Hitting the Road with the Freys

Amy Frey in her new wheelchair accessible minivan

Planning a vacation or shopping for a flat screen TV can be taxing. The process can take a day, a weekend, a week; involve hours of research, countless conversations with friends, family, and sales persons; and conclude with the difficult final decision. Now what if you were buying a wheelchair accessible minivan? For some, this can take years!

Meet Malcolm and Lyne Frey. They began the hunt for an accessible van for their daughter, Amy, over two years ago. The Frey family is young and active and was in need of a vehicle that was comfortable, safe and reliable. We recently spoke with Lyne to learn more about their search for the perfect van.

The Freys originally went to an accessible vehicle dealership for a quote, but were discouraged by the prices. At that time, they were not aware of the different types of conversions, ramps, and add-ons, making it difficult to determine what their family needed. But once Amy got bigger, it became difficult for the Frey family to travel.

The Freys are a family of five; Malcolm and Lyne have 3 daughters, ages 11, 8, and 9 months. Amy, age 8, is a beautiful and happy girl. Malcolm and Lyne learned that Amy had microcephaly, cerebelar hypoplasia, and global development delays when she was just 8 months old. She functions at a 3-12 month-old level and began using a wheelchair shortly after her 4th birthday. Amy is now starting to walk and explore but is still dependent on her wheelchair for mobility and travel.

The Frey family’s day to day life is very busy. With 3 children, they are constantly on the go and morning and nightly rituals can take hours. Lyne says that things have changed drastically with a wheelchair user in the family. Stairs and curbs are viewed in a new way. Everything takes longer and the family takes up space wherever they go. Lyne does note, however, that she gets the good parking spaces!

The Freys revived their search this spring and bought a rear entry, short floor from Savaria. Having the accessible van has made a huge difference in the Frey’s daily living. Before the van, it was quite a process to get Amy in and out of the family vehicle. Now all they need to do is wheel Amy into the van and buckle up. Lynn and Malcolm actually argue over who gets to do it! With traveling so much easier now, the family plans on taking a trip to Niagara Falls this summer in their new van.

“Buying with Savaria was easy,” Lynn says. The family lives about an hour away from our Brampton offices so their sales representative, Ryan, drove the van down to Amy’s school so that the family could take Amy for a test drive.

When asked what advice she would give to other families searching for an accessible van, Lynn replied “get educated.” Learn about the types of vans, conversions, and ramps and think about which is the best choice for your family.

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Design with an Accessible Twist

Bedroom designed by Cynthia at CMG Interiors for a child with sensory needs

Creative thinking is a must when designing for children with disabilities. It takes a good understanding of your child’s condition and what stimulates your child combined with a big dose of fun to make it a great kid’s space.

A child may have a physical need for access of the need for mental stimulations. Parents may be looking for ways to incorporate or hide medical equipment. Ginger Rodriquez, an interior designer and mom featured in the Washington Post believes that children with special needs spend more time in their rooms. Designers need to find new and interesting ways to divert a child’s attention away from his or her disability.

We spoke to Cynthia Meyers Griffin at CMG Interiors in Washington D.C. about the process of designing for a child with special needs. The first step is always getting to know the child. What are his or her needs? What will the room be used for – play, homework, rest? Does the child have a favorite color? It is also a good idea to talk to the parents to learn more about the child and what they are hoping to see in the room design. Cynthia also recommends doing some research on the child’s disability to better understand the challenges and needs and possibly design solutions that others have found effective. From there, the designer launches into the creative process to dream up the perfect room.

For children who are easily stimulated, she recommends calm colors, and just the opposite for children who need energizing. Some children may have issues with light, in which case diffusing or using artificial light is a great idea. Other solutions include spinning elements to help children who use movement to process information, rugs for diffusing sound or providing sensory stimulation, or high ceilings and open spaces for stimulating toys such as bouncy balls.

Ginger Rodriguez describes her design for her son in a WP February 2012 article (no longer available online). She installed hardwood floors so that her son could better use and move his IV pole. Lowered light switches and a control for the stereo system gave Sean control and independence in his room. She added a personal touch by painting the walls light blue with an image above the bed of a little boy flying an airplane and laughing.

For parents looking for Do-It-Yourself tips and tricks, Terri Sapienza outlines a number of ideas here, including hide-away bed rails and pocket doors to maximize space.

Designing a room for a child with disability can make a huge difference in his or her life. Not only can it be a rewarding experience for the designer, but the child is able to be self-sufficient and independent, something of utmost importance to children with disabilities. Having a room painted in your favorite color, with your favorite toys, room for your medical supplies, and easy access to light switches, the desk, the bed, etc. gives a feeling of “home.” And who doesn’t want that feeling for their child!

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Savaria at the World Expo in China

Savaria booth at WEE Expo 2012 in Guangzhou, China

Last weekend marked the 10th biannual World Elevator & Escalator Expo, which began back in 1996. Sponsored by China Elevator Association, the event took place at China Import & Export Fair Exhibition Hall in Guangzhou.

The World Elevator & Escalator Expo 2012 is officially the largest elevator exhibition in the world and boasted more than 50,000sqm in exhibition space. 600 exhibitors were in attendance, hailing from 22 countries, including Germany, Korea, Japan, India, Turkey, Italy, and Finland. Exhibitors ranged from elevator manufacturers to dealers to metal manufacturers to electric companies and parts distributors.

Savaria exhibited our line of personal mobility products, featuring our NEW gearless Eclipse elevator and our platform lifts, stairlifts and stair climber. Staff from our office in Huizhou had a wonderful time interacting with customers, dealers, and other industry professionals. Thanks to WEE Expo Ghangzhou ’12 for hosting this incredibly successful event.

Check out some pictures here of our Savaria booth.

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