Therapy session for Savaria

Savaria was pleased to host ten ergotherapists last month at its Montreal area showroom.  In Quebec, an ergotherapist (similar to an occupational therapist) assists people in living an active, independent and healthy lifestyle after an accident or due to a disability.  The event offered a collaborative exchange between manufacturer and service provider where both groups could learn about each other.

Savaria showcased its mobility products including a stairlift and wheelchair lift by way of hands-on demonstrations.  The meeting also marked the unveiling of a new 28-page guidebook from Savaria, written especially for healthcare professionals.    “Products are only part of the story when you’re working to improve someone’s personal mobility, said Alex Bourassa VP Operations for Savaria Montreal.  “An ergotherapist has to look at the condition of the client today and possibly the future in order to prescribe the best solution.  In many cases, that means modifications to a person’s home.  We’ve tried to make that more clear and simple with our guidebook.  That includes telling someone when the product won’t be the right solution.  They have a demanding job, and we’re trying to make it just a bit easier. The ergotherapists are an important source of information for product improvement as well.  They can tell us first-hand some great tips and advice on what would help people live more independently.”

The excellent feedback only means that future sessions will continue to be held in Montreal as well as Toronto and Calgary.

If you are a healthcare provider who deals with personal mobility challenges or people with disabilities, you may order your free guidebook by completing an online form on the Savaria web site.


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One billion reasons to deal with accessibility

According to the World Health Organization, there are one billion people with disabilities in the world. With that, there is a possibility that one in every seven people around you may have some form of disability; just to put that into perspective.

You must be wondering why this figure is so big or what constitutes a disability? According to the study, “two thirds of disabilities are non-communicable disease such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer. Nine percent is attributable to conditions resulting from infectious diseases such as measles and polio, and a similar percentage is due to injuries sustained in motor-vehicle crashes, falls and so on.” (The Globe and Mail). What’s more, the aging baby boomer population number is growing and increased accessibility issues are looming. Disabilities used to be associated with purely health problems but it is also the possibility of having being denied opportunities.

So what does this all mean as a society? It means that we need to come together to acknowledge these issues by promoting opportunities for preventing disabilities such as safety training, making buildings, homes and public places more accessible for everyone and by being sensitive to the needs of those who do have them. Companies such as Savaria and eSSENTIAL Accessibility are making a push to ensure the most amount of accessibility in day to day activities or online. For information about the report and interviews take a look at the article from the Globe and Mail or the United Nations, for more information on how to make your home or workplace more accessible check out and for online accessibility,


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Crashing your way to a pass

The big auto manufacturers must do it.  But did you also know that specialists like Savaria do it too? To ensure your personal safety, Savaria crash tests every wheelchair van conversion design under a strict pass/fail system conducted by independent research firms such as MGA in Wisconsin.  Because the original van is modified structurally, successful crash testing proves the integrity of the vehicle is maintained after the conversion process.   Recently, Pierre Cote, Engineering VP for the Savaria Vehicle Group talked about his experience with crash testing.

“Even though you know you’re there to watch a brand new vehicle hit a wall at 50km/h, you never get used to it.  It’s an unsettling scene of flying debris and abrupt noise. Watching the crash of our newest rear entry wheelchair van design is bittersweet.  You see all your team’s R & D work, your months of modelling and hours of decision making crumpled on purpose.  But when the crash is over, it’s like a sunrise.  You see how amazingly well your design was built.  The expected things happen as airbags deploy and your dummy passengers come to rest safely in their seats.  You breathe a sigh of relief.  But it’s not about luck.  My team’s job is to do their homework so even though we’re all a little anxious at the test facility, our “pass” results are really a celebration of our hard work.”

“Manufacturers like us should only sell successfully crash tested vehicles.  As a company, we made a decision that regardless of cost, our position is simple.  We choose safety.”

The Savaria rear entry Dodge Caravan 2011 design is available through authorized Savaria dealers.

Watch the slow motion crash test below:


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Walking his way into the future

When Robocop hit theaters, it was completely fictious and improbable that a severely wounded cop was able to walk, move and fight crime again. But that movie came out 24 years ago and there are changes afoot.

Last month, Austin Whitney took his first steps in four years after being paralyzed in a car accident.  He choose his commencement for this momentous coming out. It was his dream to walk on stage and receive his diploma and in front of the 2011 graduating class he did just that.

Robocop and a paraplegic Berkeley graduate come together in reality through the concept of bionic limbs which in 2011 are made by ReWalk . Led by mechanical engineering Professor Homayoon Kazerooni, a team of graduate students built an exoskeleton, which allowed Austin to fulfill his dream. Prof. Homayoon has had experience working with robotic exoskeletons, as founder of Berkeley Bionics, a company that is currently in the trial process of another exoskeleton that is expected to be available by 2013.

The exoskeleton worn by Austin, weighs 40 pounds and took 9 months to get to a comfortably usable stage. You can read more about this fascinating product including how it works and watch Austin receive his diploma here.


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Excuse me, how can I help you?

Have you ever been in an awkward situation not knowing whether or not to help a person with disabilities? Ever see a person who needs help but not sure if you will be undermining the person’s ability? A lot of us are faced with these situations and issues, in business or in a grocery store. It is completely normal and I am speaking from pure experience.  For people in business, customer service is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy relationship with the customer and keeps them coming back for your services. In a lot of cases employees and businesses don’t have the proper knowledge to deal with a person with disabilities turning them away without even noticing it. Here are some keys to knowing what to do in that situation: speak directly to the customer and make eye contact, do not refer to them as a disabled person but rather refer to them as a person with disabilities, ask how you can help them or what you can do to help, be courteous and lastly do not make any prejudgments. For a more detailed look into these practices, refer to the video posted below.

Improving Customer Service for People with Disabilities



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