What's New With You?
A Look Down the Road with Auto Access Manufacturers
With accordion-style design for portability and a range of applications, Assistive Technology's Versa-Ramp folds away into a compact space when not in use. It is made of articulating steel with a distributed weight capacity of 780 lbs.
Bruno Independent Living Aids
Bruno Independent Living Aids introduced its Interior Platform Lift, Joey, at the October 2005 Medtrade show. This year Joey is being offered with an optional off-board charging kit using any standard 110V outlet. It plugs in through the front grille of the vehicle, charging Joey's independent battery with no reliance on the vehicle's battery.
The Out-Sider Meridian Exterior Platform Lift has been redesigned, allowing for more lifting capacity, up to 350 lbs. The size of its platform has been enlarged and now accepts mobility devices with a maximum width of 27.5" and maximum wheelbases of 38".
The Baby Boom generation is married to its automobile as no other generation before. Getting up and going, whenever and wherever, this generation has always been on the move. As this generation begins to gray, and moves into retirement, it may not be as easy to get into and out of their automobiles, but their love of driving will not end. Because of this, products such as Turning Automotive Seating seats that turn out of the vehicle and gracefully lower the occupant are becoming more and more popular.
Sneak preview: A side-entrance version of the Joey may well be seen in 2006.
Mike Krawczyk, Marketing Services Manager
New products for 2006 include the Chevrolet Savanna full-size van, now available with a full 6" drop floor, passing all of its crash test data. The van can be used for the wheelchair passenger and the wheelchair driver, and it can be ordered with the usual modified equipment as need by the consumer. Vantage Mobility International has successfully converted the Honda Odyssey with a 10" dropped floor, powered ramp and side sliding door, available late spring. This will be an alternative choice to the consumer.
Trends in the industry still seems to be consolidation of smaller van conversion companies being taken over by a few very large dealers who have been expanding over the past five years. This gives them the look of a very solid company, and the new additions are getting the car dealer look, which enhances the salability of conversion vans and provides added benefits to clients in the area.
We recently introduced our new rubber threshold ramp. This is an approved ADA threshold ramp that can be used to access any door or landing. Currently, we are launching our new hitch mount ramp. This is a 7-ft. ramp that mounts on the rear hitch of any van or SUV, making it possible to load and unload any type of mobility equipment with little effort and time. The advantage of the hitch mount is that it stows on the outside, leaving valuable cargo space open for storing of mobility equipment.
We redesigned our suitcase and trifold lines so they can accept our new accessory product called the Top Lip Extension (TLE). The TLE makes it possible to extend the top lip of any Advantage Series (AS) suitcase or trifold ramp, allowing the user to access the rear door of any van or SUV. The standard suitcase and trifold have difficulty in bridging the bumper or opening of the rear door, thus making it very difficult to load or unload any mobility equipment. The TLE eliminates this problem by adding additional length. The TLE easily attaches to the top lip of the ramp, making the ramp convenient and versatile to use.
Vehicle access is a barrier that anyone using mobility equipment has to overcome. Therefore, it will be the individual that will drive the trends we will see in the future. As manufacturers, we will see the economic status of those individuals and their means to purchase become a greater influence in the type of products being developed. Trends are set by demand and the means to purchase, and we as suppliers, will need to find the balance between the two.
Don Everard, CEO
We will be introducing the Automated Transport and Retrieval System (ATRS) the last quarter of this year. I really feel this will be an industry-changing technology, and based on the initial feedback from many of the key influencers throughout the industry, it will provide individuals with limited ability options and an economical alternative that has not been available in the past. It is our desire to introduce this technology through key targeted van conversion companies throughout the United States.
Additionally, Freedom Sciences parent company, Freedom Lift Corp. has established a strategic alliance with Sure-Lok to market and sell its domestic and foreign patent-pending wheelchair and power chair securement and docking system under its trademark name Dock 'n' Lock. The "Dock 'n' Lock" in-van docking application system will be exclusively sold and marketed through the Sure-Lok sales channels in the United States, Canada, Europe and other locations worldwide.
Bob Smith, VP Sales & Marketing
Harmar unveiled 34 new products in 2005 and has ambitious goals again for 2006. Expect to see new and innovative lift and ramp products as well as a new product line or two.
In 2005, Harmar began focusing on innovative product designs that complement a vehicle's interior and exterior. We are now complementing those new looks with more ergonomic interfaces with the products that are more comfortable and easier to use, such as wireless remote controls.
At Harmar we believe you will continue to see innovative solutions to keep people comfortably and safely in their vehicles. Gone are the days when mobility meant only getting around the house. Today, mobility means getting wherever you want to go. At Harmar, our mission is to help people Go Further. When it comes to auto access, we are committed to making mobility products mobile.
Chad Williams, President
Our variable-speed fast-idle system (AFIS II VS) helps users keep their battery charged when they have a lot of electrical loads. We are bringing products that are plug and play to the personal-use market, such as the Guardian Lift Interlock System. We have had plug and play products on the commercial side for several years.
In the future, look for Speed Sentinel that limits maximum vehicle speed, and increasing the distance on our HawkEye Reverse Assistance System, an audible and visual warning that an object is behind the user when backing up.
We are seeing more companies who want to be assemblers and not builders. They are buying products that are complete and can be quickly installed into the vehicle. I also see more people gravitating towards plug and play installations and not cutting into factory wires. This technology makes it easier for installation and removal as well as fewer electrical problems.
Marc Ellison, Sales & Marketing Manager
Recent changes made by the Ford Motor Company to the 2006 E-250 and E-350 full-size vans have resulted in the ability of Nor-Cal Vans to provide 8 1/4" of ground clearance with the installation of the very popular Braun UVL wheelchair lift in both the Nor-Cal 6" Plus and 9" Max vehicle modifications. This is an increase of 2" from previous installations. The very popular and proven reliability of the Braun UVL wheelchair lift combined with the weight-carrying capacity of the Ford E-250 and E-350 E-Van makes this the perfect solution for large power wheelchair uses and large families who are not able to make use of the limited load-carrying capacity of modified minivans.
As for what is new for this year, Ford Motor Co. now offers the 2006 E-250 RV converter with the same gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating of 8,600 lbs. as the E-350 Clubwagon. Nor-Cal Vans is also working diligently on improving the ride quality and suspension of our full-size Ford van conversions, working with a variety of products to be able to offer the best full-size conversion available. We are working on increasing the availability of "turnkey" vans to dealers.
Roll-A-Ramp's newest highlight is the MiniFold, a version of its popular ramp that's specially sized to fit minivan applications. The MiniFold is a powered ramp designed to support up to 1,000 lbs., but requires no vehicle modifications and stores neatly out of the way when it's not in use.
Take your mobility on the road with the Silver Star Backpacker interior lift from Pride Mobility Products, the ultimate solution for lifting your power chair or scooter into your full-size van or minivan for transport. Like all Silver Star Lifts from Pride, the Backpacker features all-steel construction and a protective finish, along with an industrial-rated 12 volt motor and battery pack, and easy-to-use controls to combine rugged durability with safe, simple and reliable operation. It has a lifting capacity of 325 pounds and installs easily with little to no vehicle alterations.
Cy Corgan, Sales and Marketing Manager
This article originally appeared in the May 2006 issue of Mobility Management.