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November 21, 2016

Mobility Tech Gives Disabled Individuals New Freedom

By Special Guest
Edwin Medina, President, In Motion Mobility

The World Health Organization reports that more than a billion people in the world today experience a disability. Of these, in North America, over 18 million people are living with restricted mobility issues. Mobility disabilities can be one of the most debilitating issues a person can have; each day can feel like a struggle to overcome obstacles and travel from one place to another.

In the past, disabled people were limited in their mobility. Now, with assistive driving technology, disabled individuals are able to be mobile and enjoy the freedom of the open road. User-friendly driving solutions, modifiable vans, and fleets of paratransit vehicles make it easier than ever to get around. Mobility technology has come far in the last few decades. Multifunction steering systems can be customized for individuals with just about any disability, giving mobility and freedom to millions of people around the world.

Who Benefits From Assistive Driving Technology?
Amputees, quadriplegics, paraplegics, and those afflicted with MS (Multiple Sclerosis), muscular dystrophy, limited strength, and limited power are just some of the people who can benefit from this technology. In the past, wheelchair bound individuals needed assistance getting into and out of vehicles. Those with paralysis, or who could not reach the gas pedal and brake could not think to own, operate, or drive a vehicle. They had to rely on others for their transportation and shopping needs. Today, however, the story has changed. - and it isn’t just the transportation industry that is being affected.

Creating a Mobile Society
A recent report from the BBC found that Toyota is developing a wearable device to help give blind and visually impaired people greater mobility. The gadget is worn like a backpack and uses speakers and vibrational motions to make the wearer more attuned to their surroundings. This advancement comes after news that Microsoft said it had designed a headset that uses location and navigation data to lead visually impaired people around cities. Robin Spinks, a strategy manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People had this to say about the technology: “This is a very exciting development within the rapidly growing field of wearable assistive technology. Mobility is at the heart of so much in our society” (Source).

This is just one of the ways technology is helping disabled people all around the world. Who knows, in time, perhaps even in the next decade, fully autonomous vehicles may be the norm, revolutionizing the way we travel. A report by Business Insider estimates that 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road in 2020 (Source).

Until then, assistive devices installed in vehicles are still used by millions of handicapped individuals worldwide. Customizable controls like the Joysteer, a Swiss manufacturer of man-machine-interfaces make it possible to modify a vehicle to respond to the commands of each unique driver. For now, vans are preferred due to their ease of ingress and egress for individuals in wheelchairs, but ramps and other assistive devices allow severely handicapped individuals to drive on their own. Options like mini steering wheels, gas & brake controls, and multiple types of joysticks with varying sensitivity levels can be crafted to allow anyone to experience the freedom of the open road.

The Future Is Upon Us
Having a physical limitation no longer means one is confined to the radius just outside one’s house. Too often, amputees, paraplegics, and paralyzed people are ashamed to ask for help, or feel as if they are burdening their loved ones when asking for a ride. Unwilling or unable to do so, they settle for fewer opportunities than life offers. I hope that with this changing assistive mobility technology, we will be one step closer to giving them a way ahead, helping those with disabilities overcome that fear. For now, my outlook remains optimistic. The future is upon us, and it's taking us along for the ride. I believe your disability shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the freedom of the open road.

About the Author: Edwin Medina, President of In Motion Mobility has 19 years of experience in the mobility industry. His commitment to delivering the best products and services to his clients, many of whom have placed their trust in him for decades, led him to open In Motion Mobility in 2014.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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