Adaptive Automotive Industry Revs Up for Mobility Month

May is National Mobility Awareness Month, and aftermarket manufacturers, automotive OEMs, dealers, clinicians and consumers involved in the adaptive automotive industry are preparing to celebrate.

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is spearheading the industry's efforts on its Life Moving Forward Web site (nmeda.com/mobility-awareness-month/).

"The purpose is to educate the public that people with disabilities constitute the second-largest minority group in the United States," the site says. "Over 18 million people in the U.S. and Canada have mobility issues. Six million of those are veterans."

The centerpiece of National Mobility Awareness Month is a contest that will award several wheelchair-accessible vehicles to consumers dubbed "Local Heroes." Contestants who want a chance to win one of the vehicles can go to the Life Moving Forward Web site and submit their stories of how they're overcoming mobility challenges.

Visitors to the site can read contestants' stories and vote for their favorites. As a bonus, visitors can contact a NMEDA dealer and ask for a special promotional code. By adding the promo code to the ballot, a voter gives five votes to the Local Hero of his or her choice instead of just one vote.

Voting started April 1 and ends May 13.

In addition to supporting the Local Heroes contest, industry manufacturers have launched special projects designed to coincide with National Mobility Awareness Month.

Vantage Mobility International (vantagemobility.com), for example, has introduced a video called "How It's Built." The 10-minute film shows the entire conversion process of a Honda Odyssey minivan, from the disassembly and temporary removal of some OEM components to make room for conversion work to take place, to the reassembly and final check of the minivan before it ships. The careful and precise conversion process, the video says, ensures "every converted vehicle maintains the same integrity and character that it was designed with."

Vantage Mobility President Doug Eaton says of the film, "It explores the spectrum of design and technology behind mobility vehicles that's been 30 years in the making. Most importantly, 'How It's Built' is engaging, full of energy and offers exciting views of a vehicle that has, until now, been an otherwise overlooked design marvel."

Meanwhile, BraunAbility (braunability.com) -- celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012 - has announced it will sponsor Sam Schmidt Motorsports' number 99 car this year at the Indianapolis 500.

Schmidt, team owner and a former Indycar driver who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2000 while practicing, formed the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (http://samschmidt.org/) following his accident.

"This relationship with the Braun Corp. is more than just a sponsorship to me," Schmidt said. "Ralph Braun has been an inspiration to me since my accident, showing constant drive and determination to build a company of over 800 employees that delivers life-changing equipment to people with disabilities, including myself.... He's a firm believer that you can do anything if you put your mind to it."

Braun, who has spinal muscular atrophy, called racing one of the loves of his life and said, "Another is giving people with mobility challenges a way to get on the road to fully experience their lives."

"I can't begin to express what it means to me personally to have Ralph Braun sponsor one of our race cars in the Indianapolis 500 in May," Schmidt added. "The fact May also happens to be National Mobility Awareness Month makes this extra special to me."

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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