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GM's mobility program.

On February 6, 1991, General Motors (GM) announced their new program that will assist disabled users of GM products. This multifaceted plan, called the General Motors Mobility Program for the Physically Challenged, includes information on available equipment and mobility-equipment dealers throughout the US. It also offers up to $1,000 in assistance for disabled customers who must purchase adaptive equipment for their vehicles.

GM spokesperson David Sloan says that the inspiration began in GM's Committee on Employment of the Physically Challenged, an in-house committee that seeks to create job opportunities within the organization. Their Customer Sales and Service Committee became the champion of this idea and took it through initial development. Paul Ulrich of the advanced engineering staff, who is disabled and appears in the program's video, was on the development committee and helped keep things on the right track.

GM established a Mobility Assistance Center to administer the program. In addition to answering telephone inquiries, the center's staff distributed the following information:

* Dealer packets were mailed to all GM dealers and to mobility-equipment dealers and driver evaluators. Also included was a 20-minute instructional video designed to give dealers a knowledge of mobility equipment and the needs of disabled customers.

* A lengthy and thorough book, the Dealer Resource Guide, was mailed to all GM dealers. This document thoroughly explains mobility equipment (lifts and hand controls), the relationship of disabilities to driving, and methods of vehicle selection. It also lists driver-assessment facilities, mobility-equipment dealers, and other resources, including additional-funding sources. Much of this information was compiled with the assistance of Mike Shipp of Louisiana Tech University, where the adaptive-driving program has been on the cutting edge of current technology for many years.

* Dealers also received a supplement on making their facilities more open to disabled customers. Many car dealerships still are not accessible, and the GM program has rightly pointed out that to attract and welcome those customers, the facilities must be.

A disabled person's eligibility for financial assistance is determined by his/her purchase of a new GM product after January 2, 1991, and conversion within nine months of that purchase. The paperwork, which every GM dealer has, must be submitted no later than 90 days after conversion of the vehicle and must include the adaptive-equipment supplier's invoice. Up to $1,000 is available to cover conversion costs.

GM has also produced a 20-minute video that introduces dealers and sales staff to people with disabilities and their special-equipment needs. The users of adaptive equipment and GM products are shown in motion and commenting on the equipment and their requirements. Industry experts and driver evaluators discuss the need for customizing the adaptations and for responsibly putting together a safe package of equipment that meets the needs of the disabled consumer.

GM's plan follows those of Chrysler (the Physically Challenged Assistance Program) and Volkswagen. All three offer financial assistance for the disabled purchaser of their company's products; however, Chrysler and GM place particular emphasis on information. Ford has yet to announce any plans for a similar undertaking.

Over the first few weeks, the GM Mobility Assistance Center received about 100 calls a day, indicating a substantial interest among dealers and the disabled community. To contact the center, telephone (800) 323-9935 / TDD-9935 (TDD), or write P.O. Box 9011, Detroit, MI 48202.
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Title Annotation:General Motors's new program to assist disabled users of its products
Author:Beck, Karl
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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