Focus on Automotive Access

NMEDA CEO Danny Langfield: on Collaboration & CEUs

man in wheelchair in van with son


To a family getting a new Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) wheelchair, choosing a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) might seem to be the one part of the process they actually know. But choosing the right WAV isn’t simple… a fact many consumers learn when they’re told the vehicle they bought cannot be retrofitted with a ramp or isn’t a good fit for their new power wheelchair.

Danny Langfield, CEO of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), regularly hears of these situations, he said in a new podcast with Mobility Management. “Unfortunately, our dealer members see this all the time. It’s truly nobody’s fault. [The family is] looking to get a vehicle, they’re looking to have it adapted, and they almost certainly have never gone through a process like that. So what do you do when you need a vehicle? You go to a car dealer. And what do car dealers do? They sell cars, so they might not be hyper-attuned to [wheelchair users’] needs. There are very few vehicles that make good candidates for a full-on wheelchair-accessible vehicle conversion.

“If we can have that conversation earlier in the process with your side of the industry — I’m talking about associations we’re so close with, [such as] United Spinal, RESNA — if we can have those conversations that there is a whole industry built on the notion that folks with disabilities need to be transported or drive themselves safely, and if you start there, you eliminate so many problems.”

Inviting Mobility Dealers to the Evaluation

Buying a vehicle that cannot be converted can be a costly mistake, Langfield acknowledged; when it happens, NMEDA tries to find a dealer member who can help resell it. Even better, though, is bringing the mobility dealer into the seating and mobility evaluation process earlier, alongside other specialists, such as speech language pathologists or respiratory therapists.

“That would be fantastic,” Langfield said of such potential collaborations. “As you mentioned all these different specialists that may be involved, and thinking of the automobility portion or that analysis, anything we can do to help, I would be a big, big fan of that.

“Our dealers are not regular car dealers. The normal automotive dealer is about volume; they sell a lot of vehicles, and the sales cycle is pretty short. People come in, they have a pretty good idea of what they want, they fight over the price, and maybe that day walk away with the vehicle. A mobility equipment dealer knows that’s not the way it’s going to go. So for them to be involved in the setting you described would make perfect sense to them. They’re in a consultive stance from the very beginning: What is it that this client needs? From the vehicle standpoint, of course, but then there’s the auto-adaptive equipment. Are they going to drive, are they going to be transported? If we could get involved at that level, I think it could be extremely helpful. Not to keep going back to those nightmare scenarios, but that’s how you avoid them: You get the right expert in the room from the beginning and get folks going down the right path.”

NMEDA Offers Adaptive Automotive Education

How serious is NMEDA about collaborating with the Complex Rehab Technology industry? The Web site offers free CEU classes: Check out Education/Allied Health Professional Education in the homepage navigation bar. Sessions are aimed at occupational and physical therapists and assistants, ATPs, and case managers, among other healthcare professionals.

And speaking of clinicians: NMEDA’s Annual Conference — now rescheduled for Jan. 15-17, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio — is co-locating with the annual conference for the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED).

“Any way we can be helpful, the members of our association I guarantee would be delighted to do it,” Langfield said. “At the NMEDA Web site, it’s as simple as the Dealer Directory. It’s right there on the homepage — you can figure out who your nearest dealer is. Give them a buzz and say, ‘Do you think you can consult on this? No guarantee it’s going to turn into a sale of any kind, but we thought you might be able to be helpful.’ I’m pretty sure they’re going to be there, close to 10 times out of 10.”

To listen to Mobility Management's podcast featuring Langfield, click HERE.

This article originally appeared in the Sep/Oct 2021 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at [email protected].

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