DALLAS — The Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) 31st annual conference, Reaching for the Stars, was held July 27-31 at the Hyatt Regency at Reunion Center in downtown Dallas.
The first day of the conference, Friday, July 27, kicked off with ADED’s two-day courses including Fundamentals of Driver Rehabilitation; Traffic Safety and Driver Education; Disabilities, Vision, Aging and Driving; as well as Applications of Vehicle Modification.
Throughout the show — themed the Wild West — the courses, workshops, seminars and exhibit hall catered to the different skill levels of driver rehabilitation specialists — from the new to the seasoned. “ADED’s 31st annual conference in Dallas was one of the most exciting conferences yet,” says Staci Frazier, ADED president. “The attendance was excellent with approximately 300 individuals enjoying the conference.” One third of the attendees included mobility equipment dealers and manufacturers.
Saturday night featured ADED’s Welcome Reception and Raffle, sponsored by Nor-Cal Vans, Superior Van & Mobility and Mobility Works. ADED, formed 31 years ago by a group of driver educators from Michigan, strived to “reach for the stars” by making ADED what it is today.
The conference focused significantly on older driver safety, resulting from seniors being the fastest-growing segment of the United States population. Older drivers currently make up 10 percent of all drivers. Two-thirds of women over 65 now drive. By the year 2030, nine out of 10 older women are expected to be behind the wheel. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “The greater fragility that comes with age, including bone frailty and the increased likelihood of heart disease or other illnesses, may precipitate injury or death in a crash.”
Frazier says, “As the baby boom generation matures, driver rehabilitation specialists are working more and more with individuals who are aging and assisting them with meeting their transportation needs and maintaining independence. There is a definite increased interest and membership from occupational therapists who are either starting or interested in starting driver rehabilitation programs.”
The American Journal of Public Health reports that seniors’ ability to drive may directly impact their health. “Preliminary studies of older drivers show there may be a relationship between health, sense of autonomy and ability to drive. Mobility declines can lead to depression, reduced life satisfaction, isolation and loneliness,” according to the report.
Many of the seminars focused on the physical and cognitive conditions that affect seniors and what certified driver rehabilitation specialists (CDRS) can do to help.
Dana Roeling, executive director of the National Mobility Equipment Dealer’s Association (NMEDA), says, “This show was great. The participants were really eager to learn about NMEDA and our quality assurance program (QAP). I was thrilled to be able to hand out our Consumer’s Reference Guide to Purchasing Adaptive Vehicles and Equipment to all of the ADED members that were there.”
Roeling and Bob Nunn, the president of NMEDA, jointly led a presentation entitled, “Understanding the Mobility Equipment Dealer, Industry and Regulations, discussing NMEDA and the importance of its quality assurance program (QAP).” Says Roeling, “It is very important that the driver rehabilitation specialists use the mobility dealers as a resource of information. The QAP dealers are committed to the selection, sale and service of the vehicles that they are selling and servicing.”
“The mobility dealers are the experts in the equipment, and when they join forces with the certified driver rehabilitation specialists, the consumer comes out with the safest modification possible. It is all about teamwork, and that is why the relationship that we have with ADED is so important,” Roeling says.
Another well-attended seminar entitled Seating and Safety-Transportation Issues was hosted by Delia Freney Bailey, OTR/L; Sue Johnson, Convaid, Inc.; and Larry Schneider, UMTRI. Identifying that transportation has changed for people with disabilities, the three hosts listed an increase in traffic, people driving at higher speeds, more distractions and more accessibility to transportation for people with disabilities as the contributing factors.
Although the facilitators of the seminar recommended that it is safest for wheelchair users to transfer to a vehicle seat using the seatbelts, they related that almost all occupied wheelchairs will be used as seats in a motor vehicle at some time. When selecting a wheelchair, these experts recommended that buyers look for the WC-19 symbol, read a wheelchair’s user’s guide, make sure the purchase includes tie-down instructions and ensure that any recycled equipment is inspected by the manufacturer to make sure that tiedowns are intact.
The show ended Tuesday with Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) exams.
Other sponsors of breaks and meals included Lift-Aids, Wright Way, Braun Ability, Eldorado National, Toyota Mobility, Crescent Industries, General Motors, Bruno, Access Unlimited, Mobility Products & Design, Howell Ventures and Q-Straint.
The 2008 conference will be held in Kansas City, Mo. For information, visit www.driver-ed.org.