Automotive Accessibility Special Section
2012: A Year of Milestones & Outreach
- By Laurie Watanabe
- Feb 01, 2012
Getting your kicks on Route 66. Cruising Pacific Coast Highway
in a classic convertible. Taking U.S. 80’s “Broadway of America”
from Dallas through the Deep South. So many quintessential
American experiences involve our cars. Yet so many consumers
remain unaware of the adaptive equipment, new technologies and
specially trained professionals who can help to keep them in the
driver’s or passenger’s seat.
Educating consumers and advocating for mobility dealers are
among the major goals of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers
Association (NMEDA), whose annual conference is Feb. 22-24 in
And this year, the educational outreach effort takes on a new form:
a National Mobility Awareness Month, recognized by Congress and
scheduled for May.
Concentrating Efforts & Resources
The idea for the upcoming awareness month began, says NMEDA’s
Executive Director Dave Hubbard, with the organization’s cooperative
awareness program. NMEDA members contributed funds, which
were pooled and spent on generating awareness for mobility products.
“We ran that program for about a year doing some traditional
advertising,” Hubbard says. “And what we found from our research
is because of the amount of money we were able to generate, we were
having very little impact in traditional media.”
Yet, NMEDA knew there was a huge need for adaptive automotive
equipment. When the organization exhibited at car shows aimed at
the general public, attendees told Hubbard again and again that they
knew someone who could benefit from the technology.
Deciding NMEDA needed a way to get more bang for its buck,
NMEDA members began thinking of ways to make a greater impact.
One NMEDA member suggested the industry needed an awareness
“A week didn’t seem like long enough,” Hubbard says, “so it ended
up being a month.”
During that month, NMEDA is urging everyone in the industry to
get involved in educating the public. “We want our dealers to participate,
to send out press releases to the local papers and local media,
radio, television,” Hubbard says, adding that NMEDA will simultaneously
be making those same eff orts on a national level.
The awareness month’s biggest splash will be a contest to award
adapted vehicles to consumers who submit their life stories. “The
contest really becomes the center point,” Hubbard says. “It focuses on
encouraging people to deal with their disability, and it promotes life.”
Contestants can upload videos on Facebook, then encourage
friends to vote. Winners will receive vehicles built and specially fitted
by NMEDA members to the winners’ required specifications.
Toyota, Hubbard says, has already donated a vehicle to give away,
and other manufacturers are considering donations as well. NMEDA’s
goal is to give the vehicles away on national TV shows, such as Good
Morning America or Ellen.
Voters need a special code in order to cast their ballots for their
favorite videos, and those codes will only be available via NMEDA
members’ Web sites or by visiting a NMEDA member’s store.
In that way, NMEDA hopes more people will become aware of
mobility dealers, the work they do, and the technology that exists.
Putting a Face on the Industry
NMEDA has also enlisted Mike Savicki, a former Navy pilot and
highly accomplished wheelchair athlete, to be the organization’s 2012
Savicki — a writer and photographer who has founded a business
communications company — sustained a spinal cord injury in 1990.
He is the only person to complete the Boston Marathon on foot and in
a wheelchair, and has also played on the national quad rugby team.
“He’s stepped up to his disability in what we thought was a really
good example of somebody taking charge of their life,” Hubbard says.
Hubbard hopes Savicki will be able to participate in the vehicle
give-aways, which are due to happen at the end of May. Voting for the
winners will take place earlier in May “to push a lot of energy into one
month,” Hubbard explains.
Understandably, National Mobility Awareness Month will be a big
topic of discussion at NMEDA’s annual conference.
“We will be having a press conference there,” Hubbard says, “and
are devoting an entire workshop to explain this to the dealers. When
they leave the conference, there will be dealer kits waiting for them.”
While the vehicle contest is likely to make the big national headlines,
ultimately the hope is that NMEDA members can also make
lasting impressions in their own backyards.
“We want the dealers to have open houses, media days and that
kind of thing,” Hubbard says. “Open it up to the public and put a
display out there. Have a weekend to do something special, and invite
people that wouldn’t have normally been invited.”
NMEDA will also be hoping to reach and educate seniors, especially
ones “who are growing into their disability,” Hubbard says. “If
you injure yourself or you have a disease that puts you in a wheelchair,
there are people around that can tell you about these products and
materials. But if you’re just slowly growing into your disability, you
don’t always know (about adaptive automotive equipment). There’s an
awful lot of people in this world that just don’t know what mobility
solutions are available.”
As part of that senior outreach, NMEDA is working with organizations
such as Retirement Living TV Network to help spread the word,
and Hubbard says NMEDA also wants to reach out to adults whose
parents could benefit from this kind of equipment.
How much impact can this industry niche have if it combines
stakeholders’ resources into an ambitious, high-profile, month-long
campaign? Players in the adaptive automotive market are about to
“It’s a lot of work,” Hubbard acknowledges. “But it’s really exciting.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.