When individuals with disabilities are in the process of travel, particularly by air, there is damage done to an average of 701 wheelchairs and motorized scooters each month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Wheelchair users cannot stay in their chair during flights which means chairs become a piece of baggage rather than a mobility device. Not having the ability to stay in one’s chair leads to broken chairs as well as pain and discomfort during flights.
Bathrooms on planes are also not always accessible to every wheelchair user. There is the question of how to first get to the bathroom. Is there an aisle chair onboard? If so, how long will the wait for the assistance of the stewardess be? Then there is the question of access within the tiny bathroom. Are there bars? Typically not. And if a person is needed for assistance to use the bathroom, is this person on the plane and can both the person using the bathroom and assisting both fit? Many times, people who use wheelchairs just avoid using the bathroom on the plane altogether. But don’t forget, people in wheelchairs are the first ones on the plane and the last ones off. So no dashing to the terminal bathroom once the plane has landed.
Due to broken wheelchairs, the physical discomfort during flying and the lack of onboard bathroom access, wheelchair users may prefer to plan their travel around driving themselves in their vehicles made specifically to fit their wheelchairs and personal needs. However, as with anything with an engine, failures can occur. While the majority of drivers can look up and call a local tow truck or mechanic to help with their vehicle, people who use wheelchairs have to take their chair into consideration.
In the fall of 2013, Jim Speer was visiting the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Seattle, Washington. There he found a gentleman in a wheelchair who expressed how, a few weeks earlier, he had used a towing service that had left him on the side of the road when they picked up his van. After the Jim did some research for some sort of service that would help veterans with different needs, nothing was found. This lead to the birth of Mobility Roadside Assistance (MRA).
“Mobility Roadside Assistance is proud to offer the first service to cover both the United States and Canada with a roadside assistance program that focuses specifically on the needs of drivers with physical disabilities, not just the disabled vehicle.” Before MRA, a wheelchair user may be unable to go with their car because most towing service could not transport the members wheelchair upon the towing of their car. In contrast to the typical towing service, “Mobility Roadside Assistance is designed to aid members when the vehicle they are driving or riding in becomes disabled.” MRA would arrive with a vehicle equipped for the wheelchair user as well as a tow truck for their car. MRA, like the name suggests, puts the needs of the driver’s mobility first then stays with them through the process of caring for their vehicle.
MRA has a simple origin story; it was founded due to one person’s need being recognized as relevant to a broader population. Wheelchair users should invest in MRA because it would be addressing ALL of the needs of the driver: the car, the accessible transport to help, and the connection to other services that specialize in circumstances that may have become more complex than expected. MRA provides a sense of security and peace of mind when planning and pursuing travels on the road.