Live Your Dreams and Overcome Your Mobility Challenges Feb 4, 2013

Originally published in EP Magazine May 2012

Over 18 million people in the U.S. and Canada face mobility issues every day. Yet, so many people are not aware of the adaptive mobility vehicles that are available to help those who are dealing with physical disabilities gain their freedom and independence back.

By Dan Bussani

Everyone has dreams. And everyone should have the opportunity to make their heartfelt wishes come true. While people with physical disabilities have extra challenges to contend with, a bit of added planning and determination can help them accomplish just about anything.

Let's take Ron Lindenfeld, for instance. At 20 years of age, he was very athletic and competitive; he played baseball, was a cyclist, and had a thirst for adventure. Ron was injured in a diving accident, and now functions as a C6/C7 quad. After the accident, of course his life changed dramatically. He spent six months in the hospital, and although he got a lot of support while in the hospital, once he left that environment he started to feel disabled. The next two years were tough and he faced a lot of low points. But he persevered.

"You can't ever replace the things that you love and that are no longer possible, and it's silly to think you can ever 'get over it.' It's just like losing someone you love. But you can learn to tolerate it and, most important, to find things in life that will work for you and satisfy you," explained Ron Lindenfeld.

One of the things that helped to turn his life around was getting his first wheelchair accessible van. He had help from the Bussani Mobility Team, whose mission is to help people with disabilities regain their ability to enjoy full and complete lives. Bussani believes that having a vehicle that's been fitted to their special needs gives its customers a true gif—the experience of regaining their independence. Adaptive mobility vehicles can change peoples' lives and give them new hope to live out their dreams.

The Bussani Mobility Team set Ron up in a full-size van with right-angle hand controls, a six-way power seat, electric barn doors and lift, low-effort steering and brakes, and a raised roof. "Once I starting driving around again, and I didn't have to depend on people to pick me up, I got my freedom back," Ron commented.

As he was looking to see what he would do with his life, Ron remembered a visit he received while in the hospital at Mt. Sinai from a man in a wheelchair who told him all about Freedom Wings International. Based in Pennsylvania, the organization provides opportunities for those who are physically challenged to fly in specially adapted sailplanes, either as a passenger or as a member of the flight training program.

And just like that, Ron had found his calling, and he soon had a goal he believed in. He began flying, and his instructor (a high-functioning quad) acknowledged his natural aptitude for aviation. He went on to compete on a flight simulation team and made it to the top 10 in nationals (among some 400 competitors), and eventually went back to school for a degree in aviation. Ron now teaches aviation at the Dowling College School of Aviation on Long Island, and he says he feels privileged to be working closely with students to help them pursue careers in aviation.

When I asked Ron what was most important for him in overcoming his mobility challenges, he said: "It's more of an attitude challenge than anything else. You have to think about how well you can not let the physical disability stop you. There will be times when you think it isn't going to work out, and sometimes you can't do it by yourself, but there are always solutions. Look at what you want to do, not at your limitations. Look at the support that's available and get help when you need it. And use adaptive tools to overcome your limitations. It's easy to get in a rut. But if you develop an awareness of yourself and your feelings, you can learn to address anything."

Eye-to-Eye with a Whale

I consider myself very fortunate to work every day with a great guy named Peter Zarba. He started with Bussani Mobility Team way back in the 1980s, and he continues to be dedicated to helping people experience how adaptive vehicles can help to get them where they want to go in life.

Let me tell you something about Peter. He's one inspiring guy! He's been in a wheelchair for some 30 years, but I don't think there's anything Peter can't do. He skis, plays wheelchair rugby, hunts, skydives, and fishes – just to name a few of his adventures. And one day in the waters around New York, he experienced being eye-to-eye with a whale.

Peter was out in his wheelchair accessible fishing boat with a buddy when the giant cetacean floated right up next to the boat. He made eye contact for a few moments with Peter and then swam off into the deep blue. Whatever the task, if it can be done, Peter finds a way to accomplish it. Peter is in Bussani's Bethpage, Long Island, office ready to talk to customers about their adaptive automotive needs.

A Simple Christmas Dinner

Not everyone is cut out for such high adventure. And sometimes, the simplest of dreams are those that we hold the closest to our hearts, like Christmas dinner with the whole family.

Now 18, Johnny was injured from birth, and he's been living in a group home since he was five. He was the only family member missing from all of the holiday photos, because there just wasn't any way to transport him to and from family gatherings. Until this past year, when the Boutin family purchased a Town & Country wheelchair accessible van that we custom-fitted for Johnny's needs.

To make the holiday even sweeter, one of Johnny's brothers had just returned from serving as a Marine in Afghanistan, and his other brother was to be deployed into the Army in March. This year, all the brothers, his sister, parents and grandparents were especially joyous.

His mom, Laurie Boutin, said: "Finally, my parents have a holiday picture with all of their grandchildren in it. We hadn't been all together with the whole family on Christmas since Johnny was four and a half years old."

Having the wheelchair accessible van changed everyday life for the Boutins, as well. Before, when Johnny would have to go to the hospital, the family had to call an ambulance because of his trach tube. Sometimes, they would wait up to three hours for another ambulance to return him home.

"That would never happen now," commented Laurie. "I can take him wherever he needs to go. My influence is so much bigger again in his life. And when Johnny gets to travel, he loves it. He smiles from ear to ear – and he's mobile! Sometimes we go to a nearby park and stroll around. That was never an option before. We get to explore together, and it's opened up a whole new world for him and for us."

Laurie's advice to people with physical disabilities or those caring for them: "If there's any way possible that you can get a wheelchair accessible van, do it. It will increase your independence."

Mobility Solutions for Every Need

Over 18 million people in the U.S. and Canada face mobility issues every day. But so many people aren't aware of the adaptive mobility vehicles that are available today to help those who are dealing with physical disabilities gain their freedom and independence back.

The Bussani Mobility Team (www.bussanimobility.com) has valuable resources to share with its customers. There is a complete line of best-in-class wheelchair accessible vans from trusted manufacturers including: BraunAbility, VMI, Vision, Bruno, and B&D. The company's sales representatives take the time to really get to know customers so that they can adapt the vehicles to best fit the clients' mobility needs. New and pre-owned vehicles are available for every budget from Toyota, Chrysler, Honda, Dodge and Ford.

Experts technicians are also up-to-speed on all the latest-and-greatest mobility solutions including: customized vans, vehicle conversions, wheelchair and scooter lifts, ramps, transfer seats, hand controls, spinner knobs, foot controls, tiedowns, and even select in-home mobility products.

Bussani wants to leave its customers with this one thought: "If You Can Dream It, We Can Get You There."

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