Editor’s Note

Industry Moonlighting

It’s 7:30 p.m. here in Southern California, and because it’s March as I’m writing this, there’s still a hint of blue in the evening sky.

Of course, that’s only true for the western-most parts of the U.S. The skies have been pitch black for the rest of the country for hours.

Mala Aaronson, OTR, ATP, CRTS, from National Seating & Mobility’s Natick, Mass., office, has just sent me some comments for this month’s story on early-intervention (see page 22). I first heard her comments about seat-to-floor heights for toddlers during a conversation with Colours Wheelchair’s Rick Hayden at this year’s International Seating Symposium (ISS) and knew they’d be a perfect fit for our story. As for my guilt over literally keeping her up at night, Mala laughed it off . Sleep, she said, “won’t be happening for hours” as she works to catch up from her business travels.

A little earlier in the evening, I’d had a very similar conversation with Jean Sayre, OTS, ATP, director of clinical education for The Comfort Company, and contributor to our clinical story on shear (page 18). Jeannie, another East Coast resident playing catch-up from ISS and other duties, was talking to me at about 9 p.m. her time.

Closer to home, Divya Kapadia, PT, ATP, CRTS, from American Medical & Equipment Supply in San Jose, Calif., took a few minutes this evening to continue a conversation we’d started at the Vancouver airport on the way home. Like all providers in this current economic reality, Divya and her colleagues are being squeezed from all sides: payors, consumers, referral sources, government regulations. But they are continuing to fight the good fight, which includes attending events such as ISS to further their clinical and product education. In fact, I’d met Divya at last year’s Abilities Expo in Northern California, where she and her colleague, Donald Jones, ATP, had taken time the week before Thanksgiving to check out the exhibit hall.

Tonight’s late night chatter is the norm rather than the exception in this industry, which is full of people who put in 10 hours with clients, then do paperwork by moonlight. You know who you are.

That’s why it is at the very least ironic — and to me, very frustrating — that so many consumers remain at arm’s length when this industry needs them the most. This industry, after all, belongs ultimately to the people who use its products and services. No one stays in this industry for any length of time because it’s a sure way to get rich.

So why are we at such odds with the consumers you’re serving every weekday and twice on Sundays?

And why do I keep receiving e-mails from consumers that say, “I need a power wheelchair; please tell me where to buy the cheapest one”?

Because they don’t know what you know.

We have a wealth of intelligence, experience, talent, skill and empathy in this industry. But if all those riches aren’t relayed to consumers, caregivers, policy makers, payor sources, referral sources and the mainstream public…then we remain on opposite sides.

Consumers don’t know what you know. It’s time to change that.

You may have heard we have a new consumer Web site — TheMobilityProject.com. We’ve been about as subtle as thunder about its birth. That’s because we believe it can be a great vehicle to relay this industry’s intelligence — your intelligence — to many, many people at once.

But I need help. E-mail me and tell me your area of expertise. Tell me what you’d be willing to contribute toward this new effort. If I have a question about power chair electronics, may I call on you? If a consumer wants information on the difference between folding and rigid ultralights, can you answer? If a parent with a child who’s just been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy needs somewhere to turn next, can you point the way?

If so, please let me know. Let’s put our collective knowledge to good use. And let’s show consumers once and for all whose side we’re on.

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 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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