Editor's Note

The Next Generation of Rehab Providers

Joey Johnson

In L.A., I got an up-close look at the four Paralympic medals won by Canada’s Joey Johnson in wheelchair basketball. Johnson is now with Strae Handcycles.

During rehab show season, when you greet industry colleagues not with “How’ve you been?” but rather “How was your week?”, good booth neighbors make all the difference. Being able to borrow packing tape or ask for booth assembly advice from a friendly face (thanks, Chris Ligi!) is a little slice of trade show heaven.

The Abilities Expo Los Angeles (see coverage in MMBeat, starting on page 8) was my third show in about three weeks. When I arrived at Mobility Management’s booth a little after 9:30 a.m., the only other person in sight was sitting in a power chair in the Numotion booth across from ours.

I asked if he was an ATP, and he smiled: “No, just a technician.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘just,’” I countered. “You help keep the chairs running. Otherwise, none of the great technology matters.”

He smiled and shrugged. He’s been in the industry only for about a year and a half, he said. He arrived here on a Saturday morning — two hours before the show opened — because he’d never been to an Abilities Expo before, so when the sign-up sheet went around, he volunteered.

I asked if he’d attended the International Seating Symposium in Nashville the week before, but he shook his head. “I’m studying to take the ATP exam though,” he said. “You know, just studying on my own right now.” He hoped to attend the ISS when he had more tenure.

“Before this,” he said, “I was a jack of all trades.” He rattled off several previous jobs, including one as a professional chef.

“But until I started here, in this industry….” He shrugged again and smiled.

I nodded, smiling too. “It’s different here,” I said. “It feels different from your other jobs.”


I mentioned the theory of “rehab heart,” as good an explanation as any to account for why providers put up, year after year, with red tape that gets longer and funding cuts that go deeper. Mike Ballard, National Seating & Mobility’s CEO/founder, refers to a “song in their heart” that all the best ATPs have. Why else would they get to the office at 6 a.m., drive to clinic by 7 a.m., work all day with little kids, big kids, young adults and adults aging into their disabilities, get home at 9 p.m., and then start answering their e-mails?

My new friend — who’s remaining nameless here, as our conversation wasn’t on the record — nodded in agreement. Of course he would: He’s got a rehab heart.

I’ve been hearing forever “Where is the next generation of rehab technology provider going to come from?” Complex rehab technology provision still isn’t something you can major in, after all.

Maybe the answer will be the same as it has been for decades. Somehow, people come into the industry. They start perhaps as technicians or customer service reps. But they want to work with end users, so they start shadowing other ATPs. They jump at opportunities to grow, even if that means waking up early on a Saturday to drive to a convention center. They learn. And a new generation of consumers will ultimately be thankful they followed their hearts.

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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