Author Archives: Kristina Rhoades

man stands in his office at AMS Vans in front of a wall full of decorations

Meet Our Team: Dallas Crum on What Fuels His Passion and Commitment to the Disability Community

We want you to get to know our team! In this blog series, we’ll periodically share employee spotlights in which we’ll tell the stories of the dedicated and innovative humans that “drive” AMS Vans. It’s the people that make up the heart of a company – and we believe we have the best!

Some people, after you meet them, are pretty impossible to forget. Well, Dallas Crum happens to be one of those guys. If you’ve visited our Atlanta location or stopped by our booth at Abilities Expo in the last 10 years or so, chances are you remember Dallas’ cool name, honest smile, big energy or the colorful artwork adorning his skin. But, there’s much more to Dallas Crum. In this blog, we share his story and a look into why he’s so committed to helping people in the disability community.

At 18, Dallas Joins AMS Vans

AMS Vans started in 1998 by Dallas’ dad, Kip Crum. About ten years later, after graduating high school, Dallas joined the company. He recalls, “I was trying to decide what career path I would take – what I really wanted to do in life. In the meantime, I had an opportunity to go and work for my dad and I decided to take it.”

He continues, “I started in the back, washing cars and doing visual inspections on cars we were buying. I’d take pictures of the vehicles to post on our website. Over the last decade, I worked in just about every area of the company – from sales, to nationwide deliveries, to even being operations manager for a while.”

Dallas says that delivering mobility vehicles to families nationwide was one of his favorite roles over the years. At around 19 years old, he was seeing some beautiful country around the U.S. and getting some valuable perspective about the customers that AMS Vans serves.

“I really liked doing deliveries because I got to see first-hand how people’s lives were changed when they received their mobility vehicle.”

In 2014, Dallas was running daily operations and business was going well selling vehicles online. The company was ready to expand to continue serving customers in the best way possible, so they decided to purchase the building that is now the Atlanta (Tucker) location, which became one of the largest mobility dealers in the nation. Today, AMS Vans also has customer-facing locations in Houston and Phoenix.

three people including a man in a wheelchair in front of a wheelchair accessible van

Disability Hits Home for Dallas and his Family

When Dallas first started at AMS Vans, he had no way of knowing that the disability community would become such a profound part of his life, both professionally and personally. While business was expanding at AMS, Dallas and his wife, Faith, were welcoming their second child into their lives, a daughter named Riley, to join their son, Ethan. But, as life can be unpredictable, the Crum family had a challenging journey ahead.

All most parents want is for their children to be happy and healthy and to thrive in every way. So, when something threatens those things, it can feel pretty terrifying. Around the time Riley was born, the Crums found out that she had an extremely rare chromosome disorder – a diagnosis that less than 200 people share worldwide. As if they weren’t already worrying enough about one child, Ethan received an autism diagnosis shortly after.

Suddenly, everything changed for Dallas, including his understanding of the community he worked in. He shares, “For the first time, I really started to understand what our community goes through, instead of watching from the outside and thinking I understood. I got to experience what it takes every day. You don’t realize the emotional, financial and physical stress that these types of situations put on people.”

“With a disability or medical diagnosis, it seems like you’re always fighting with doctors, schools, and everyone else, to get the resources they need.”

The Crums soon learned that there was therapy available that could help their son, Ethan, but it was not covered by insurance. It was called Intensive ABA Therapy and the price tag was $35,000 for the year of therapy that Ethan needed. Dallas and Faith decided they would do whatever it took to make it happen. They had to sell their cars and dip into savings, but they were able to pay for it.

a dad, mom and two kids together

Dallas and his wife met when Faith was a barista at the Starbucks that Dallas frequented each morning. This November, they’ll celebrate 10 years of marriage. Ethan is now 7 and Riley is 5.

None of us may know what the future holds, so the Crum family takes it one day at a time. Dallas reflects, “Riley’s prognosis is unknown, so we don’t really know what to expect every day. But, what we do know now is both of our kids are thriving and that’s all we can ask for. We’re thankful each day to have the chance to love and cherish them.”

