Tag Archives: disability advocacy

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

Los Angeles Fined over No Emergency Plan for Residents with Disabilities

Los Angeles Fined for Lack of Disability Disaster Evacuation Plan

Last week, in a 10-0 vote, a payment of $2.1 million dollars for legal fees was approved by the Los Angeles City Council. The vote resulted from a lawsuit filed by disability rights groups on behalf of an estimated 800,000 residents of the city who live with disabilities and no way to evacuate the city in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

wheelchair user during an emergency evacuation

U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo B. Marshall found that the city did not have a plan that would notify, evacuate, transport, or provide shelter for the city’s disabled population should disaster strike. Marshall stated that the city’s emergency plans “must be open and accessible to all of its residents,” and that the city’s current plan violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Because of the city’s failure to address their unique needs, individuals with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to harm in the event of an emergency or disaster,” the judge wrote.

santa monica earthquake damage

It was also noted that the city’s own Department on Disability report in 2008 concluded that disabled residents were “at-risk for suffering and death in disproportionate numbers.”

Shawna Parks, legal director of the Disability Rights Legal Center, along with other advocates, scrutinized the city’s 200-page emergency operations plan, which is available through public records requests. It was obvious that there was no consideration for the needs of the disabled. The need for city evacuation plans that include the disabled was highlighted during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when death rates among the disabled and elderly were significantly higher than those of able-bodied residents.

a wheelchair user during emergency evacuation for Hurricane Katrina

Officials were ordered to meet with the parties that brought the lawsuit, which included Actively Living Independent and Audrey Harthorn, a San Fernando resident who uses a wheelchair. The city has three years to rewrite the evacuation plan, and must address the needs of the city’s disabled population.

The $2.1 million awarded for legal fees will be paid to the legal team of Disability Rights Advocates.

Source:
latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/04/la-to-pay-21-million-in-legal-fees-to-disability-group-.html
huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/11/los-angeles-disaster-plan-for-people-with-disabilities_n_822265.html

Image sources:
online.wsj.com/article/SB122636562301015905.html
huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/11/los-angeles-disaster-plan-for-people-with-disabilities_n_822265.html
gotpassport.org/2009/10/03/our-beloved-new-orleans-series-part-2/
gweedopig.com

Woman in Wheelchair Experiences Discrimination at Bridal Shop

Stephanie Deible

Kentwood, Michigan bride-to-be, Stephanie Nash, went with her bridesmaids find the perfect dress at Kim Kriner’s Bridal Boutique. What she didn’t expect to find was a sign saying, “Our store is NOT wheelchair accessible… Thank you for your understanding.” Nash’s bridesmaid Stephanie Deible, who uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, says this is the most discrimination she has ever faced.

The Unwelcoming Sign

The girls didn’t let the sign stop them from entering the store, figuring the sign was not meant to be taken seriously. They were greeted by saleswoman Deborah Simmons, who told the girls she wasn’t sure if Deible could come in because of her wheelchair. The bride quickly told the saleswomen that they would go slow and be careful. Deible says, “They were completely in fear, I guess, that I would ruin the dresses trying to look at them and wheel around the store.”

The Aisles of Kim Kriner's Bridal Boutique

It continues to puzzle many that it has been twenty-one years since the ADA has been passed, and yet there are still businesses that continue to be non-wheelchair accessible. Curt Benson, a professor at Cooley Law Schools, had this to say about the incident, “It’s 2011. Seriously, [you’re] gonna put up a sign saying we don’t want people in wheelchairs? It’s absurd. It really is absurd.”

The final humiliating blow from this business came when Deible was told not to bring her wheelchair into the dressing room. Simmons says, “We ask people to take their shoes off when they try on gowns. So, asking for the wheels not to be in there, too, I didn’t feel was going out of line. In my head, I didn’t feel like I was asking her anything that was out of the ordinary.”

Stephanie and her two closest friends

However, a walking person does not lose their mobility when you ask them to take their shoes off. A person who is wheelchair mobile loses their mobility when you ask them to leave their wheelchair behind, and that is out of the ordinary.

Sources:
https://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/kent_county/Bridal-shop-No-wheelchairs-allowed
https://wyoming.wzzm13.com/news/news/woman-claims-discrimination-bridal-store/58920

Mom Writes Realistic, Empowering Book Series Featuring Disabled Characters

Sarah Yates' upcoming book, 'Lucky Lou Gets Game'

Sarah Yates is a mother of a child with cerebral palsy, and like any mother, she wanted her daughter to be able to read stories that included characters like her. This desire is what drove her to create a series of fictional stories featuring characters with disabilities.

“When my daughter was born, I would read to her and all the heroines in the stories ran and jumped and shouted and she couldn’t. And I thought she’s got to have a literary role model, so I wrote her stories and told her stories where she could be the heroine,” Yates explained.

Originally, the doctors said she had quadriplegia and couldn’t move her arms or legs, but that turned out to not be the case. “She has wild arms. As things went on we realized she could use this foot, so we taught her to use her foot. She draws with her foot. She uses her computer with her foot.”

“I started the first one when she was very little,” Yates said of her first book inspired by her daughter. “When she started going to school and the kids would say, ‘Why can’t you be still?’ because she would have a hand that would go ‘Whoop’ and hit somebody, so I wrote a book called ‘Can’t You Be Still’ because she can’t.”

Yates promotes her books by traveling around the country doing puppet shows. “My puppet show came from the children’s book, because when my daughter couldn’t use her hands, she would have bears and how could she hold a bear? So I sewed elastic on the back and put it on her hand or on her knee so she could move it and tell her own stories to herself,” says Yates.

Yates’ daughter is now 22-years-old and a student at a University in Canada.

Source: https://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/disability_issues&id=8118490