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Commercial Van Division Announces New Liberty Minivan for Taxi Market

MobilityWorks new Liberty Division wheelchair commercial minivans

Most people reading our blog or following us on Facebook know MobilityWorks for its consumer wheelchair van showrooms, service and rental centers. In the business world, however, we also lead the industry with commercial-use accessible vans used by our business clients throughout the country. Today, MobilityWorks announced the acquisition of Liberty USA of Michigan, a prominent reseller of rear-entry minivans to commercial fleet owners. We will also be selling a new minivan conversion under the Liberty brand name.

This opportunity to expand our offerings came about as demand for accessible vans in the taxi market has steadily increased over the last two years. New state and city government regulations have been pressing taxi fleet owners in certain areas to have a minimum percentage of their vehicles to be wheelchair accessible. This has been a long time coming for people who live in larger metro areas, such as New York City, and rely heavily on taxis for transportation. With the cost of fuel taking a larger bite out of their profits, these taxi companies are exploring van alternatives that can provide better gas mileage and lower maintenance costs. This announcement will also affect our consumer stores, as some of the Liberty minivans will also be made available for personal-use sales.

wheel chair mini-vans for disabled
This new Liberty rear-entry wheelchair accessible minivan is a 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan.

MobilityWorks isn’t new to converting minivans for rear-entry accessibility. In fact, MobilityWorks has been building Dodge, Chrysler and Toyota wheelchair minivans for three years, in addition to its well-known Ford Transit Connect conversion. The difference with Liberty is in the engineering details of the design and the experience they bring to our commercial division.

“Liberty is a well-respected name in the commercial fleet business” said Taylor Clark, President of MobilityWorks Commercial.  “They give us the expertise we need to best serve and grow the minivan taxi market.”

With a new focus on minivans, and new innovative products like the Flex-Flat Ramp for rear-entry vans, MobilityWorks Commercial will provide the Taxi, Senior Care and Hospitality industries with a lower cost, lower maintenance vehicle needed to efficiently transport people in wheelchairs.

For more information on MobilityWorks’ new Liberty minivans, visit our Commercial Vans website.

Balancing a Passion for Golf with Life’s Journey

Manuel de los Santos golfing
“When I’m here on the golf course, I don’t think I have a problem… I forget everything.” — Manuel De Los Santos

My first experience with seeing a disabled golfer was memorable. I was around 16 years old when my father and uncle took me out to play at Shawnee Hills golf course in Bedford Ohio. While we were warming up at the tee, an elderly gentlemen approached with his pull-cart. “Mind if I play with you guys”, he said. As he got closer, I realized that he only had one arm. I remember thinking to myself, “how’s he going to do this”? My apprehension about his playing ability soon faded. His drives were down the middle, nearly 200 yards or more every time. I don’t remember the score, but let’s just say he beat all three of us.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 40’s that I would play another round of golf with someone who was physically challenged. I was working at MobilityWorks for only a few months when I was asked if I wanted to participate in a fund-raising golf event for Hattie Larlham, a local non-profit organization that provides care to children and adults with severe developmental disabilities. My playing partner was to be Don Johnston, a mobility consultant working for MobilityWorks at the time, who is in a wheelchair. I thought to myself, “how is this going to work”? Don was truly inspiring as he would hit the ball from his chair while using a self-modified driver. While not extremely long off the tee, he could hit a ball more than 150 yards on a consistent basis and almost always straight. After each hit, I would drive the golf cart up next to Don and he would transfer over into the seat. He would then pick up his wheelchair and hold it up on the side of the cart until we reached our balls down the fairway. He would roll up onto the green and make his putt, getting in and out of the cart several times for each hole (for all 18 holes). Cleveland Indians legend Lenny Barker was on the tee at the par 3, 10th hole when Don made it on the green with his drive. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Not because he was able to play the game pretty well, but because of his attitude and determination. And to challenge his own abilities. We played again not long after at Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Institute Challenge Golf course in Akron Ohio. This was his “home course” and he was determined to show me up. Needless to say, I lost the 9-hole round. The guy in the wheelchair beat the AB (able-bodied person). It was very humbling.   

I recalled these experiences with playing golf because they were so inspirational. I don’t remember the name of the elderly man with one arm, but I wish I did. Don eventually followed his passion and finished his teaching degree (another inspiring story for another day). He recently taught as a substitute teacher at my daughter’s high school and is hoping for a full-time position.