Dallas Pours His Heart Into Community Relations

After Riley was born, Dallas started working more directly with the disability community, collaborating with local non-profits and attending consumer-facing events. When AMS Vans was acquired by VMI (a leading manufacturer of wheelchair-accessible vehicles) in 2017, Dallas’ role transitioned to support both organizations on a national level as the Director of Partnerships and Community Development. And, it seems to be the role he was born for.

When asked what he loves most about the work he does in the disability industry, Dallas replied, “I love relationships. I like advocating and fighting for people who sometimes can’t or won’t fight for themselves. I’m a passionate person and I like to live life to the fullest and bring that energy to the environment I’m in. Connecting with the community at events fills my heart with reason, vision, purpose… love.”

“I feel things deeply, so when I’m a part of something bigger than myself – it fuels me, drives me. When I’m around my family and the community, it keeps things in perspective and allows me to remember how honored I am to be part of all this.”

group of three people at an expo for people with disabilities

Dallas Crum, Mack Marsh of Parking Mobility, and Kristina Rhoades pose for a photo at Abilities Expo

While Dallas could probably work for just about any company in the industry, he’s with AMS Vans and VMI because it’s where he feels like he can do the most good. “The passion and the vision of this company is what gets me,” Dallas explains, “our hearts are in the right place. We’re all about trying to make accessible vehicle solutions more available and more affordable and support our community – more than anyone else in the industry.”

“I don’t think anyone else can rival our passion. We want to rally behind our community to make a difference. We want everyone to have mobility freedom – and we’re committed to finding a way to provide that, above and beyond just building and selling accessible vehicles. We’re here to make a positive impact, and we plan to do so,” Dallas concludes.

Click to learn more about AMS Vans or VMI and view our vast selection of wheelchair accessible vehicles

happy black woman in wheelchair wheeling down the sidewalk in a red shirt

Disability Awareness Tips to Make Public Environments Inclusive

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to discuss how to make the workplace and other public environments more inclusive. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 61 million adults with disabilities are in the United States. Since people with disabilities form such a large segment of the country’s population, being inclusive is good for business and, simply the right thing to do.

Whether your organization is looking to hire or currently employs people with disabilities, or if you serve the general public, some disability awareness and etiquette can go a long way. In fact, you can become part of the solution by doing your part to making our world more inclusive for all.

Use Appropriate Language

The language we use can become habit, and often we underestimate the power of words. Many people with disabilities prefer inclusive language that puts the person first, versus the disability. Examples of person-first language include:

  • a person with a disability
  • a person who uses a wheelchair
  • the individual has a disability

Terms that convey pity such as “handicapped”, “crippled”, “wheelchair-bound”, “suffers from”, and “the disabled” are considered outdated and offensive to some individuals. Others may use these words themselves, but it helps to be sensitive.

Be Aware of the Physical Environmentlong wheelchair ramp

Being ADA-compliant is not enough to qualify a physical environment as inclusive. Careless placement of trash cans and boxes can block wheelchair-accessible entrances or make corridors too narrow for a wheelchair to pass. Common items need to be located where everyone can reach them. For instance, in the workplace, office supplies should be stored where an employee who uses a wheelchair can get them independently.

Ramps are great, but be sure to check thresholds to ensure they’re smooth, and also check electric door openers from time to time to make sure they’re functioning properly.

 

Model Proper Social Interaction

When you’re communicating with an adult with a disability, always address the person with a disability directly. You want to avoid speaking through a caregiver. If your communication is through an interpreter, you should still direct your comments to the person with a disability.

When you meet someone with a disability for the first time, you should offer to shake hands as you would with anyone else. A person who is not able to shake with the right hand may extend the left hand. When a handshake isn’t possible with either hand, a fist bump could be an acceptable substitute. Learn more about greeting someone with limited upper-mobility here.

close up of a fist pound in an office setting

 

When you don’t know someone well, asking questions an individual’s disability is considered poor taste. An individual with a disability wants to be seen as a person, not as a disability. Plus, the details of someone’s disability could be sensitive or difficult to discuss. Respect for other people’s privacy includes the privacy of people with disabilities.

