Access in Motion opens in Augusta Business Centre
PRESCOTT - People with disabilities face many obstacles to their freedom and are so often frustrated by things they can not do, but a new local business is doing what it can to help the disabled overcome some of those obstacles and regain their freedom.
Access in Motion is an automotive shop unlike any other in this area, specializing as it does in adapting vehicles to the needs of people with physical handicaps, and on Saturday, May 13, the shop's owners will be holding a free barbecue to celebrate the grand opening of their showroom and garage.
The shop is located at the Augusta Business Center, just west of Prescott, at 1652 County Road 2, and the barbecue will begin around noon. People are welcome to come and see for themselves just how much a group of creative and skilled auto mechanics can do to help those with disabilities get back on the road.
Access in Motion is owned and operated by Marcus Babineau-Crane and brothers Dave and Mark Dulmage. Mark has been doing this specialized kind of work off and on for nearly two decades, having apprenticed in a shop that did a lot of accessibility conversions, and Marcus got into the field in 2007. It was about that time the pair got together and opened Access in Motion in Ottawa. Three years ago, seeing a need in this area for their unique service, Marcus and Mark moved the business to Shanly, where they opened up a shop alongside Magnum Performance, a longtime automotive repair facility owned by Dave. Then Dave started into the accessibility work, too, and in January the trio decided to fold Magnum Performance into Access in Motion and to open up a new, larger and fully-accessible facility in the Augusta Business Center.
The new facility boasts two very large and well-equipped bays, a showroom where clients can see some of the latest innovations in accessibility features, and a comfortable waiting area appointed more like a living room, where people can sit and relax while their vehicle is serviced. And, of course, the entire facility is wheelchair accessible, and there are no stairs for anyone to negotiate.
About two-thirds of the business is dedicated to vehicle conversions and the custom installation of equipment intended to make it possible for disabled people to not only drive or ride in safety and comfort, but in many cases to drive or ride at all. They will also do general repairs and maintenance on accessible vehicles, as they need oil changes and brake jobs just like any other automobile, and people without accessible vehicles are welcome to bring their vehicles in too.
What sets Access in Motion apart, though, is the specialty work the three mechanics perform. Anything that can be done to a vehicle to make it possible for somebody with a physical handicap to ride or drive is what they do, and this can include the installation of hand controls, lifts, transfer seats, restraint systems, adapted pedals and countless other modifications and customizations that a person with restricted mobility might need.
"We're actually trying to solve people's problems," says Mark.
Most mechanics can and do install off-the-shelf products designed to make vehicles more accessible, and Access in Motion does such installations too, but a great many clients come to them with unique challenges or special requests, and in those cases the solutions can not be found in a box.
"We don't stop at the box," says Dave, noting that before he and his colleagues start on a conversion or installation, they first make sure they fully understand the needs of the client and take time to figure out what sorts of adaptations will best suit his or her unique physical restrictions.
Marcus tells of a client who came to see them in their shop in Shanly. The man had some considerable physical limitations, but he had wanted to drive for years and had looked to many different services to help him get behind the wheel. He was told over and over again it was not possible.
"He was told to give up," says Marcus.
The man then heard about Access in Motion and checked in to see if they could help. It was a complex conversion, and his handicap was such that a great many adaptations had to be made to his van so that he could safely operate it, but the guys didn't stop until he was satisfied.
When, after two decades of dreaming of the day, the client finally saw his fully-converted vehicle and got to sit behind the wheel, the man actually cried.
"That's happened a few times," says Marcus, who adds that this particular client then passed his driver's exam and has been driving without difficulty for more than a year.
The shop in Shanly has been drawing clients mainly from the Ottawa, Kingston, Cornwall area, but there have been quite a few from even farther afield, some from as far away as Trenton and Belleville, who have heard of the small miracles the three guys perform and have become regular clients.
Access in Motion also offers a pick up and drop off service, to make it easier on people with mobility challenges, and will also do onsite service calls when required. Just like any car or truck, an accessible vehicle needs regular maintenance and sometimes repair, so Access in Motion sees to it that clients don't have to visit multiple shops to have different repairs done.
"For clients with accessibility issues, that can be a chore," says Dave, who adds that he and his colleagues also try for a quick turnaround on jobs, because for many disabled people, the converted vehicle provides their only access to the outside world.
"They need it right away, because it's their only way of getting around."
There is about 60 years of experience in the automotive industry amongst the three owners, and together they have the expertise to perform everything from general maintenance to autobody and collision repair to the more specialized welding and fabrication work required for many of the custom conversions they perform or installations they must adapt to suit the unique and individual needs of their clientele.
"This is a service company," says Dave, "and we want to provide the best service to our clients."