5 Great Gadgets for People Who Use Wheelchairs

There’s so much amazing technology available today to help us in our daily lives. Sometimes it feels like the futuristic lifestyle of the Jetsons is already here. We came across these five great gadgets that were specifically designed for people who use wheelchairs.

Tecla for Smart Devices

Tecla-e is an assistive device that gives people with mobility impairments the ability to use smart devices and other types of technology, including Apple, Android, and Windows products. Users can do anything from browsing the web to reading books to adjusting the thermostat. If you can’t easily utilize a tablet, smartphone, or other technologies and tasks independently that require additional upper-body mobility, this gadget is for you.

Power Chair Headlights

You have headlights on your mobility van. But did you know that you can put them on your power chair, too? So, you can stay safe by having the ability to see and be seen at times and places with low visibility. Most headlights come with a remote for ease-of-use and customization.

Personalized Wheelchair Hubcaps/Spoke Guards

While maybe not exactly a “gadget,” this wheelchair accessory is a fun way to personalize your wheelchair. With everything from astronauts to lions to geometric designs, you’re sure to find hubcaps that fit your personal style.

Fleximug for Easy Drinking

The Fleximug helps people with disabilities that affect the upper body to drink independently. The mug is leak-proof, easy to use, and has good lip control and suction. It was created with the purpose of improving the lives of people with spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis and other such disabilities.

JACO Robotic Arm

Okay, so this gadget is likely outside the price range for most of us, but it’s inspiring and it is definitely worth mentioning. JACO is a three-fingered robotic arm that helps people with limited upper-body mobility accomplish routine tasks. From eating a meal to opening doors to picking up objects, JACO is truly impressive. The robotic arm allows for 16 movements in total, to mimic the versatility and smooth transition of a human arm. It can be mounted on a wheelchair and is powered by its own battery.

Here at Bussani Mobility, we’re all about independence and helping you get mobile. Our customers often become our friends, too, and we try to provide information about accessibility that goes beyond their mobility vehicle. If you’d like to see more helpful resources, click here. And if you’re thinking about buying a wheelchair van to improve your mobility, come and talk to one of our mobility specialists. You can even rent one of our vans to try-before-you-buy.

John Bussani Inducted Into NMEDA Hall of Fame

John NMEDA Hall of Fame3-19On March 7, 2019, our founder John Bussani was inducted into the NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association) Hall of Fame. He was honored as “one of the true pioneers and ground-floor innovators” of the mobility industry.

John’s Backstory

NMEDA told the story of how John fled Yugoslavia at the age of five with his mom, to join his father, who had defected to Italy to make a better life for his family. He remembered riding on a train in the dark, with the sounds of war raging all around him.

He had his first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty at 11 years old, from the ship that brought his family to America. They settled in Hoboken, New Jersey, and later moved to Freeport, New York. Later in life, John served in the U.S. Army, and experienced some of the physical challenges faced by veterans who were disabled in their service to our country. He started thinking about how he could help.

After the war, John worked as a draftsman and then started repairing automobile transmissions. While having dinner with friends one night, he was introduced to a polio survivor and the conversation touched on mobility. That night inspired him to start on a career that spanned over four decades and touched thousands of people’s lives. At first, he worked out of the trunk of his car, visiting people’s homes to put hand controls in their vehicles. John went on to become a charter member of NMEDA; was actively involved in developing the QAP program; and participated in the Adaptive Driving Alliance, as well as leading industry organizations.

Advancing People’s Lives
John retired in March 2017, and passed the torch to his son, Dan Bussani, who is a co-owner and CEO, and who has been involved in the business his entire life. Today, Bussani has two locations on Long Island (one in Nassau and one in Suffolk) and one location in Westchester, New York. Dan Bussani shares ownership of the company with co-owners and long-time employees, Dan Walsh and Stephen Wilmer.

At the time of John Bussani’s retirement, Nassau County District Judge Hon. Robert E. Pipia, who is also a customer and friend of Bussani Mobility, wrote this about him: “John’s development of his business and his hand in the nurturing of the vehicle modification industry, setting the standards to what it has become nationally, and has advanced the lives of individuals with disabilities throughout our country, making people mobile, and most importantly, independent. Where would we be without John’s vision and hard work? Enjoy all the fishing and libations you so richly deserve, John, because you ‘got us there.’”

His Inspiration

When John Bussani received his award, to much applause, he talked about how it “was an incredible honor.” And, he went on to acknowledge some of the people he met early on that made a big impact as he was starting his business.

First, there was Alan Ruprecht, founder of Drive-Master in New Jersey. He would not allow his disability to stop him from driving. So, he fought back and used his ability to create universal hand controls to help him regain his mobility.