Ask Before Helping

You should never assume that a person with a disability has limitations that require your help without asking first. If you try to help without asking, it’s possible to do more harm than good. For example, suddenly helping a person who is pushing their wheelchair up a ramp can cause them to lose their balance. Or, you could accidentally touch a part of the wheelchair that could

Like most people, a person with a disability values their independence and will usually let you know when he or she needs assistance. 

A good rule of thumb is to help a person with a disability in the same way you would help any other person. If you would open the door for anyone, go ahead and do the same for someone with a disability. And, again, if it looks like someone needs help, but you’re not sure – just ask!

Don’t Touch Service Animals

In public environments, a service animal is there to work. That’s true even if the animal is not wearing a harness that asks you not to pet it. It’s never acceptable to touch or to interact with a service animal without permission. Keep in mind, too, that there are several types of service animals; not just dogs. It’s more rare, but miniature ponies, Capuchin monkeys and even potbelly pigs can assist individuals with disabilities.

service dog sniffing its master who is swimming in a pool

 

Accessible Transportation is an Important Part of Inclusivity

If your organization offers any sort of transportation to the public, even occasionally for specific clients, it’s important that that service is accessible, too. At AMS Vans, we offer a large selection of wheelchair accessible vehicles for purchase and rental (short- and long-term) with nationwide delivery!

To learn more, contact one of our knowledgable mobility specialists at 800-775-8267 or visit us online at www.amsvans.com

Remember the Golden Rule

You can summarize all of these tips with the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. As you encounter people with disabilities, just remember they want independence and respect just like you and everyone else.

As public environments become inclusive, individuals with disabilities can be more involved in their communities. That’s a win for everyone!

road through fall leaves

Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Accessible Vehicle Cruising into Fall 

Fall has arrived and that means cooler temperatures are on the way. Due to the changing weather, it’s a good time to do some maintenance on your wheelchair accessible vehicle. Below we look at a regular maintenance schedule that will keep your wheelchair accessible vehicle running smoothly providing you with dependable, accessible transportation.

Tires close up of car tire

When it comes to safety, tires are one of the most important components of the vehicle to maintain. Motorized wheelchairs can add as much as 300 pounds (136.08 kg) of weight to your vehicle, increasing the weight on your tires causing them to wear out faster. Schedule a regular rotation schedule, for example, every time you change your oil.  Be sure to have the tire pressure and tread checked regularly and replace the tires as needed.

Battery

When seasons change, it’s a great reminder to have your vehicle’s battery checked. Make sure terminals and cables are snug and clean. If your battery has removable caps, you’ll also want to check the water level periodically, and refill with distilled water as needed.

Windshield Wipers

Whether you get rain or snow where you live, chances are, you’ll see some wet weather over the winter. That’s why it’s a good idea this time of year to check your wiper blades to make sure they’re ready when you need them. As a general rule of thumb for a vehicle that is used daily is that wipers should be changes once or twice a year. Don’t forget to check your wiper fluid, too!

Heating and Cooling

With unpredictable weather ahead, you’ll also want to check your HVAC system to make sure it’s functioning properly. It’s not only important for interior comfort and safety when you need heat, but defrosting, too.

Headlights

Days will keep getting shorter and shorter as we approach winter, so good headlights are really important. Bulbs tend to last a couple years, and when one goes out, you can be sure the other is not far behind. That’s why it’s best to replace them in pairs to avoid losing a headlight at night. Also, as a vehicle ages, headlight covers can become cloudy, which significantly reduces visibility. There are some cleaning solutions that can remove a lot of the film or you can look for some covers in better condition at a wrecking yard.

Brakes

Another component of the vehicle that needs to be maintained to keep you safe are your brakes. Be sure to have brake pads inspected and replaced as needed so you’re able to stop effectively, especially in inclement weather.

mechanice tuning brakes

Ramps & Adaptive Equipment

Just like any other part of your vehicle, the ramp mechanism, hand controls and other adaptive driving equipment needs to be maintained to get the best performance and lifespan. Be sure to perform regular inspections and cleaning of the ramp or lift, door tracks, as well as tie down tracks.

