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FREE motoring November, 2013 Voyager Media Publications, Inc. The Joliet Bugle The Plainfield Enterprise The Shorewood Sentinel

INSIDEFeatures n Cover Story MobilityWorks > pages 1 & 2

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Freedom for all Plainfield shop meets transportation needs of people with disabilities


aking the world accessible to everyone is what MobilityWorks is all about. “Basically we give freedom to people’s lives,” said Joe Canda, general manager of MobilityWorks of Plainfield. The business on the north side of town is able to meet the transportation needs for people with disabilities by creating adaptive vehicles to meet the exact needs of the client. That could include minivans or full-sized vans, wheelchair ramps and lifts, scooter lifts, turning and transfer seats, hand controls and wheelchair tie-down and locking systems. Finding or creating the right vehicle combination to meet the needs of a customer can be freeing for an individual. It might mean the client no longer has to take public transportation or rely on a medical van to get around.

“Normalcy is brought back,” Canda said.

The first step is a needs analysis. A certified mobility consultant will sit down with an individual or family member to determine what will best suit a client. Joe Canda, General Manager MobilityWorks of Plainfield

“My team is great. They do whatever possible

to serve the disabled customer. It is really neat. The best part is giving back to clients.” Case-by-case basis The first step is a needs analysis. A certified mobility consultant will sit down with an individual or family member to determine what will best suit a client. “It could be 20 minutes; it could be 40 minutes, depending on the needs of the client,” Canda said. From there, the consultant creates a plan. Sometimes it could be a van complete with an integrated wheelchair ramp; other times it might be turning seats or hand controls. “Everything is not black and white. It is Continued on page 2

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The staff of MobilityWorks in Plainfield is available to help people meet their transportation needs, no matter the disability. On this day, the staff dressed in attire from their favorite sports team for a special cookout and staffappreciation day.

Vantage Mobility International. Based in Indiana, BraunAbility provides situational,” Canda said. The goal is to find extra floor to ceiling clearance needed to perthe perfect solution that not only benefits the mit a person to remain seated in their wheelindividual, but the family and the client’s bud- chair while entering, riding in or driving the get. MobilityWorks gets referrals from medi- vehicle. cal professionals at rehabilitation facilities. The most popular is the Dodge Grand Just as a doctor would write a referral for pre- Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country Enscriptions or therapy, a doctor also may give a tervan. These vans are equipped with autoreferral for adaptive vehicle products. mated, fold-out ramps and front passenger It is then MobilityWorks’ job to fill that need. rollway seat bases. The Honda Odyssey Entervan offers a combination of luxury and more interior spaces than most minivans, while the Van conversions MobilityWorks works with two companies Toyota Rampvan features generous headroom that create van conversions: BraunAbility and for wheelchair or scooter users. Continued from the cover

Vantage Mobility International offers packages featuring the Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. The VMI Northstar offers an automated ramp that expands and contracts into the floor of the van, whereas the Summit Conversion features a fold-out ramp. MobilityWorks carries a variety of products to secure wheelchairs once they are inside the van. The basic tie-down system restrains the occupant through lap belt and shoulder belt across the chest. The wheelchair is secured to a track on the floor. A docking system is a safe and convenient alternative to manual tie-down systems. Electronic wiring and controls ensure the wheelchair is locked in place and easily released with the push of a button. Cost for a new vehicle runs anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000, depending on the bells and whistles. If a new vehicle is not in the budget, MobilityWorks also offers numerous pre-owned options for less than $20,000. For a list of vehicle inventory, check out History of MobilityWorks More than 20 years ago, Bill Koeblitz has a vision and incorporated a WMK, Inc. before purchasing a small, 10-person van modification business called New Era Transportation. Installing wheelchair lifts on full-sized vans in 1986 was the bulk of New Era’s business at what would become the headquarters of MobilityWorks in Akron, Ohio. As the demand for adaptive vehicles grew, so did business. New Era quickly outgrew its single location, and it was apparent that a manufacturing facility was needed. Partnering with Taylor Clark, the business name was changed to MobilityWorks. Koeblitz serves as company president and CEO; Clark is president of commercial operations. Over the years that single location business in Akron, Ohio has expanded to 30 locations in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The indoor showroom at 23855 W. Andrew Road in Plainfield is one of three MobilityWorks in the Chicago area. The other two locations are at 155 E. North Ave. in Villa Park and 4040 Dempster St. in Skokie. While MobilityWorks has been in Plainfield for roughly a decade, the Andrew Road building site itself has been home to a mobility business for 15 years. Plainfield has one of the largest indoor showrooms in the Midwest allowing customers to see and get a hands-on demonstration of the types of adaptive products available. Canda said he has between 15-20 vehicles inhouse for clients to see. It also helps to have two additional locations in the Chicago area. He added that since BraunAbility is located in Indiana, even more options are close at hand. Finding the right fit is the job of the Plainfield location’s four certified mobility consultants: Bill Kocisky, Nick Cortino, George Kallas and Bob Baumgartner. They all are able to walk an individual or family through the numerous, custom-created options available. Service work on adaptive vehicles and all the moving parts also is available at MobilityWorks.

Special products The bulk of MobilityWorks’ business is adaptive vans and minivans for families, whether it is for a child with special needs or a parent or spouse who has difficulty getting around. “Based on demographics, 1 percent of the population have a need for our product,” Canda said. A smaller segment of the population (1 percent of that 1 percent) represents people who are unwilling to give up the exhilaration of riding a motorcycle. The Mobility Conquest is a three-wheeled motorcycle designed to accommodate wheelchairs. This machine can hit 60 mph in 7.6 second and can reach speeds of 105 mph. The cost is around $35,000. Canda said the motorcycle is for a very special type of person. “Generally this person is a younger and a paraplegic with nerves of steel and who’s ridden a motorcycle before,” he said. More than vans While vans and minivans are the most popular, adapting cars might make more sense. A variety of mechanical driving aids and hand controls can be added to nearly every type of automobile, sport utility vehicle or truck. In addition, sophisticated, high-tech driving controls provide drive-by-wire solutions to manage acceleration, braking, steering and other secondary vehicle functions. For some people, a little extra help getting in and out of an automobile is all that’s needed. MobilityWorks carries turning seats, lift-up and transfer seats that can be installed in sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks so the difficulties of climbing into a vehicle are eliminated. Rental service Another popular service offered by MobilityWorks is van rentals. Canda said the Plainfield location offers four vehicles, three side-entry vans and one rear-entry van. “It’s perfect for a family member who might be flying in for a weekend visit,” Canda said. Rentals also work well for people who have short-term transportation needs, such as getting to doctor or therapy visits, but can’t justify the cost of buying an adaptive vehicle. “It’s a nice, costeffective option without having to use public transportation,” Canda said. MobilityWorks is very active in the community. Each year, MobilityWorks sponsors a team with the Miracle League of Joliet. The league enables children with special needs to play baseball on a rubberized turf field. The children, ages 4-9, play regardless of their ability. In addition, Canda said he has contacts with Chicago area rehabilitation facilities and organizations such as the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association. Mobility Works is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment only on Saturday and Sunday. At-home demonstrations also are available by appointment. For local service, call (815) 254-2000 or for general inquiries, call (877) 275-4907 or e-mail For more information and directions to Mobility Works Plainfield, visit

n Written by Suzanne Baker

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