When Eastlake resident David Taylor was a teenager, his parents bought a van and some dirt bike ramps to help their son get around town in his wheelchair. The ramps were steep and often slipped. David, who was paralyzed from transverse myelitis at three years old, was always scared going up those ramps.
After graduating from San Diego State University, David relied on public transportation to get to work. It took him two hours each way.
There had to be a better way.
Today, after acquiring a wheelchair-accessible vehicle from San Diego’s Ability Center, it only takes David 30 minutes to get to work and he can go to the store for milk.
“It allows me freedom beyond belief, he says. “It gave me my independence back.”
David can feel confident that his wheelchair-accessible vehicle is customized specifically for his needs because he purchased it from a member of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, a nonprofit trade group representing auto mobility dealers from all over the U.S. and Canada.
Our association, NMEDA for short, works tirelessly so folks who purchase our members’ life-changing automotive mobility equipment can have similar faith in their vehicles as David.
As we wrap up National Mobility Awareness Month in May, it is important for people who need accessible vehicles to understand David’s story is not always the case.
Too often we hear of people who have tried to modify their own vehicles, like David’s parents, or purchased handicap accessible vehicles from places other than a NMEDA dealer.
They soon find out they have to duck in their wheelchair because they do not fit in the vehicle doorway. That there were corners cut without keeping safety in mind. That the vehicles are over the federal weight limit once the equipment is installed. That their homemade changes are dangerous and could actually cause further injuries.
The folks doing these modifications aren’t trying to create these dangerous outcomes…in fact, they are trying to help! But they don’t know what they don’t know — and that’s dangerous.
The members of NMEDA are required to be certified annually under our quality assurance program. What’s included in that certification?
All NMEDA members:
- Follow documented processes for all services and ensure compliance to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
- Employ only certified technicians who understand the complexities of converting a vehicle
- Perform weight analysis on each vehicle, using four-corner scales to ensure accuracy
- Maintain high calibration standards on all equipment used during installation
Plus, every NMEDA dealer is audited yearly to ensure these standards are met.
Our dealers don’t just sell vehicles — they partner with the customer for the life of the vehicle.
Customers can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to a dedicated phone line and receive emergency service whenever they need it most. They can trust that all dealers have up-to-date insurance protecting the consumer.
And, in the rare event of a complaint, the association’s mediation committee steps in to address the situation. The dealer must abide by any decisions made by the committee.
According to a recent Harris Poll, sponsored by the National Organization on Disability, nearly a third of people with disabilities reported that inadequate transportation was a problem; of those individuals, more than half said it was a major problem.
For the 18 million people in the United States with mobility issues, like David, the vehicles sold by our certified dealers will be a life-changing product.
These vehicles help allow people with mobility issues to work, a serious matter considering this population’s unemployment rate is 10 percent higher than the rest of the United States.
These vehicles relieve the stress of caregivers of those with disabilities, providing better care and transportation to their loved ones.
Most of all, these vehicles provide a level of independence that was too often believed to be unavailable.
Folks with disabilities face challenges every day that most of us can’t even imagine. Reliable transportation shouldn’t be one of them. Our association ensures there are dealers out there who are qualified to provide safe, reliable mobility solutions with compassion, competence and consistency.
Danny Langfield is CEO of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, a trade organization supporting more than 600 mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers and driver rehabilitation specialists in the United States and Canada.
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