NMEDA‘s recommended schedule for an accessible vehicle maintenance service call is twice a year. During this service call, the tech inspects all the electrical components, ramp motors, kneeling mechanism and other adaptive equipment. They will also lubricate and clean all the cables, door tracks, and support wheels. .

When Getting Service, Find Someone You Trust

fall leaves with blurry vehicle in backgroundBeing treated with respect and dignity, receiving excellent service, and having all your questions addressed is important. Finding and working with the right people who will give you the time and attention you deserve is just as important as service itself. At AMS Vans, we understand the importance of good customer service and we really care.

Buying a new or used wheelchair van conversion from AMS Vans isn’t the end of a process — but rather, the beginning of a meaningful relationship. And when it comes to servicing your vehicle, we give you options to fit your lifestyle. For our local customers situated near Atlanta, Houston or Phoenix, we offer a team of experienced, certified mechanics operating in our high-tech service facilities performing every conceivable adjustment — from system repairs to installations and more.

Did you know? AMS Vans customers also have exclusive access to VMI Assurance, which includes At-Home Service™ provided by Wrench, Inc. Through this program, Wrench, Inc. mobile mechanics will provide the convenience of certified automotive technicians dispatched to the customer’s home, office or other location to complete the maintenance or repairs and get their vehicle back on the road again. 

man's hand on wheel of wheelchair

How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits After a SCI

If you have suffered a serious spinal cord injury that has left you unable to work, you might be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Spinal cord injuries result from trauma suffered by the tissue, nerves, and bones around the spine. Usually an accident, such as serious fall or a car crash, causes injuries to the spinal cord. The symptoms can vary significantly, but most of these injuries lead to a loss of functioning.

Where the spine has been injured affects the symptoms and their severity. Numbness and pain are the most common symptoms suffered from such injuries. These injuries might cause problems in other parts of the body. As an example, injuring the middle spine might cause loss of function in the areas below it. If there is only partial injury to the spine, which means there are functioning areas below the injury, it is considered an incomplete spinal cord injury.

Meeting the Medical Criteria for a Spinal Cord Listing

close up of book spine with a penThe Blue Book, which is the medical guide used by the Social Security Administration (SSA), covers spinal cord injuries under Section 1.04– Disorders of the Spine. To be approved for disability benefits using this listing, you must be able to provide medical evidence that shows spinal cord damage. You will also need proof that your spinal cord injury causes nerve root compression that results in weakness, pain, and the inability for effective ambulation. These things must be shown through physician statements, medical images, and treatment records.

If you are paralyzed, but don’t qualify through that listing, refer to Section 11.00 – Neurological Disorders. Spinal cord disorders are evaluated under Listing 11.08. Spinal cord disorders with complete loss of function are under listing 11.08A, which covers a lack of sensory, autonomic, and motor functioning of the affected body part. Spinal cord disorders with disorganization of motor function are under listing 11.08B, which addresses in less than a complete loss of functioning in the affected body part, which means a reduction of functioning.

Medical Vocational Allowance

Individuals who have spinal cord injuries might not be able to work because of being in a wheelchair, because of incontinence issues, or because of the overall body fitness decrease that causes them to be unable to perform any work, including a sedentary job. The SSA will review the overall picture and the different circumstances when rendering a decision. An individual will only be approved for disability benefits if he or she can show that they are unable to work because of the spinal cord injury.

Using a medical vocational allowance, you can be approved for disability benefits by all your symptoms and conditions being considered in conjunction with your age, educational background, work history, and transferrable skills. This will determine what kind of work, if any, you can perform.

Applying for Disability Benefits

If you are ready to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you can start the process online. You can also start the process over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or by calling and setting up an appointment with a representative at your local SSA office. Documentation, including hard medical evidence, is the key to having a successful disability claim.

Learn more from Disability Benefits Help here.

Resources Found Via:

Disability Benefits: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/
AMS Vans: https://www.amsvans.com/about
Blue Book Description: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/blue-book
Blue Book Listing: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/1.00-Musculoskeletal-Adult.htm#1_04
Blue Book Listing: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/11.00-Neurological-Adult.htm#11_08
Medical Vocational Allowance: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/medical-vocational-allowance
Apply Here: https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/
Local Offices: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp