At Home with Dealers

Company Name: Handicapped Driver Services

Location/Contact Info:
Accessibility Services Plaza
1310 Kennestone Circle, Suite 2B
Marietta, Georgia 30066
www.hdsvans.com
Locations also in Jacksonville, Florida, Nashville, Tennessee and opening soon in Birmingham, Alabama.

Established: 1976

Types of products sold: Vehicle modifications, new and used modified vans, wheelchair lifts, Turning Automotive Seats (TAS), driving aids, wheelchair restraints, vehicle structural modifications and high tech electronic driving systems.

Size of company: 35 employees company wide serving hundreds of clients annually throughout the Southeast.

Home Health Products spoke with company president Michael Dresdner


Fun Fact: I mentioned Wal-Mart earlier in the article. What has really been fun for me are the days that our showroom really looks a little like Wal-mart! We really get busy and it gets crowded! That is especially fun for me and my staff because we really like and enjoy people and we like helping them fulfill their mobility needs. It makes all the work really worthwhile.

Take us through the steps a customer takes in getting a vehicle modified:
People who use an accessible vehicle as a passenger vehicle follow a very simple process. They come to our facility or we visit their home and a mobility consultant can show them options that are available to help gain access to their own vehicle or we show them one we may have in stock. The options have become very broad in the past several years and the quality of the equipment is fantastic. The two methods of gaining accessibility to a vehicle are entering the vehicle seated in/on a wheelchair or scooter or loading the unoccupied wheelchair or scooter with a lift or host. The latter is possible only with a client who can independently enter a motor vehicle or who has transfer skills and can enter the vehicle with minimal assistance.

If a client intends to have a vehicle modified to drive and has not previously driven with adaptive equipment, it is recommended that the client has a driver evaluation performed by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS). A driver evaluation allows a professional to determine whether or not the client is physically able to safely operate a motor vehicle and provides a prescription of the devices that will be required. Driving with certain disabilities can be complicated and a driver evaluation with a CDRS will make the process flow much more smoothly. Additionally, a client will be ensuring their safety when evaluated by a professional beforehand. CDRS can be found at www.aded.org.

What's unique about your store?
First and foremost, our 30 plus years experience. Additionally, we started as a driving school evaluating drivers with disabilities. Although we no longer perform driver training and evaluation, we are very effective with routine installations of simple equipment. Where we really shine is in the more complex arena of driving modifications. We also are a National Mobility Equipment Dealer Association (NMEDA) (www.nmeda.org) member and an active accredited participant in the NMEDA Quality Assurance Program (QAP). Last but not least, we are members of the Adaptive Driving Alliance (ADA) (www.adamobility.org). This membership allows us substantial purchasing leverage as well as a higher level of customer service. One opportunity that consumers have because of our affiliation is nationwide service. ADA members contractually agree to assist consumers from other ADA member/dealers when thy travel outside their local service area. This is often taken for granted but there truly is no guarantee of service once you leave home without an organization like ADA. As such, these programs and our reputation allow consumers to have a unique level of confidence that we will be able to efficiently meet their mobility needs both during the purchase and after the sale.

All of our facilities house other rehab services. Our Marietta and Nashville facilities are also located within "accessibility malls" that we call Accessibility Services Plaza (www.rehab-plaza.com). Marietta is fully developed and houses a very active wheelchair/DME/rehab equipment dealer, On The Go Medical, a home modification and home access equipment company, All In One Accessibility, with portions of an accessible home built right in the showroom! In addition to our vehicle modification company Handicapped Driver Services, the Marietta store also houses Para/Quad Nursing Services and Essential care. Both provide in home care to the catastrophic and senior markets respectively. Our Nashville store houses Access and Mobility, a home access contractor and access equipment supplier. We display home access equipment along side custom vans and mobility equipment. Our Jacksonville, Florida store houses a very active wheelchair and scooter dealer, Scooter World. This combining of services and our indoor van and equipment showrooms is a real plus for the consumer. One-stop, all-weather shopping, sort of like the Wal-Mart of rehab!

What component of your business is working well for you?
Our industry has changed dramatically over the last five years. We used to build virtually every van we sold from the ground up. As the industry has grown, larger suppliers have set up assembly lines where vehicles are structurally modified. These vehicles, built in quantity and shipped to us as "cookie cutter" accessible vans are then custom modified at our facilities. These assembly-line built vehicles are the highest quality, safest vehicles that have ever been available to the public. This allows us as a local dealer to stock vehicles on our lot that are virtually ready to go. We still do some heavy custom work for the rehab side of the market and for people who drive, and we do add wheelchair restraints for passengers but most of the complex structural work is now done by second tier suppliers. What works well for us is extensive in-stock inventory and our ability to provide world class customer service. This keeps customers coming back.

What is something you have learned from your experience in the HME industry?
People really count on us. We offer 24/7 technical support and really cater to our consumers. I feel we are somewhat like their family doctor. Once we become a part of their life and their care, consumers will always come back. That's our lifeblood, repeat business. The cost of keeping a consumer as a customer, almost regardless of what it takes, is less than gaining a new consumer.

Do you think the HME industry is changing?
Yes. Change is constant. On our side of the business, the aging population is pushing the numbers of people who need modified transportation through the roof. People just will not stay home. Medicare or private health insurance pays for a mobility device like a wheelchair or a scooter and people are just not going to be content staying home. It is of course becoming more and more competitive and complex. The cost of entry to this industry is not huge. A start-up would not be for the faint of heart! I think the demographics will continue to push growth in personal modified transportation for the next 10-20 years.

If you could change something about the HME industry, what would it be?
The fragmentation of equipment purchasing. That is one thing we have worked hard on here within Accessibility Services Plaza. We have made several services available under one roof. In some cases, we can help consumers make good purchases and to be certain that the equipment works well together. For instance, we can help make sure the wheelchair a client buys fits in their car or van. Or in another example, we can make sure a new bathroom vanity is tall enough to drive under it seated in a scooter. There are many more examples that we see here every week that save people time, money and aggravation. I see this as more and more important as consumers are left to make (and fund) a larger percentage of their heath care decisions.

This article originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of HME Business.

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