With Liberty & Accessiblity for All

It’s springtime in the mobility industry, which means we’re packing our suitcases, laptops and cameras, and heading for the airport.

First stop: the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) annual conference, this year in Phoenix. And we’re trying something new for 2008: Our annual, special NMEDA edition is stitched right into this issue — so it won’t get lost on your desk! (But if you want to pull the edition out to pass along to a colleague, you can.) Our NMEDA edition includes overviews from Dana Roeling, executive director of NMEDA, and Teresa Evans-Hunter and Staci Frazier, the executive director and board of directors president, respectively, of the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED). You’ll hear what these organizations are working on this year — the major topics, concerns, plans for the future. We also take a look at the role the Internet could play — should play? — in a mobility business. This subject — hot enough that NMEDA created a cautionary pamphlet for consumers — draws strong opinions from all sides.

At Medtrade in October, a Web-based mobility dealer sat in our booth and passionately argued that selling adaptive automotive equipment over the Internet is not only acceptable; it is more efficient, more cost-effective… preferable. When he had not quite convinced me after 20 minutes, he followed me to my next meeting, a 10-minute walk away, and bent my ear until I opened the door to the meeting room and ducked inside. Is selling automotive access equipment on the Web a good idea? Sometimes? In certain situations? Ever? Take a look at “Traveling the Information Superhighway” by Feature Editor Lunzeta Brackens. I’ve heard rehab technology suppliers talk for years about highly customized systems for highly involved clients, so selling high-end assistive technology of any kind over the Internet seems risky to me. But we found several mobility dealers whose Internet strategies are bringing them success — in part because they’re managing to combine quality customer service with Internet technology. In a way, these dealers are creating one-of-a-kind solutions, even when it comes to Web site strategies!Speaking of effective business strategies, don’t miss our Q&A with Greg Schafer, president of InterMotive, in the News section of our NMEDA edition.

In a challenging funding environment, when it seems everyone is looking to streamline their operations and create competitive advantages, Schafer is dedicated to improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities. And he makes valid points. Especially in the mobility industry, employees who happen to use mobility or rehab equipment have unique first-hand experiences, and they can influence future product design and development, either by directly contributing their ideas or by helping engineers and product managers to understand the accessibility and clinical challenges faced every day by end-users. National Disability Employment Awareness Month isn’t until October, but it’s never too early to start doing the right thing — for end-users and your own business.
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