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BraunAbility Announces New Ford Explorer Concept SUV for Wheelchair Drivers

Vehicle Developments Will Mean More Choices for Disabled Drivers in the Future

The new Ford Explorer concept SUV by BraunAbility.

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.

*BraunAbility Ford Explorer photo courtesy of BraunAbility and Schmidt Peterson Motor Sports

Suiting Our Soldiers – Gary Sinise Foundation, Jos. A. Bank Team Up for Veterans

Buy 1, Get 2, Donate 1 Campaign to Provide Returning Vets with Suits for Job Interviews

In an effort to help our returning heroes re-enter the civilian workforce, clothing giant Jos. A. Bank is teaming up with The Gary Sinise Foundation to provide thousands of veterans with new suits. Many of our veterans come home looking for work not owning a suit or with having a proper fitting one after years of military service overseas.

“Anything we can do for our veterans, I’m looking to support” said actor Gary Sinise in this You Tube video. “Some of our military may only have one suit that they’ve owned for 10 years. When transitioning from military service to the private sector, being able to look sharp when presenting themselves can be very important.”

Uniform of Success

Jos. A. Bank CEO Neal Black expressed in a recent interview that the clothier has been helping veterans causes since WWI and they were looking for ways to help vets with finding jobs. For post-9/11 veterans, the unemployment rate in February 2013 was at 9.2 percent. With the current Jos. A. Bank marketing campaign “Buy 1, Get 2 Free” already under way and having a lot of success, some of their customers suggested donating one of the suits to veterans. The idea was then presented to The Gary Sinise Foundation and ambassador Brian Anderson – who met Sinise at Walter Reed Hospital where he was rehabilitating after losing both legs and his left hand. Anderson was on Fox & Friends Sunday morning promoting the program. According to Anderson, when Gary Sinise first saw him Sinise said “Holy crap, it’s the real Lt. Dan” in reference to his role as Lt. Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump. The movie won the 1994 Academy Award for best picture.

The campaign runs from July 1st to July 7th and can be applied to in-store and online purchases. You can get more information and shop for suits to help our veterans at Jos. A. Bank here.

Supporting People in Employment Annual Conference

Guest Speaker Played Pivotal Role in Creating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

MobilityWorks of Birmingham was a proud sponsor and exhibitor at the annual meeting of The Alabama Association for Persons in Supported Employment (AL-APSE) and The Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities (ACDD) held June19-21, 2013 in Montgomery, AL.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Catch the Wave…Surf Toward Employment First” and featured a variety of workshops and sessions focusing on employment and related issues for individuals with disabilities. Attendees included rehabilitation counselors, employment specialists, rehabilitation technology specialists, rehabilitation supervisors and administrators, legislators, individuals with disabilities and their family members, as well as other professionals working in the capacity of employing people with disabilities.

Dr. Richard Pimentel

One of the conference’s highlights included a presentation by Dr. Richard Pimentel. Known for using the phrase, “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them,” Dr. Richard Pimentel, a veteran disabled in Viet Nam, told his story within the context of the United States Civil Rights Movement of persons with disabilities and the development of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He focused on how each of the attendees can make a difference in the lives of their clients.

Conference attendees and exhibitors were treated to a viewing of “Music Within,” a 2007 movie starring Ron Livingston as Dr. Richard Pimentel and chronicled the successes and trials of Dr. Pimentel’s life. Music Within chronicles how Dr. Pimentel entered the military, lost his hearing, and then went on to champion disability causes. After returning form the war, he becomes good friends with Art Honneyman (played by Michael Sheen) who has Cerebral Palsy. This experience propels him into being an advocate and beyond. Now an acclaimed speaker, as a child he didn’t speak a word until age six. He was called “retarded” by a school guidance counselor. His “home” was the dressing room of a strip club after being abandoned by his mother. Yet, he was able to overcome those challenges (and his loss of hearing) to become a major influence in reshaping the public’s perception of disabled individuals. To learn more, watch the Music Within movie trailer below.

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For more information on the American’s with Disabilities Act, visit To learn more about mobility products for persons with disabilities, go to

Wheelchair Tiedowns, Seatbelts, Securement and Restraint Systems

What’s the difference?

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)

Wheelchair tiedown illustration courtesy of BraunAbility.

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.

Tennessee Organizations Helping Elderly and Disabled Residents

We often have organizations asking if we can share a link on our website so that visitors can benefit from the services they provide. In this post we are focusing on a few organizations helping our friends in Nashville and Chattanooga TN. If you have an organization that you would like to submit for future inclusion, tell us about what you do at We will be highlighting organizations and non-profit groups helping the disabled community for each of MobilityWorks’ 12 states in future posts.

Tennesee Resources

Tennessee Disability Coalition

The Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals who have joined to promote the full and equal participation of men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. We work together to advocate for public policy that ensures self-determination, independence, empowerment, and inclusion for people with disabilities in areas such as accessibility, education, healthcare, housing, and voting rights.

Southeast Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability

The goal of Southeast Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability is to advocate for and to strive to achieve a system of services that allows older persons and persons with disabilities the opportunity for an independent and productive lifespan. This is accomplished through three primary areas of emphasis: Advocacy, Service, and Planning.

Signal Centers

Signal Centers is comprised of four programs – Adult Services, Assistive Technology Services, Children’s Services and the Child Care Resource & Referral Network. Signal Centers Children’s Services support over 120 children with disabilities at three Tennessee locations – Chattanooga, Cleveland and Athens. Signal Centers also offers an adult day program for adults over 55 with disabilities. The Assistive Technology Services was created in 1991 and is located at 2300 Bailey Avenue in Chattanooga. AT Services assesses individuals with disabilities of all ages and recommends technology to enhance self-sufficiency.

Team Centers

TEAM Centers, Inc (originally “TEAM Evaluation Center”) is a private, non-profit agency started as a collaborative initiative by local community leaders, the Medical Society, and the Metropolitan Council. TEAM helps with the evaluation and assessment of people with developmental disabilities across all ages. They focus on developmental medicine, psychology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, and social work.

Multiple Sclerosis Society Mid South Chapter

The Mid South Chapter of the National MS Society is a community of individuals who are committed to achieving a world free of MS. The Chapter helps over 9,000 individuals throughout Tennessee, northern Georgia, northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas impacted by MS to move their lives forward. We provide comprehensive support services and educational programs to people with MS, their family and friends, and raise funds locally to support the National MS Society’s research initiatives.

Visit Us in Nashville or Chattanooga

Our Nashville store is just off of I-24 Waldron Road exit in La Vergne TN. Located in Davidson County in the north central part of the state, it is Tennessee’s second largest city with a population of more than 600,000 (second only to Memphis). Nashville also serves as the state capital. Visit our Nashville web page.

Our Chattanooga showroom and service location is just off I-75 and the E. Brainerd Rd exit. Chattanooga is in the southeast portion of the state in Hamilton County. The Tennessee River runs right through the heart of downtown, providing a unique urban experience. Chattanooga is the 4th largest city in the state. Visit our Chattanooga web page.