Editor's Note

Field of Dreams

lightbulbI frequently receive story pitches from people who are outside the complex rehab technology (CRT) industry and want to be inside it. The pitches usually have a breathlessness about them reminiscent of those commercials that start out, “You may have already won $1 million!”

The e-mail pitch explains that an entrepreneurial group from the engineering or consumer electronics field has built a better wheelchair, and they want me to write an enthusiastic story about it. The pitch contains these defamatory claims:

  • Wheelchair design hasn’t changed in decades.
  • Current wheelchairs are clunky, heavy and ugly, and consumers are embarrassed to be seen using them.
  • Our new wheelchair is a revolutionary product that will finally give people their freedom.

I don’t react well to these grandstanding pitches that often use terms such as wheelchair bound. If you ever call and I’m in the parking lot, taking laps of our office building, it’s probably because I just got one of these pitches.

As I walk around and around, I mutter: They strut in here and announce they’re saving the day? They clearly know nothing about CRT, about how it liberates and empowers. They’re comparing medical technology to smartphones, sportscars and HD TV. They have no clue about clinical needs and applications. What arrogance. What ignorance.

I love this industry I report on. I’m very protective of the ATPs, clinicians, funding specialists, technicians, et al, that make seating and wheeled mobility possible.

But the last time I was in mid sulk, a co-worker ventured an opinion: Sure, these entrepreneurs should learn the industry and its culture, if only so they realize that nobody is confined to anything around here. Still, doesn’t a wise industry welcome new ideas? Isn’t that how we grow? This industry can build an alternative driving control for a client who can move just one fingertip. Doesn’t that make us the very embodiment of keeping an open mind?

This is our International Seating Symposium (ISS) issue, for an event at which we come together as an industry to listen and learn from fellow professionals, from consumers, from healthcare colleagues and yes, maybe from those who are dreaming of the next generation of seating and wheeled mobility. I go into ISS with an eager mind and always leave with a head full of ideas and a heart that’s grateful, once again, to be part of such a wondrous industry. In so many ways, CRT is a field of dreams, and of dreamers. I pledge to be more generous of spirit next time someone pitches me the next great thing, because I never know where it will come from.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 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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