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Friday, May 24, 2024

‘Tell Me What You Can Do’: One Man’s Mission to Help Members of His Community Drive with Independence

Carl Wiggs has years helping people with mobility issues find the right transportation to suit their need. (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

HAMPTON ROADS — People look at the car buying experience in a lot of different ways. To many, the prospect of getting a car is an exciting adventure. Even for car buyers on a budget, getting the features that they need or want out of their purchase is oftentimes possible with some research and bargaining.

For those with living with mobility issues such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cerebral palsy or are otherwise physically disabled, the car buying process can be a challenge. Finding the right model vehicle and modifying it to fit someone’s exact needs is a daunting and expensive task. Luckily, for those in the Hampton Roads area, Carl Wiggs, a mobility consultant with the Mobility branch of Priority Auto Group, has decades of experience helping people navigate the process.

“When we do an assessment of a customer’s needs, I am not so concerned with what they can’t do,” Carl says. “I need to know what they can do, and then we’ll build around that. I want to build on their strengths.”

When it comes to getting someone into the right car, Carl has a wealth of experience from which to draw. He started in the car industry in 1989 as a salesman. From there, he worked his way into management and made the jump into mobility consulting in 2008.

While he has been professionally dedicated to helping disabled people get around for a decade plus, he has been witness to a member of his own family dealing with a loss of mobility.

“I’ve got a brother-in-law who is a paraplegic,” Carl says. “He has been my brother-in-law for the last 42 years and he has been in a wheel chair for 43 years. So I have gotten to know most everything he has had to go through in daily activities. I was able to take what I know and apply it to a mobility world and it worked out very well.”

He notes that in the time that he has been a mobility consultant, the technology has been constantly improving and giving those who rely upon wheelchairs new options.

“The design used to be strictly minivans,” Carl said. “That is all anybody had the access to if they wanted to drive a wheelchair or scooter into a vehicle. Now we have SUVs… which we have an incredible amount of room in for some of the largest powered chairs in the industry.”

Other aspects of the mobility industry that are improving are hand controls. For decades, they were manually operated but in the last several years, automatic controls are becoming more common.

Despite all the new and exciting technology, Carl is very aware that his services go far beyond helping people find a car. It is about helping them find independence in a manner that is suited to them.

“Everyone of these stories is unique,” Carl says. “It is a different disability. From an accident to a stroke to ALS, there are just so many different things that can happen to a person that they will need this kind of transportation. There is no such thing as a standard package.”

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