What brought about these fond memories, however, was a recent You Tube video sent to me by MobilityWorks President/CEO Bill Koeblitz. Bill wrote in his e-mail “this is really amazing”. And it is. The video is about a one-legged golfer named Manuel De los Santos. At the age of 18, Manuel was on top of the world. He was a talented young baseball player from the Dominican Republic and close to signing with the Toronto Blue Jays. Becoming a professional baseball player was all he could think about. It was every Dominican teenager’s dream. That was before a motorcycle accident that took most of his left leg. In an instant, his life changed.

What makes his story different isn’t that he continued to play sports with a prosthetic, as many of our amputee customers do. What makes De los Santos so unusual is his ability to swing a golf club without any prosthetic – balancing on one leg – and playing almost as good as a professional. After years of determined practice and thousands of swings, he now shoots in the 70s on some of the most challenging golf courses in the world. For those who follow professional golf, playing to a 3 handicap means that you are very, very good (with or without two legs).

one legged pro golfer
Manuel De Los Santos recently shot a 76 at Royal St. Andrews

According to Manuel, he decided to take up golf after watching the The Legend of Bagger Vance, a Robert Redford directed film starring Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theron. The movie was more about the philosophical journey between two men (the pro golfer and his caddy) than the actual game of golf. When Manuel realized that he could balance and swing on one leg in his first attempt at a driving range, golf soon became his passion. Why he doesn’t play with the use of a prosthetic isn’t clear. Everyone deals with their own physical disability in his or her own way. Much like Bagger Vance, Manuel uses golf as a spiritual journey.

This You Tube video of him playing is amazing. His determination to get better is relentless. Now 26 years old, don’t be surprised if you see Manuel De Los Santos on television someday, playing alongside his golf idol Tiger Woods. This New Year’s Day, I’m going to make a resolution to challenge myself, like these three men have done. To do something special that I didn’t think I could do. I just don’t know what that is, just yet.

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MobilityWorks Announces New Bruno Chariot™ Lift on Wheels to Haul Electric Scooters with Smaller Vehicles

Finally! A solution from the mobility equipment industry for people who own smaller and mid-size cars that need to haul an electric scooter or power wheelchair.

The Bruno Chariot scooter and wheelchair lift is for smaller cars

Most scooter and power chair lifts (for external vehicle transport) require a minivan, SUV, or larger sedan capable of carrying a heavier load. That’s all changed with the introduction of the Bruno Chariot, being marketed as a ‘lift on wheels’, now available at MobilityWorks locations throughout the country.

“This new product fills a niche in this industry that’s been a long time coming” said Doug Curtis, National Sales Representative for MobilityWorks.

“Some folks really need the gas mileage a smaller vehicle provides. Until now, they had to sell their car and get something bigger.”

Bruno Independent Living Aids is a primary supplier to MobilityWorks
Now you can haul a scooter with a smaller size car such as this one shown above.

The patent pending Chariot has a swivel-wheel design that allows for a smaller compact or mid-size auto to pull it with a simple Class I or Class II hitch. What this means is that you don’t have to have one of those bulky, protruding ball-mount hitches seen on pickup trucks. It also has an independent suspension and can fold up when not in use. When folded, a smaller car and hitch combined will fit inside many standard home garages.

Scooters and power chairs can be driven on and off the platform from both sides and comes with a retractable tie-down securement system. The 350 lb capacity lift is powered by the car battery and is easily operated with the push of a button. A manual backup system is also part of the design should the battery fail in an emergency. Brake lights and turn signals that connect to the vehicle wiring system are also included in the package.

If you’d like to learn more about the Bruno Chariot, send an e-mail to ask@mobilityworks.com. A new web page and flyer will be available on the MobilityWorks website soon.

In-Service Training for Wheelchair Transport and Paramedic Ambulance Company

wheelchair transportation training session
Regional Service Manager Trevorr Jurgensen speaks to the Life Care drivers.

MobilityWorks was honored to participate this past weekend at an in-service training session with Life Care Ambulance Inc. in Elyria, Ohio.

Led by Regional Service Manager Trevorr Jurgensen, our Akron service staff spent this past Sunday at the Life Care training facility with their entire driver staff. This type of training event provides for driver education on wheelchair safety-related products and to make recommendations on correct usage of all their adaptive equipment. Also on the agenda was to discuss day-to-day checks and maintenance, strap operation and overall safety issues. It was received very well by the Life Care staff and the question and answer session was great dialog.

wheelchair lift inspection and service
Akron service staff perform safety inspections on vehicle wheelchair lifts and tie-down straps.

During this time, the team also performed vehicle, strap and lift inspections on 23 of their ambulette units. They performed simple maintenance, adjustments and lubrications to some slightly heavier repairs and were able to identify additional service and repair needs.