The second person who impressed John with his beliefs and business ability was Ralph Braun. He was told he probably would not survive past his early teens, let alone have a job or family. He proved them all wrong. Ralph’s abilities rose above his physical challenges to create products for his own use that, over time, became the world-class industry leader, BraunAbility.

And third, was Peter Zarba, who started as a customer and then worked for Bussani Mobility for 30 years. He inspired everyone who met him, and led the way by playing quad rugby, marathons, kayaking, fishing, and even skydiving ─ always putting abilities above disabilities. He said: “Pete was a daily reminder of what we (all of us in the mobility industry) work for, improving quality of life for people.”

Parting Words
John went on to say that these three unique people ─ Alan, Ralph and Peter ─ “were all told that their prospects were limited, but they saw beyond that. They saw the truth behind it, which was that they had abilities to live very useful and productive lives.

“In summary, we in this industry, are blessed on a daily basis to touch so many lives and help people achieve mobility freedom. We offer people products and services that are truly life-changing. So, keep it up, guys.”
John, everyone here at Bussani Mobility, is so grateful to you and proud of you!

What You Need to Know About Converting Your Van to an Accessible Vehicle

Bussanimobility_custom transfer seat

Living with a physical disability adds extra challenges to everyday life. And one of the biggest is transportation. How will you get from place to place, especially if you or someone you love uses a wheelchair or scooter?

If you already own a full-size van or a minivan, there’s a good chance that it can be converted to be wheelchair accessible. Ramps, lifts, transfer seats, and specialized driving equipment can be added so that the person using the wheelchair can drive or their caregiver can easily transport them. Here are some important things to keep in mind about wheelchair van conversions.

What kinds of vehicles can be converted?

Minivans like the Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, and Chrysler Pacifica can be converted. Full-size vans ─ including the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, and RAM ProMaster ─ can also be made wheelchair accessible.

The first question is what year, make and model vehicle do you want to convert? There are some limitations on body styles, when manufacturers made changes to certain model years, and they can’t be converted.

Are there certain vehicles that can’t be converted?

If it’s an all-wheel or four-wheel drive, it can’t be converted. Another thing to keep in mind is mileage; there’s a mileage cap of 50,000. And, you have to consider if the vehicle has been in any accidents. A fender bender with $2,000 in damage is ok, but something with $9,000 in damage is probably not. We would have to inspect the vehicle carefully and check the VIN with the mobility conversion manufacturer. Be sure to consult your local mobility dealer about specific models and restrictions.

What types of equipment are installed so the person with a physical disability can use it?

If the person being transported uses a wheelchair, an accessible van is equipped with a power door, power or manual ramp, and power kneel feature that lowers the van for easy entry. They can sit in the front passenger side or in a mid-way position, and the chair is secured with tie-downs. Transfer seats can also be used to easily move a person from their wheelchair, or move someone using a walker, into the passenger seat.

Will the person using the wheelchair be able to drive the vehicle?
If the person using the wheelchair is the driver, they have the option of operating the vehicle from their wheelchair or the factory seat, using a custom transfer seat. If using the wheelchair, a power lockdown is fitted to locate the correct and most comfortable position. Driving equipment ─ like foot controls, hand controls, and electronic digital driving systems ─ are chosen and customized as needed, depending on their abilities.

The same van can be driven by either the person using a wheelchair or their caregivers. For instance, mechanical hand controls can be accessed by one person to operate the vehicle but the other can also drive it in the usual way.

How much will it cost?

The MSRP for a fully powered conversion is typically in the mid-$20,000 to $30,000. However, commercial conversions (vehicles used as accessible taxis) can be adapted for personal use more in the $14,000-$18,000 range.

As far as customization goes, it’s a broad spectrum. For instance, a simple spinner knob might run you $125, but a voice command and joy stick steering console can be $50,000-$60,000. That’s why it’s so important to talk to a mobility dealer.

Something else to keep in mind: You can finance the vehicle and conversion in one loan if you purchase the entire package. If not, you will have two loans, and the conversion loan will be at a higher rate because it is unsecured. Our mobility specialists will help you with all the details.

How long will it take?

It’s generally a two-month process to ship and convert a vehicle. The other option is to purchase a vehicle that has already been made ready for wheelchair use. In that case, buying from the Bussani Mobility inventory of new or pre-owned accessible vehicles, it could be a little as two weeks until you’re in the driver’s seat.

Can any auto shop do this for me?

No. We strongly recommend that you only go in person (not online) to an authorized mobility dealer that has certified technicians who are fully trained to work with mobility equipment. Your safety is the most important consideration.

Our best advice is for you to head over to your local mobility dealer. At Bussani Mobility, you can look at and test out the vehicles and the driving equipment, and get the honest advice of people who know this technology inside and out. We’re happy to put our 40-plus years of experience to work for you, to make sure you get just what you need to get you mobile and enjoy your independence.