Headlines — Segway Suit, Woodruff, Accessible Taxcabs, Etc.

Circa 2007

Mall Barrs Motorized Transportation

Aman who uses a self-balancing, two-wheeled Segway instead of a wheelchair, recently filed a lawsuit against the corporation that manages a Las Cruces, NM mall for prohibiting him from entering an area of that shopping center.

John Funk, who brought the suit, had attended a movie at the mall with his twin daughters, when he attempted to enter the food-court area and was turned away. Funk has severe scoliosis and spinal stenosis and relies on his Segway as his principal assistive-transportation device. Security asked him to leave because it deemed use of that vehicle unsafe in the mall.

In a statement, the mall’s management company responded that it is “committed to being an open and accessible mall to all patrons.” But that “safety is also a top priority.” As a result, it has a policy that prohibits” unauthorized motorized vehicles.”

“To assist all of our disabled shoppers, the mall is happy to provide wheelchairs, which was offered in this situation.”

The American Civil Liberties Union maintains that that was not adequate in this case. “

Mr. Funk prefers to use a Segway over a wheelchair, because it allows him to stay at eye level with other people,” said the ACLU’s executive director Peter Simonson. “The mall is penalizing him for trying to overcome the effects of his disability in this way. Too often, people with disabilities are treated as secondclass citizens, shunned and segregated by physical barriers and social stereotypes.”

The case seeks unspecified financial compensation, as well as an injunction to allow Funk to continue to use his Segway in the mall. A district judge will hear the case.



Brain Assoc. Partners with Bob Woodruff

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) will work with ABC Anchor Bob Woodruff and his family to bring awareness to brain injuries. BIAA will also administer the newly created Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to assist servicemen and women and their families affected by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Woodruff sustained a serious brain injury in January 2006, when an improvised explosive device blew up near a vehicle in which he was traveling. At the time, Woodruff was on assignment for ABC News in Iraq. Although he received superior care, Bob, his wife, Lee, and their extended family recognize that many individuals with brain injuries do not receive the services and support needed to regain their independence. They also understand the lack of funding in the public, private and military sectors.

In an effort to give back to the people who saved his life, Woodruff and his family have established the Bob Woodruff Family Fund for TBI. Through various events, it will raise money to fund grants for nonprofit organizations that serve members of the military with brain injuries. In some circumstances, the money may be used to provide direct financial assistance to military personnel and their families, and/or grants for medical research, public education, awareness and prevention of TBI.

Recently, Woodruff filed a series of reports for ABC’s World News, Good Morning America and Nightline. His stories covered various aspects of brain injury and included some of the individuals featured in BIAA’s Brain Injury Awareness Month campaign, “Living with Brain Injury: As Diverse as We Are.”

When time permits, Woodruff and his family members will serve as honorary spokespersons for BIAA by testifying before Congress and recording public service announcements.


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Taxi… Taxi

General Motors is celebrating 100 years of cabbing it around New York by rolling into the city’s taxi fleet the only vans approved to transport individuals with mobility-restricting disabilities or spinal cord injuries.

“General Motors is dedicated to making automotive transportation easier and more accessible for the millions of persons with disabilities,” said John Gaydash, marketing director of the GM fleet as well as commercial operations. “With the debut of our new, lowered-floor van for taxicabs, we are giving New Yorkers with disabilities mobility—a key element in maintaining independence.”

The taxi van uses a Chevrolet Uplander TC (taxi cab) that is modified by GM’s approved upfitter, El Dorado National. A stainless steel floor that is 12 inches lower than the standard floor offers a full 58 inches of interior height without a raised roof.

“By lowering the floor instead of raising the roof, we increase accessibility and keep the center of gravity low, which improves the safety of the vehicle,” said Gaydash. “This creates nearly five feet of height in the rearpassenger compartment, allowing all passengers to enter and exit with ease.”

Besides public taxi service in New York and elsewhere, the lowered-floor Uplander is designed for airport-shuttle services, rehabilitation and extended-care facilities and private livery companies that serve individuals with mobility issues.


Still Waiting for a Cab

This one is designed by seasoned automotive engineers with extensive input from the taxicab industry and meets a major need for a cost-efficient taxi that addresses drivers’ concerns as well as those of the public. 

Groundbreaking features such as interchangeable door panels, fenders and bumpers make it a unique, purpose built taxicab which even has a powertrain calibrated for taxi-duty driving cycles to improve fuel economy and emissions. With a focus on safety, the Standard Taxi is designed with anti-lock brakes, a strong frame and body structure, and energy-absorbing bumpers. With a focus on accessibility for all, the new cab provides seating for four in the rear compartment, and additional space for a common wheelchair or scooter. Passengers can get in easily by either stepping inside the vehicle or using a standard recessed access ramp. In addition, the trunk can carry four, hard-case golf bags and a full-size spare tire.

Based in Troy, Michigan, The Vehicle Production Group LLC is an original equipment manufacturer of the Standard Taxi, which has been designed and engineered for dual purpose use in taxicab and paratransit fleets.

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BMW Lifts Limits for Buyers with Disabilities

The BMW Group recently announced that it will lift the reimbursement ceiling for those disabled buyers of BMW and MINI vehicles who wish to make one-time vehicle modifications that make their vehicles more user-friendly. Previously, BMW Group limited the amount it reimbursed buyers.

“We are committed to meeting the unique needs of our customers,” said Tom Purves, chairman and CEO of BMW (US) Holding Corp.

BMW Group will reimburse buyers of new and certified pre-owned BMW and MINI vehicles for one-time driver modifications, provided certain requirements are met.

The vehicles must be purchased or leased from an authorized BMW or MINI dealer, with a receipt that can be verified. Applicants must be able to prove ownership with a valid driver’s license and registration, and then must submit a service invoice outlining all modification costs.

Modifications that alter the original engineering and/or operating specifications may impact the New Vehicle Limited Warranty.


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