Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Pretty 'Car Car'

It's beautiful!

I got to see it, by chance, when it was visiting Vita. Manuela called me in my office and told me to meet her downstairs. There was real excitement in her voice. I pulled out through the door and into the parking lot to find this amazingly beautiful kinda van, kinda car. It was like a London Cab on steroids. I spoke to the fellow from the dealership who was showing this to the both of us. It is the first vehicle that was purpose built for people with physical disabilities. It made access beautiful. The guy told me that instead of sticking a ramp onto a vehicle, where it was never intended to go, this design built the vehicle around the ramp. And it showed.

The ramp deploys differently to a curb than it does to the ground, both deployments keep the same gentle gradient up into the vehicle. There is a space, right up front, for a wheelchair user to sit and look directly out of the front window. I've never ridden in a vehicle, in my wheelchair, in the front. The idea gave me chills. But even more, the idea of designing something for those of us with disabilities instead of adapting something to us which was not designed for us in the first place, well, now, that is just plain radical thinking.

I get asked all the time to promote various products here on this blog. I don't. Ever. This time, I am, only because no one asked me to. Only because, this is the vehicle I'd buy if I could. I don't think I've ever had a visceral, "I WANT THAT" reaction to a car. I'm not a car guy. Sometimes Joe will say, while looking at a passing car, "was that a 'here put in a name of a car'". Then he realizes who he is talking too ... someone who's conversation about a car is limited to 'I like that colour'. When I was a kid I first called any vehicle from a car to a logging truck a 'car car' and I've never really advance much beyond that point. But this thing. Man. It's beautiful. So check it out, and let me know what you think.

As a side note, Vita is holding a motorcycle rally to raise funds for the purchase of the MV-1. It's on September 25.  If you'd like you can help in one of two ways. First, if you are a ‘biker’ … consider registering for the day. You’ll have fun. Not only a great ride through the countryside, not only a bar-b-que, not only a chance for your bike to win prizes … you also get to, in the spirit of community, make community more possible for our members. Second, if you aren’t a ‘biker’ but know people who are. Pass the website along to them. Put the Rally on your Facebook page. (I don’t even know what that means, but I’m guessing most of you do.) Again, I don't typically use my blog for this purpose but I'm excited about the day - I will be speaking at the end of the rally - and about the idea of having the opportunity to, maybe one day, get a ride in this thing!


Tamara said...

Jay Leno has a cool demo on his website -

That is really cool - Good luck on your fundraiser!

Andrea S. said...

Yes, when people with disabilities are centered from the beginning in design, it really shows. At Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts university for deaf people in the world, there are a few entire buildings that are designed in close consultation with deaf people (I think some designed BY deaf people as well). For example, there are more glass windows that allow deaf people to talk through them (via sign language), good lighting so deaf people can see each other clearly for communication, etc.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Thanks Tamara, that was fun to watch. Andrea, I didn't know that about Galludet ... I don't know why it surprises me that something designed for people with disabilities actually took the needs of people with disabilities into consideration ... but it does.

Katja said...

Interesting - an internet acquaintance went to look at one and found it to be designed for use by an able-bodied person transporting a wheelchair user, rather than independently by the wheelchair user (for example, a wheelchair user inside the vehicle cannot deploy the lift). Here's the discussion:

Andrea S. said...

I think it surprises you because it happens so rarely. For example, I have used three different cell phones in my life (including one rental and two I've owned). And although all offered features I could certainly use, I also have been continously frustrated by a design that clearly centers the experiences of hearing users. For example, the first cell phone I owned was set up so that the default setting was always to go to where you dial to make a voice call--a feature I realize is central for most hearing people but completely and utterly useless to me. The first cell phone I owned had a vibration strong enough that I could feel it but did not actually vibrate reliably when it was supposed to. The other two phones I've used have had really pathetically weak vibrations that I never feel unless I happen to be holding my phone in my hand or something. Since I certainly can't hear the ringing, this means I never know when someone is sending me a text message!

And don't get me started on calling plans -- most force you to pay for a certain minimum level of minutes talking on the phone whether you're able to use that feature or not. Only a very few companies, at least in the US, even offer a "data only" plan for people who just need the text messaging, email, and web browsing without the talking--which even my hearing partner likes because she, too, actually communicates more often via email than via phone. And even some of those companies still sometimes make you jump through hoops to prove that you really are deaf before they'll allow you to sign up for the data only plan.

Sorry for the rant. I'm just wishing that the idea of designing products around the needs of customers with disabilities wasn't so rare that it is surprising when it happens.

Kasie said...

Very cool

Speaking of bikers, check out these bikes made to accommodate wheelchair users.

Kristin said...

That is truly amazing. What a fabulous vehicle.

Penelope said...

I've seen this vehicle get talked about a couple places over the last 3 years or so. I'm a little concerned that 1) I haven't heard of them in use yet and 2) the concerns Katja mentions that it's really aimed at transporting wheelchair users than as a vehicle a wheelchair user could purchase for themselves. Also I seem to remember at one point there were concerns that it wasn't tall enough for all rehab powerchairs, but maybe that's changed since that point. (Unfortunately I can't remember where those concerns were brought up, possible on WheelchairJunkie's message boards.)

Katja said...

The primary issues brought up on CareCure were:

1. Ramp too steep for manual wheelchair users, especially given that you can't always control what sort of slope you're parking on. In the Jay Leno video, the company CEO said it was a 6:1 slope. For permanent access ramps, the ADA minimum is 12:1.

2. No way for a wheelchair user inside the vehicle to deploy the ramp, as the buttons are located on the edge of the open door.

3. The driver's seat, while it can be raised and lowered to assist a wheelchair-using driver to transfer, does not swivel.

4. There is no option to remove the driver's seat and replace it with tie-downs.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Thanks for those notes about the car. I only saw it from outside, and did not realize that it did not have an interior ramp deployer button thing. The one we saw had two buttons for the ramp, one that was to a curb, the other was to the ground. The ramp had a very gentle rise to it, easy to push up in the manual chair. I didn't go all the way up and in. I understood that the drivers seat could be moved, but that was from the Jay Leno piece I saw. I see the concerns raised here and get that maybe there needs to be more adaptions to the vehicle itself. I am still pleased at the idea that someone wants to make a vehicle with expressly for wheelchair users. Since I never get anything right first go, I don't expect others too. The issue isn't that there are changes that need to be made ... it will be whether or not they listen to concerns and incorporate these changes into the next and subsequent models.