Tips for Active Families with Accessibility Needs
Families grow and change, and interests and activities are ever-evolving as well. We live in a world where freedom of mobility is a greater necessity than ever to maintain healthy, active lifestyles for our kids. If your family finds itself in need of a new, or new-to-you, adaptive mobility equipment here are some valuable tips to help you on the road to mobility freedom.
Choices. Choices. In today’s world of adaptive mobility equipment you have the option to buy from a dealer with a permanent sales location, an online retailer or from a private individual (either online or in person). While you might find the deal you’re looking for on the internet or in someone’s driveway, there is definitely more security in buying from a National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) member dealer. NMEDA dealers can help you make an informed decision when you are ready to purchase. NMEDA dealers have permanent locations, providing you with the luxury of being able to visit and “test drive” a variety of mobility vehicles and products in your search for the one that’s right for your family. And so begins an ongoing relationship with the dealer, which includes consultation with regard to which options are best-suited to your family. Developing a personal relationship with a dealer can be invaluable… a good investment to say the least. Inappropriate equipment and modifications can be very expensive in the long term and can have safety related issues.
When it comes to deciding on the endless complement of equipment options, interaction with industry professionals is crucial. For example, will it be new or used? A used vehicle can be of great value but will require an investment of time and possibly money to evaluate its condition and history. Used vehicles from dealers will usually have warranties to protect your investment.
Used equipment purchased online or from private individuals can be very risky. The equipment may not work in your vehicle, or may be inappropriate for your family’s accessibility needs. Another consideration is finding parts when needed; they may be obsolete. Also, finding a qualified individual to install adaptive equipment purchased in the private market can be challenging. Most dealers won’t install equipment that they did not sell.
Think About It This Way
The following ten factors should be faced head-on before making the big purchase. No matter how or where you make your purchase, don’t forgo these considerations.
1. The Consumer. You as the customer are the one(s) who have the special needs and abilities in your family. Consider all of these factors and what your family’s needs will be for the life of the vehicle. NMEDA dealers have plenty of experiences with other families to draw from, but ultimately mother and father know best.
2. Child’s Size. The size and type of wheelchair or scooter that your child uses, or will use in the future, should factor into your vehicle and equipment purchase decision.
3. Vehicle. There are many vehicle to choose from. Where, how, and why you are using the vehicle, as well as your adaptive equipment needs, should guide your choices. Consider issues such as living off a dirt road or the need to carry several passengers frequently.
4. Equipment. Many products are available. Only industry professionals can determine what combination of equipment is best suited for your family based on your vehicle and accessibility needs.
5. Compliance. Compliance with industry standards and government regulations assists you in getting a vehicle and/or modifications that are safe and appropriate.
6. Delivery Process. The time and effort spent by your dealer in educating you about your products and modifications can provide you with critical safety, maintenance, and usage information.
7. Training. Being properly trained in the use of adaptive driving controls and related systems saves injuries, and even lives.
8. Warranties. Warranties can greatly alter the lifetime costs of owning, operating and maintaining an adaptive vehicle. All adaptive equipment should come with a warranty.
9. Service. Servicing adaptive equipment and modified vehicles is not the same as a routine oil change. Give good thought to your ability to easily and efficiently get your adaptive equipment serviced. Remember to ask about the availability of after-hours service.
10. Comfort. Your comfort and satisfaction with the purchase process and all related issues is the final word. Always be fully informed about the above issues, develop personal relationships with your retailer, ask for and speak with their references, research companies and products and make a decision only when your are comfortable. If something feels off, it just might be.
Purchasing a modified vehicle can be very expensive. There is no cure all to finding funding for these purchases, but here are a few options to explore.
Agencies. Each state and province has a Vocational Rehabilitation Program. These are state- or provincially-funded programs that assist individuals with disabilities get into, back into, or remain in the work place. There are also regional and national agencies that can provide funding in each state or province. In some cases they provide funding for vehicle modifications. Check with your local agencies for qualifications.
Charitable Organizations/Churches. The possibilities here are extensive; you’ll have to research what is available in your local market.
Mobility Rebate Programs. Most vehicle manufacturers (Ford, GM, Toyota, Chrysler, etc.) provide rebates to purchasers of new vehicles that require modifications for drivers or passengers with disabilities. Inquire with your local automotive dealership before you purchase a new vehicle about applicable rebates for modifications.
By Melody Chamberlain. For more information, visit www.nmeda.org. NMEDA will assist you in finding many industry organizations, contacts at Rehabilitation Agencies, Funding Agencies, OEM Rebate Programs, Mobility Equipment Dealers, as well as an abundance of other industry information.