VCI Mobility is pleased to announce that they have been acquired by MobilityWorks of Akron, OH. Over the years, MobilityWorks has built the most recognizable brand name in the mobility industry. They are the largest dealer in the country of BraunAbility and VMI conversions.
With the addition of VCI’s four locations, MobilityWorks will now have a total of 30 mobility product showrooms servicing the needs of the disabled community throughout the United States. “By combining with MobilityWorks, VCI will be able to accomplish much more for its clients,” says Bill Blaser.
VCI and MobilityWorks have very similar company cultures and operations. “It was very important to me that MobilityWorks had the same kind of caring culture that we have at VCI. The people always come first,” says Jack Donovan. Jack will continue to manage the four VCI consumer locations with MobilityWorks.
Bill Koeblitz, President/CEO of Mobility Works says, “We’ve been very fortunate to be able to help a lot of people and businesses needing our solutions—and then they’re willing to tell others about their experience. That’s why we’ve been successful and able to grow.”
Please look for more information regarding these exciting changes in the coming weeks.
Vehicle Developments Will Mean More Choices for Disabled Drivers in the Future
With only a handful of viable minivan options to choose from for wheelchair accessibility, and a growing trend in the automotive sector for people wanting to drive SUVs and Cross-Overs, one of the large converters was bound to come along with an SUV option. The Ford Explorer concept vehicle recently announced by BraunAbility and West Coast Customs, with financial aid from Schmidt Motorsports, may be just the start of a growing trend in vehicles being available for people who want something other than a van. Despite significant design upgrades to the minivan in the last decade, for some people the “soccer mom” stigma still exists.
“We wanted to radically change how people think about mobility vehicles. This fantastic mobility concept SUV is mission accomplished,” said Sam Schmidt, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Mobility vehicles require a lot of engineering and testing before they can become available to the public. Economically, the chassis make and model needs to have a solid history of being a reliable, attractive and affordable option for a converter to make the kind of investment necessary to make that happen. For BraunAbility, the Ford Explorer answers the call on all three points. But that’s just the start. The concept vehicle was more than a year in the making, with much more work to do to make it “assembly-line” ready. For now, there has been no announcement on when the Explorer will actually go into production. But it will happen and someday soon.
We are in for an exciting time as more chassis become available. Perhaps it will be the Range Rover or Chevy Tahoe – or something totally unexpected like the Nissan Pathfinder. In either case, it’s a positive sign that the industry is evolving, adding more choices for wheelchair drivers and passengers. As the largest dealer in the United States of BraunAbility wheelchair vans, MobilityWorks is very excited about what the future may hold for our clients. Congratulations to our business partner BraunAbility and to Sam Schmidt for their dedication to our industry and the people we serve.
When it comes to describing wheelchair restraint systems to the average able bodied person, words like wheelchair seat belts, tie downs, securement systems and restraints can easily get intermixed with each other. Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics, but there are subtle differences that can easily be explained. If you’re going to be transporting someone in a wheelchair or looking to purchase a wheelchair van for the first time, it’s a good idea to learn about restraint systems and how they are used to keep everyone safe.
Tiedowns (or Tie Downs)
Whether you use tiedowns as one word or two, wheelchair “tie downs” are the straps and hooks that connect wheelchairs to the floor of a vehicle. Some people also refer to these as wheelchair restraints. These are most often used as a 4-point tie down system. They are connected to strips of aluminum bolted to the floor of wheelchair vans known as “L-Track”. The L-Track has a grooved channel and machined holes about every two inches so that the tiedowns can quickly be attached to the floor in its desired position. As an alternative, some people use “floor anchors” with only one or a few holes for attaching each of the straps. Specially designed locking pins at the end of the straps are then moved from one hole to another to help with anchoring the wheelchair snuggly. For safety reasons, two tie downs in the front and two in the back are required. Metal “J- hooks” on the other end of the straps are used to attach the straps (or belts) to the wheelchair frame. The straps are then adjustable for a taught fit, keeping the wheelchair in place during the ride.
Retractable or Manually Adjusted Tie Downs Make a Big Difference
MobilityWorks recommends getting retractable tie downs in nearly all cases. They are much more user-friendly to work with and take much less time to secure the person in the chair. Unlike a manual strap, the mechanism inside of each retractor is self-tightening. While they do cost more, retractable tie downs are worth the investment and most people wish they had gotten them a lot earlier. The person in the chair can also be much more independent with retractables, as they are don’t require much effort to get the straps nice and tight – or to release them when reaching your destination.
Wheelchair Seatbelts (or Securement)
Not unlike automobile seatbelt systems, wheelchair seatbelts have a strap that goes across the chest area and one that goes across the waist. These are also referred to as occupant securement. The difference is that in many cases, the lap belt and shoulder belt are combined together with a single or dual-retractable device and L-Track connectors. This type of setup is designed specifically for wheelchair riders, who typically need longer straps if tied down in the middle of the vehicle. You should only purchase seatbelts from reputable manufacturers that meet federal safety guidelines and perform regular crash testing of their products.
Wheelchair Docking Systems
For people who don’t want to hassle of dealing with a 4-point tie down system, a docking device may be the answer. Docking systems are used by many people in wheelchairs who drive their own vehicle from their chair. Wheelchair passengers can also use a docking system. The system is basically a rectangular metal device that is mounted to the floor. It has a spring-loaded electronic hook that grabs on to a metal bolt (or pin) that is mounted to the bottom of the wheelchair. When the bolt is rolled into the docking device, the hook automatically closes around it, keeping the wheelchair in place. Wheelchair seatbelts are then used along with the docking system for additional securement. Docking systems generally include a push button electronic control module mounted on or near the dashboard notifying the driver and passengers when the wheelchair is locked down properly. The control module or quick release button on the docking device is then used to unlock the docking mechanism when reaching your destination.
Putting It All Together
With all of these securement options to choose from, the most important thing to remember is safety. Double check all of your connecting points and don’t be in a hurry. Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Whatever your method of wheelchair travel, an accessible minivan or full-sized handicap van with a lift, proper wheelchair securement is an absolute necessity – not only for the person in the wheelchair, but also for the safety of everyone else in the vehicle.
MobilityWorks of Marietta, Georgia was a proud sponsor of Walk MS held in downtown Marietta on Saturday April 20th. In addition to sponsoring one of the break points along the walk, MobilityWorks provided two wheelchair accessible vans to assist participants who needed help finishing the route. Scott Creel, a Certified Mobility Consultant in Marietta with 18 years of experience in the mobility industry, drove a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country with a conversion made by BraunAbility.
With over 1,200 walkers participating in the walk, Scott made multiple trips and made many new friends along the route.
MobilityWorks provides wheelchair accessible vehicles and modifications that help people who have physical challenges caused by multiple sclerosis and other conditions. To read about all the products offered by MobilityWorks, vist www.mobilityworks.com.
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.
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.