A seating & mobility system only truly works if it integrates well into
the consumer’s lifestyle and environment. Accessibility, therefore,
remains a key factor in determining how ultimately successful the
assistive technology will be.
Jerry Keiderling is president of The VGM Group’s Accessible Home
Improvement of America (AHIA), a network of providers serving
consumers with disabilities and consumers who want to age in place.
We asked Keiderling about the changing consumer demographic for
home accessibility and how feasible it is for a “hard-core” complex
rehab technology provider to expand into the home accessibility
Mobility Management: In the home accessibility field, which is
currently the larger customer demographic — seniors or people with
Jerry Keiderling: In looking simply at the data, the larger “potential”
customer demographic is the senior market, sometimes referred to as
those over 50 or the more trendy term — boomers.
Within the current market, though, there is a major portion of accessibility
business being done to accommodate the needs of those living
with a disability: active individuals who are capable of living much
more independently with some or a few changes within their home
MM: Do you expect the demographics and percentages to shift as
more baby boomers reach retirement age?
JK: Yes, it’s inevitable. The nation’s population is growing older and at a
faster rate than ever before. Although the traditional mobility-impaired
or complex rehab clientele will still represent a significant amount of
business, the concepts of aging in place and independent living will
become more relevant as each year passes. Much of the growth in this
sector will come from a dual-awareness scenario, whereas:
1. Providers will be increasing their marketing efforts to highlight their
new service/product offerings to referral sources and consumers.
2. Consumers will become much more aware of what products/services are available to them that will assist in meeting their needs for
a more comfortable and safer lifestyle within their own homes. This
factor will be a major influence on the amount of business available to
MM: Is it possible for a complex rehab technology provider — one
who specializes in customized assistive technology — to expand into
home accessibility, which is a retail business?
JK: Most definitely. Some complex rehab providers have been doing
a given amount of accessibility business for years, but never really
promoted and marketed that aspect of their offerings. Others are just
now expanding their product offerings, while even others are forming
new companies or LLCs to capture that market in their areas.
It’s a natural progression for any business that provides products
and services to assist those with mobility impairments. Accessibility
may be largely retail in nature, but several payor sources still exist, such
as Veterans Affairs, Medicaid Waiver Programs, disease state organizations
(MS, MD, ALS, etc.).
These funding sources are usually well recognized by the traditional
DME/rehab provider, thereby helping to make that transition easier.
MM: What factors can a rehab provider use to assess his business to
determine if expanding into home accessibility is feasible?
JK: Just like with any other business venture, one would look at the
population base in their market area, any competitive businesses, the
longevity of residence, and their current list of clientele for prospective
Some other factors would be the size of showroom space available,
the type of delivery/service vehicles currently being used, and
the availability of a ready-to-hire/contract labor force for some of the
All in all, accessibility is such a broad category that it touches a
much wider scope of the population — mainly because a good
portion of the business is determined as “injury prevention” rather
than solutions for an injury or ailment. This allows for marketing to an
additional and larger segment within the same population base.
MM: AHIA administers the Certified Environmental Access Consultant
(CEAC) credential, and there’s also the Certified Aging-in-Place (CAPS)
credential from the National Association of Home Builders. Typically,
do people with a CEAC credential also work in the DME/rehab part of
the business? Or do they specialize in home accessibility to the exclusion
of everything else?
JK: Typically, they either still work in the DME/rehab industry or have
had some good-quality past experience in the field. The reason being
that formulating a real solution to meet the independent living needs
of any client takes a real understanding of their past, present and
future situations and prognosis. Those most capable of doing that
have had or do have real-world experience in DME/rehab.
Helping to solve accessibility issues and devise independent living
solutions for their clients is already a part of the goals that DME/rehab
providers strive for. It becomes a natural progression to expand their
off erings to enhance that quality of an independent lifestyle for their
clients. I believe that the two go together very well.
But sometimes, companies are better off creating another company
or even an LLC to manage the mix of business. Both DME/rehab and
accessibility can be complicated on their own, and trying to manage
both under one roof can be difficult for some.
MM: Are there advantages for a provider in having the CEAC credential
in addition to an ATP credential, for instance, or is it better for a
provider to have a dedicated home accessibility specialist?
JK: Either way works just fine. Both credentials propose solutions that
produce same/similar goals and prospective outcomes for the individual
clients. Both have similar learning objectives, and both are well
respected and recognized in their fields.
The addition of the CEAC credential to an already-certified ATP can
be a valuable marketing tool when dealing with existing and prospective
referral and payor sources. Both credentials combined represent
a well-rounded knowledge base for determining what’s best for the
client and all parties involved.