hopefully with our potential clients winning the most, but also a win for the OT grad students and for MobilityWorks. And frankly, these events are just plain fun to do!”

Travlin’ in Style with an RV Wheelchair Lift Addition

wheelchair lifts can be added to RVs for accessible transportation
This is a Braun Century wheelchair lift added to an RV.

For those who love to travel cross country, nothing beats the all-purpose, fully-loaded recreational vehicle or just “RV” as it is commonly called. These vehicles offer the modern conveniences of home and transportation for the whole family all in one. For some wheelchair users and their families, dreams of vacationing cross-country in an RV are becoming a reality. Today, a few RV manufacturers and secondary market providers can supply rear door kits that allow for the addition of a lift. This is most often achieved with a “cut-out” in the passenger side rear bedroom area.

Wheelchair Lifts :  Capacities and Specifications

It’s important to talk to a mobility dealer to discuss what options are available for your type of wheelchair and the total weight before making any commitments for either the RV cut-out door or the lift. Some lifts may require 40” or more of door opening space to be installed. If a heavier, commercial-style lift is necessary, a specially ordered door kit for wider applications may need to be built by the RV manufacturer.   

wheelchair lifts add convenience and transportation for road trips
Interior view of RV wheelchair lift.

If you have an RV and want to know about wheelchair lifts and styles, drop us a note with some details and we’ll provide you with additional information – or find a nearby mobility dealer that can. Talk to your RV dealer as well about cut-out door availability and whether they can install them for you. Now is the time to start planning that special cross-country vacation you’ve always wanted to make happen.

Knowing Commonly Used Terms When Shopping for Wheelchair Vans Can Help You Navigate to the Right Accessible Option

The Honda Odyssey is one of many quality options when selecting a side-entry wheelchair van. This is a BraunAbility Entervan conversion.

Automated Fold-Out Ramp

Minivan conversions with fold-out ramps can be either automated or manually deployed. Most van conversions utilize some type of automated or “automatic” system with a push button or key-fob to operate an electric motor that is used to fold down and fold up the ramp.

Certified Mobility Consultants

Most quality providers will have consulting staff on hand in their stores to work with clients in helping to explain different mobility options and with selecting the right van or equipment. Certified Mobility Consultants (also known as CMCs) have gone through specific training with the various mobility equipment manufacturers in order to properly demonstrate the use of the products. CMCs also have general knowledge in disability issues and will explore the client’s physical capabilities in order to make the right vehicle conversion or mobility equipment recommendation.    

Conversion Manufacturers

Major auto manufacturers such as Chrysler/Dodge, Toyota, Ford and Honda build new van chassis from the ground up. These are often referred to as original equipment manufacturers or OEMs. A conversion manufacturer takes new OEM vehicles or pre-owned vans with low mileage and “converts” them for wheelchair accessibility for mobility dealers.  A conversion can include lowering the floor, adding a kneeling system and ramp, new removable front seating, securement L-track on the floor, and electrical system upgrades for safe and convenient operation of the vehicle. Lowering the floor in itself presents many engineering challenges that require considerable time in the conversion process.  Two of the most popular conversion manufacturers are BraunAbility and Vantage Mobility International (also known as VMI). Note: MobilityWorks is BraunAbility’s and VMI’s largest dealer in the United States.

Docking Systems

Wheelchair docking is an alternative system for securing the wheelchair to the floor of a van. Docking systems use an automated clamp like device mounted to the floor that locks on to a pin that is added to the frame of the wheelchair. Docking systems utilize an electronic push-button control console for quickly locking and releasing the wheelchair.  Many wheelchair drivers utilize a docking system, eliminating the need for tie-down straps that would be problematic to use in the driver position.

Hand Controls

Hand controls are commonly used by paraplegic and amputee drivers and can be installed on most any type of vehicle. Several different styles of hand controls are available to match the needs of the driver with the automobile, van, truck or SUV. Most hand controls are mechanical, which means they are connected to the accelerator and braking system with the use of connecting rods and various hand grip options. The most popular among the systems is a push-pull design. The drive pushes forward to accelerate and pulls down on the controls to brake.  A Certified Mobility Consultant can demonstrate the various options and connect the client with a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) for driver evaluation and on-road training. For public safety and liability reasons, certification is required before a mobility dealer can order and install hand controls on a vehicle.

In-Floor Ramp

Mobility vans that have a side-entry ramp can also be equipped with an in-floor ramp system. What this means is that the ramp is located under the floor of the vehicle (when not in use) and slides out when deployed. The advantage of an in-floor system is that the ramp is completely out of the way, unlike a fold-out ramp that is an obstruction in the door opening in the up position. In-floor ramps can be a little more expensive in that they require more work to install, but can be a very practical option for those who want to utilize the passenger side sliding door without the wheelchair ramp being deployed. 

Kneeling System

Ramp angle is a critical part of the making a van accessible. The lower the angle the easier is to enter the vehicle, particularly for those in manual chairs who wheel themselves in without an attendant. Kneeling systems are designed to raise the opposite side of the van, with an automated actuator, which lowers the passenger side, reducing the height of the floor and ramp. Kneeling systems are completely hidden and out of view from passengers and are controlled with the same push-button operation as the the ramp. In most cases, the van’s electrical system has been designed to open the sliding door, kneel the van and deploy the ramp in sequential order in one easy step.

L-Track

In order to secure the wheelchair to the floor of the van with a tie-down system, a strip of metal “L-Track” is attached to the floor. L-Track has small half-inch circular openings along the entire length that allow for a tie-down strap to be positioned in the correct angle and position for the person in the chair. L-Track can be installed in horizontal or vertical configurations depending on the type of van and desired wheelchair position.

Lowered Floor

Since headroom above the wheelchair passenger can be tight and a lower ramp angle is desired, most wheelchair vans are modified with a lowered floor. This accomplishes both goals of providing more room and a reduced angle necessary for entering and exiting the vehicle. Height at the door opening can also be a critical dimension for a larger person sitting upright in a chair or for a caregiver assisting with loading and securement. Lowered floor vans are structurally modified and require significant re-engineering of many vehicle components such as the muffler system, gas tank, and brake lines. Because of these modifications, conversion manufacturers have to crash test their vehicles to meet federal safety standards. It’s important that people try a vehicle’s lowered floor, kneeling and ramp system before buying.

New-New and New-Used Vans

A New-New conversion would be a brand new wheelchair accessible conversion on a brand new vehicle (less than a few hundred miles), while a New-Used would be new adaptive equipment conversion being applied to a pre-owned vehicle. Typically this would only take place on a van with lower mileage (less than 20,000) and being only a few years old.