A white wheelchair accessible minivan sits parked in a handicap-accessible parking space. Next to the minivan in the yellow striped area sits a parked motorcycle. The image depicts three yellow curved lines indicating that a sensor would go off if another vehicle parked too close to the vehicle's ramp.

Edition 22 | Spring 2021

New technology from VMI may solve parking headaches

by Sarah Farrell & Kasey Kaler

It’s a situation that most people who use wheelchairs and wheelchair-accessible vehicles are all too familiar with: A shopping cart or another car is blocking the access aisle for accessible parking spaces.

The number of times that I’ve been unable to get into my vehicle is borderline ridiculous. While I’ve been lucky enough to sometimes be with others who can move my vehicle for me, this is hardly a safe solution.

The day for a solution has finally come.

Vantage Mobility International (VMI), together with input from customers around the country, engineered a solution to this problem.

“We strive to understand the challenges that our customers face whenever we embark on new product innovations,” Mark Shaughnessy, CEO of VMI, said. “Our goal is to solve for the problems that create challenges for customers.”

VMI has created a built-in sensor called ParkSmart (patented) available in VMI Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Chrysler Pacifica wheelchair vans with Northstar in-floor ramp systems. This sensor is an industry first and not available through any other manufacturers.

So how does this new technology work?

The sensor, located just inside the car door near the wheelchair ramp, can be pushed and activated when you’re exiting the car. The sensor will light up green and beep three times when it’s ready. When it’s switched on, it goes to work within 30 seconds after the doors shut. It scans for objects placed within eight feet of your parked vehicle.

While you’re away from your car, the sensor will continue scanning the area for obstructions.

If an obstruction is detected, a friendly audible warning automatically sounds from your vehicle. It says, “Excuse me! You’re blocking entry to this wheelchair accessible vehicle. Could you please move the vehicle or object so the owner can access their vehicle? Thank you so much!” This message will then play three times.

This feature will give wheelchair users an added sense of independence when they are out and about. You won’t have to worry about going into a store and coming out to a cart or car blocking your wheelchair ramp from coming down.

This feature comes standard in all 2021 models, but if you are interested in adding it to your current vehicle, go to shop.vantagemobility.com/parksmartsensor to speak with a mobility specialist.

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Sarah Farrell

Sarah Farrell | Writer | @thesarahfarrell

Sarah Farrell holds a master’s degree in sports journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in sports management from Trinity University. She is a Texas native who has fallen in love with hiking the Arizona wilderness.

Read more by Sarah Farrell.

Kasey Kaler

Kasey Kaler | Writer | @kasey_kaler

Kasey Kaler is a graduate of Gonzaga University’s Sport and Athletic Administration M.A. program and Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication B.A. program. For the last six years, Kasey remained true to her passion for producing content for a multitude of platforms and sharing stories to help people view differences as an asset.

Read more by Kasey Kaler.