Editor’s Note

There’s No Business Like Show Business

Laurie Watanabe and W.B. Mick

With Permobil’s W.B. Mick and a fuzzy pink armrest cover (wheelchairpals.com) at the Abilities Expo in Los Angeles.

It’s the time of year when we see a lot of each other, if you’re a clinician, provider or industry exhibitor who attends educational conferences, tradeshows and consumer events.

United Seating & Mobility’s business meeting in Vegas was followed about two weeks later by the International Seating Symposium (ISS) in Vancouver (see show coverage starting on page 10). Three weeks later, many of us were in Los Angeles at the Abilities Expo. I know about that timing because an exhibitor at ISS said on its closing day, “See you three weeks from today in L.A.”

The Abilities Expo (look for event coverage next issue) is a consumer event series, so there are significant differences between it and ISS, Medtrade or the national provider meetings. Obviously, the bulk of attendees are assistive technology consumers, plus their families, friends and caregivers. And in addition to manufacturers, you’ll see a healthy number of consumer support groups, services companies such as travel agencies, and consumer artists among the exhibitors. The educational sessions are focused less on clinical topics and CEUs than on demonstrations of wheelchair sports or service animal abilities.

But the Abilities Expo bears many similarities to clinician/provider events, as well — enough for me to feel right at home when I arrive at the hall.

And enough for me to forget what our industry looks like to newcomers.

In Los Angeles, two of my friends visited the show on Friday morning. They were looking for home accessibility equipment — products that can help make environments safer and more convenient as we all age. They were playing hooky while their kids were in school, and therefore could only stay a short time before they had to drive back. In anticipation of their brief visit, I determined ahead of time which booths and products I would take them to see.

As soon as they walked onto the floor, holding Abilities Expo bags and smiling, I whisked them off .

We learned about stairlifts in Bruno Independent Living Aids’ booth (thanks to the providers from Gamburd, and to Bruno’s Luke Bebeau); checked out NuProdx’s portable shower chairs; watched a demo of Bruno’s Valet seat in the Dodge mobility booth; and took a good look at Columbia Medical’s new Optima Toilet & Shower System (thanks, Keith Wright and Kimmie Sirimitr).

And I got to remember how I felt upon first learning that this industry existed.

I was awed and amazed, and also very grateful to know that rehabilitation engineers, product managers, clinicians, providers, ATPs, certified aging-in-place specialists, mobility dealers and driver rehabilitation specialists existed and worked this hard. I was thankful that they were thinking and creating and trouble-shooting for people who needed this technology, as well as those who didn’t even know what it was yet.

As was pointed out to me in L.A., I’ve gone to enough shows that I can walk right past a pair of horses in the show hall (part of an adaptive riding demonstration) and not even turn my head. I see seat cushions seemingly lighter than air, and power chairs that would look at home on a catwalk, and I think, “That’s the way it should be.” It’s nice sometimes to peel away the familiarity and think...”Wow! Look at what our industry can do!”

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world,” George Bernard Shaw said. “Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”

Hooray for them all, and hooray for you, too.

This article originally appeared in the May 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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