GM Mobility Center's Engineering Manager, Gary Talbot, is a disabled pickup truck owner.

Going Mobile: Options for Disabled Pickup Truck Owners
By: Michael LevinePosted: 01-17-02 22:00

A growing number of Americans report that they have some type of physical disability that affects their means to work and lead a 'normal' life. Activities most people take for granted, such as driving, become difficult if not impossible. And these disabilities cut across all population segments including males and females, the young and old, blacks and whites, and, of course, pickup owners.

So what options are out there for disabled truck owners when it comes to purchasing or outfitting their vehicles?

According to Gary Talbot, Engineering Manager for GM's Mobility Center, there has never been a better time for those who are disabled to buy a new pickup specially equipped to enhance their mobility. Talbot knows this first hand. He was disabled from the waist down in a car accident nearly 20 years ago.

Talbot drives a Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme 'upfitted' with a special lift located behind the truck's third door to accommodate his wheelchair. He also leads GM's efforts to develop new ways of accommodating the disabled in General Motor's cars and trucks.

In general, because of the difficulty many have finding full-employment, the disabled tend to have lower incomes than those who are able bodied. This affects what kind of vehicle they can buy or how well it might be equipped to fit their needs.

GM, along with Ford, DaimlerChrysler and Toyota, helps solve upfitting cost issues by refunding the first $1000 of mobility equipment purchased by new pickup buyers. The only stipulation is that the equipment comes from a certified list of vendors, but the catalog includes everything from hand controls to left foot throttles to power tops. Anything over the $1000 ceiling can be financed with the rest of the truck, or separately, depending on the truck manufacturer's financing policies.

So, when GM recently had 0% financing, those who bought mobility equipment could have also financed the extra cost with no interest for the length of the vehicle's loan. The equipment is also covered under the same warranty as the vehicle. Ford Credit allows new buyers to finance their mobility equipment purchases for up to 9 years.

Talbot says that since the start of its mobility program, in the early 1990s, GM has reimbursed a total of approximately $50M worth of adaptive equipment. Some 10,000 GM cars and trucks are sold each year to disabled buyers.

Ford Mobility Motoring's Program Manager, Phil Lang, reports that for the 2001 model year Ford sold approximately 8,000 upfitted vehicles across its lineup. Just over 500 of those cars and trucks were Ford F-series pickups plus another 200 Rangers.

Lang also reports that the dollars spent upfitting pickups with mobility equipment tends to be less overall relative to the money spent on other vehicles, like full-size vans and minivans.

The most popular items chosen for Ford pickups, especially extended cab models, are wheelchair lifts located just behind the driver and passenger seats.

When disabled owners sell or end the lease on their pickup they can usually take their equipment with them to the next vehicle, saving money over the long term.

Mobility equipment for pickups is designed using a three tiered approach. The first design tier encompasses mobility benefits for everyone driving or riding in the vehicle, such as the door openings, instrument panel and seating. The next tier is transparent but benefits those with special needs. It covers items like large radio knobs to accommodate a person with arthritis or running boards to help get into a truck. The third tier requires replacement of OEM parts or the addition of third party mobility accessories and specifically tailors the truck to help a person overcome a disability. This might include installing a powered boom to raise a wheelchair into the bed or replacing a factory seat with one that remotely folds out, aiding ingress and egress into the truck.


Mobility Program Info:
General Motors
Customers must purchase or lease an eligible new and unused 2000, 2001 or 2002 model year GM passenger car, van or truck through an authorized GM dealer. Adaptations must be completed within six months from the date of vehicle delivery and the claim processed within 90 days from the date of conversion.

GM will reimburse up to $1,000 toward the actual cost of eligible aftermarket adaptive equipment for drivers or passengers when installed (or reinstalled) on any eligible purchased or leased* new GM car, van or truck. Adaptations include equipment such as hand controls, wheelchair or scooter lifting devices and low effort steering. A complete listing of eligible and non-eligible equipment is included in the free resource packet provided by the GM Mobility Assistance Center
* Must have lessor's written authorization.

The GM Mobility Reimbursement incentive may be combined with other publicly offered incentive programs that are in effect at the time of purchase or lease including most fleet and commercial incentives.

Ford Motor Company
The Ford Mobility Motoring Program provides up to $1,000 cash assistance toward the exact cost of adding adaptive equipment to a new Ford, Lincoln or Mercury car, van or light truck and up to $200 on alerting devices. That means, if the cost of adding adaptive equipment is less than $1,000, or less than $200 on an alerting device, your cash assistance will be for the exact amount of the adaptive equipment or alerting device installation. If the cost of adding adaptive equipment is $1,000 or more, or $200 or more for an alerting device, the Mobility Motoring Program will pay the maximum of $1,000 on adaptive equipment and a maximum of $200 on an alerting device to help defray your cost.

Ford Mobility Motoring Cash Assistance may be combined with all other publicly offered incentive programs in effect at the time of purchase or lease. Vehicles receiving a fleet incentive or government concession, however, do not qualify.

Provides cash reimbursement of up to $1,000 of the cost of qualifying aftermarket adaptive equipment, for drivers and/or passengers, when installed on any eligible purchased or leased* new 2001, 2002, or 2003 Toyota vehicle. Refer to Assistance Guidelines and Reimbursement Application Forms available from your local Toyota dealer or from any adaptive equipment installer.
*subject to written lessor approval

Financing is available through Toyota Financial Services and participating Toyota dealers upon credit approval. It provides flexible, extended-term financing for persons with physical disabilities, or their families, for purchasing a new Toyota vehicle with the installed adaptive equipment (including installation costs). Please contact your local participating Toyota dealer for details.

Please contact the manufacturers listed above for specific program details

Some third tier components add benefits that go beyond simply helping the disabled increase their mobility to get from point A to B. In fact many able bodied truck owners might be jealous. Talbot told us about one disabled GM truck enthusiast who opted for a heavy duty boom capable of lifting up to 500 lbs into the bed of his truck so he could lift his wheelchair or a spare engine.

Pickup trucks naturally offer many ways to accommodate the mobility needs of the disabled.

While many disabled truck owners who benefit from mobility programs require assistance driving because of an accident or birth defect, during the next 30 years 76 million baby boomers are expected to retire - nearly doubling the elderly population in the United States. Clearly the need to help those with age-related disabilities is about to grow dramatically.

GM and retired members of the United Auto Workers are working together on the Paragon Project to help address current and future mobility requirements for the elderly. Paragon is designed to help mobility engineers identify vehicle requirements for specific age and disability groups. The retired UAW members test and rate vehicles in sessions with engineers, filling out nine-page questionnaires asking about the ease of getting in and out of the vehicle and about foot and head room. This information is then added to the extensive database of current GM Mobility customers for use in future vehicle design and accessories for the disabled.

One way or another we all benefit, now or sometime in the future, from the work being done by today's mobility engineers to make sure everyone can get into a pickup truck and drive.