Edward Keeps Dancing Thanks To MobilityWorks Wheelchair Van

Edward doesn’t let his disability stop him from moving to the music. He stays active with help from his BraunAbility Dodge Grand Caravan wheelchair van, which he affectionately nicknamed ‘Shadowfax’.

For decades, Edward has had a deep passion for dancing. He is a member of West Virginia University Swing Dance and he often joins his local Morgantown square and contra dance group. Edward is able to travel and stay dancing thanks to his BraunAbility Dodge Grand Caravan wheelchair van. Certified Mobility Consultant Clint and the rest of the Pittsburgh team helped Edward regain his independence so he could get out and dance.

Edward Starts to Wheelchair Dance

“I was born in 1970 with spinal-sacral agenesis, which means that the base of my spine did not form while I was growing in the womb,” Edward said. “I have always needed some kind of mobility device. First it was crutches and then in the mid-80s I got into wheelchair sports so I began using a wheelchair daily.”

Edward didn’t let his disability stop him from staying active and taking up wheelchair dancing.

“The first time I got the courage to ask a lady to dance was at a Valentine’s Dance sponsored by the Wright State University chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ, in 1994,” Edward said. “The lady was my friend Becky and the song we danced to was “Unchain” by the Christian rock band White Heart. In 1997 I got my first taste of square dancing when I got together with a bunch of people from an e-mail prayer list I was on, at a list member’s home in Youngstown, Ohio. We had the square dance in the attic. The following year, I joined Catholic Alumni Club of Pittsburgh which had square dances twice a year. I started going to those, and basically figured out for myself how to adapt the moves to my wheelchair, while dancing with able-bodied partners.”

A decade ago, Edward found a square dance group in his area, the Morgantown Friends of Old Time Music and Dance. 2 years ago, he joined West Virginia University Swing Dance at their Valentine’s Dance. He had a great time and joined their weekly lessons.

“The instructors have been very helpful over the last two years, working with me to figure out ways to adapt swing dancing for my wheelchair,” Edward said.

As a longtime wheelchair dancer, Edward has some great advice for others looking to participate.

“The first word of encouragement I would give to any would-be wheelchair dance is: if you enjoy moving to the music and can keep time, you are already a dancer,” Edward said. “Beyond that I would check with local dance clubs to see if they have an instructor willing to teach you. The American DanceWheels Foundation based out of the Philadelphia area is an organization that can provide support and resources. I recently found out they offer lessons via Skype for those individuals who don’t have an ADF instructor nearby.”

Edward is very active in his local dancing community. To stay independent, he knew he needed a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

Edward Enjoys Mobility Independence

“I learned to drive with hand controls and got my first driver’s license shortly after my 17th birthday,” Edward said. “At first I drove my parents’ full size Dodge van with a wheelchair lift. In 1992, I bought my first car, a used Ford Tempo coupe, and had hand controls installed. My next three cars were also coupes. I had a pretty good procedure of disassembling my wheelchair and putting it in the back seat of my car. But as I got older, my mom noticed that it was getting more difficult for me to do that procedure. On Memorial Day weeks in 2013 and 2014, on trips to Memphis and Texas, I had the opportunity to rent wheelchair adapted minivans. I found these much easier to work with than a standard rental car. So I began to think seriously about purchasing an adapted minivan.”

Edward knew about MobilityWorks from previous research when he was looking for hand controls.

“When it came time for me to upgrade to an adapted van, MobilityWorks was the first place I visited to start the process.”

The vans Edward previously rented were Dodge Grand Caravans and he liked those. His uncle, who is now retired, worked for Chrysler his entire career.

“For those two reasons, I was pretty much dead set on getting a Grand Caravan,” Edward said.

Edward worked with Certified Mobility Consultant Clint at MobilityWorks’ Wall location. He chose a Dodge Grand Caravan with a foldout ramp.

“When Ed first visited to discuss buying a vehicle, he arrived in a 2007 Chevy Cobalt coupe equipped with hand controls,” Clint said. “For years since purchasing his car, he had been transferring from his manual chair which he was loading and unloading by hand. As he got older, he was having a little more difficulty managing the chair while maintaining his shoulder strength and integrity.”

Clint and Edward discussed finding alternative funding sources. Because Edward was employed, Clint said that he could look into financial assistance from the West Virginia Vocational Rehabilitation Office.

“When I made my first visit in January 2015, Clint at the Pittsburgh office urged me to seek third-party funding, which I did through West Virginia Rehabilitation Services,” Edward said. “Once I went through all the evaluations and approvals from WVRS, Clint and I emailed frequently to make sure the process kept moving. It was almost nine months from my first visit in January when I picked up the van on the first Friday in October. My minivan is white and I am a fan of The Lord of the Rings. I nicknamed my van ‘Shadowfax’ after Gandalf’s white horse!”

Clint helped Edward choose the right van to fit Edward’s needs.

“Edward purchased a used low-mileage 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan equipped with a new BraunAbility Entervan conversion,” Clint said. “We added customizations that personalized it for him. This wheelchair van fits Edward’s needs because he has adequate body strength and range of motion in his arms to self-propel his manual chair up the ramp to enter the van. He then completes a transfer inside the van using a powered transfer seat in the driver position. This seat comes to him so he doesn’t have to try to get to the seat. He uses the hand controls we installed and off he goes.”

Edward’s van has allowed him to keep dancing and even travel for his passion.

“I have traveled to two weekend swing dance workshops since I got the van,” Edward said. “I was in State College, Pennsylvania in October and went to Pittsburgh in January. I plan to travel to the DC Lindy Exchange in Washington, D.C. in April for a full weekend of swing dancing.”

If Edward ever needs additional mobility support, he knows MobilityWorks will be there.

“It is always a great feeling to help restore someone’s independence,” Clint said. “I enjoyed working with Edward and established a great relationship with him.”

Click here to watch Edward dance on his birthday last October.