Our hats are off to the Akron service team and the drivers at Life Care to take the time on a Sunday to attend this in-service session. It is through this type of work that we develop a stronger working relationship with our Commercial clients who serve the disabled community and their local hospitals.

Our thanks to MobilityWorks’ Trevorr Jurgensen, Todd Slates, Joe Postlehwait, Tim Neal, Phil Pitcock and Rommie Carpenter  – who gave up their Sunday to assist with this educational event. 

About Life Care Ambulance, Inc.

ambulette vans are for non-emergency wheelchair transport
Vehicles in the Life Care fleet being lined up for inspection.

Life Care has trained paramedics on staff and many different types of vehicles needed to respond to emergency incidents, as well as provide for non-emergency transportation in the Cleveland/Lorain metro area. Their fleet includes 22 ambulances and 25 wheelchair vans (provided by MobilityWorks Commercial Division), in addition to other specialty vehicles. They are the primary 911 provider for an area that covers 100 sq. miles, including four cities and two townships. They also provide for paramedic services at high school sporting events and bike patrols for special events.

MobilityWorks to Host Mobility Expo and Vendor Fairs in Pittsburgh and Chicago

Mobility Expo
Last year's Mobility Expo in Pittsburgh, PA.

The MobilityWorks team is busy with preparations for hosting two Mobility Expos and Vendor Fairs this coming October.

Our three Chicago IL area stores are teaming up with industry suppliers and local advocacy groups to host their 1st Annual Mobility Expo at the MobilityWorks Villa Park location on October 6th from 11AM to 7PM.

The MobilityWorks of Pittsburgh team in Wall, PA (near Monroeville) is hosting their 5th Annual Mobility Expo event on Thursday, October 13th, also being held from 11-7PM.

The Pittsburgh location hosts the largest gathering of mobility vendors and disability-related organizations in Western Pennsylvania. This year’s expo will have a “Doo Wop of the 50s” theme, with invited guests encouraged to wear 50’s era costumes. Pittsburgh area musicians Chuck Blasko and The Vogues will play live doo wop music throughout the day. The event is well-known for its great food, fun, prizes, informative guests and the opportunity to socialize with old friends. Said Lance Alexander, General Manager at MobilityWorks, “The most fulfilling thing for me is hearing clients and friends talk about coming back again next year. They don’t want to miss it.”

Mobility Expos are a fun way to meet with other people in wheelchairs
Guests can learn about any type of mobility product or discuss disability issues with knowledgeable consultants.

More than 350 people are expected to attend in Pittsburgh along with 24 vendors and groups. Representatives will be on hand to answer questions about handicap vans, mobility issues, adaptive equipment, handicap driver education programs and home modifications.

The Chicago Mobility Expo will feature a full day’s lineup of speakers covering many different topics of interest:

Spinal Cord Injury of Illinois – Mercedes Raven – Tips for making life easier for caregivers and persons with disabilities

Rehab institute of Chicago- Life Center – Kristine Cichowski – Expanding your social network: strategies for developing an active lifestyle

Life’s Plan Inc, Pooled Trust – Scott Nixon – Special Needs Financial Planning

Jewish Child and Family Services  – Brenda Nemeth – Planning for the future for a family member with a disability

Cure MS Foundation – Kim Albin – Providing direct assistance for those with MS 

Law Elder Law – Rick Niksic – The elder Journey: who pays for what as you grow older and need assistance?

Laurus Foundation – Jim Dolan – Living with Traumatic Brain Injury

Marianjoy Rehabilitation Center: Driving Instruction – Anne Hegberg – Driving Evaluation

Barking Angels – Jack Giambrone – A look into service dogs

Paralyzed Veteran of America – Winston Woodard – VA Benefits, What you may be entitled to.

Pittsburgh Expo vendors/exhibitors include:

Aardvark Adaptive Modifications

Adaptive Driving Program/Center for Assistive Technology

B&D Independence

Blackburn’s

Brant’s Driving School

BraunAbility – co-sponsoring the appearance of The Vogues

Bruno independent Living Aid

Carnegie Library

Costa Law Offices

Freedom Mobility

Go Shichi

Home Evolutions

Keystone PVA

MobilityWorks – Host, organizer and co-sponsoring the appearance of The Vogues

Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Dept. of Labor

PATF

Rezk Medical

Three Rivers Center for Independent Living (TRCIL)

UCP/CLASS

UCP/CLASS

Variety the Children’s Charity

Viewpoint Vision

VMI Vantage Mobility International – once again sponsoring the catering for the event!

Westmoreland County Disabilities Task Force

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