COVID-19 is redefining the way we understand ableism. Luckily, many companies are working to make this return to normality more uncomplicated. WHILL and Scootaround, the mobility assistance company, are undoubtedly propelling freedom of mobility post-COVID and beyond.
Kerry Renaud, the CEO & Managing Director of Scootaround North America, has seen the company progress and grow from a home-based business into a mobility rental provider expanding its service offerings every year. He oversees all aspects of the North American business operations and divisions for WHILL and Scootaround and serves as a Director of the Board for WHILL globally.
“It was clear to me that this was a service that would become essential for allowing the traveling public to maintain their independence, especially as the global aging population continued to grow,” he said. “There was a real opportunity to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, allowing those that required our service the opportunity to go on vacation with their families, travel for work, or simply maintain their mobility in their everyday lives.”
“Then, with the introduction to WHILL, we saw tremendous synergy in partnering with a technology and manufacturing company whose products and intel, we believed, represented the future of personal mobility. Both WHILL and Scootaround were founded on the basic principle of helping people maintain productive and happy lifestyles – it was a natural fit.”
How WHILL Is Disrupting The Future Of Mobility
From the beginning, WHILL’s mission has been to transform the traditional wheelchair experience and improve people’s mobility through innovative technology. Along with designing and selling mobility products, they are also integrating Mobility-as-a-Service (Maas) solutions in offering autonomous transportation services that help make venues like airports, hospitals, personal care facilities, and other public spaces more accessible.
The ultimate goal is to improve the worldwide landscape for mobility device users by providing them with greater freedom and independence, particularly as our population ages and the requirement becomes more profound.
“While the Mobility-as-a-Service (Maas) concept is not new, the WHILL/Scootaround MaaS Model fills that short distance gap in the market for people with reduced mobility, providing a unique transportation solution that is inclusive of the entire population,” said Renaud.
Traditionally, airline or cruise staff push passengers with mobility limitations in a manual wheelchair. This service is time-consuming and costly and limits the user’s overall independence. WHILL’s service allows passengers to hop on a power chair and use it to navigate the airport or cruise terminal independently. The user can either drive the chair themselves or autonomously depending on the program application and the particular use case.
“With the proliferation of facilities of immense size and scope, it is becoming more important than ever to provide passengers and customers with the means to traverse these venues freely. Our service provides greater freedom to passengers by allowing them to navigate the venue without the need for a push service,” he said.”
“We’ve conducted successful trials at major airports across the globe, including Toronto Pearson, Dallas/Fort Worth, Abu Dhabi, and Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
In the future, this service can be expanded to make other public spaces – such as hospitals, museums, and malls – more innovative and more accessible.”
How WHILL Breaks New Ground With Its Services
“The mobility equipment rental and repair business really didn’t exist at a nationwide level before Scootaround, so we were frequently breaking new ground with our services,” said Renaud. “From our partnerships with major convention centers to our airline service business where we provide equipment repairs and rentals for some of the biggest airlines in the world, essentially every step of our journey was in uncharted waters.”
“Building these services and partnerships from the ground up was difficult but exceptionally rewarding. There is still the challenge of convincing venues that individuals can drive an electrically powered transportation device in a safe and controlled manner. However, our experience has been that users embrace the service responsibly and appreciatively.”
“On the WHILL side, the challenge has been getting users in the North American market to fully embrace products that look and feel different from the devices they’re familiar with. Consumers in the US and Canada are accustomed to traditional wheelchairs and mobility scooters. There was initially some hesitancy to adopt WHILL’s power chair technology, which included Bluetooth and application-driven innovation built into the product.
However, we’ve seen this perspective rapidly shift in the last few years. Users are becoming much more comfortable and confident with intelligent technology, and in turn, we have witnessed WHILL’s products gain significant traction in the market.”
The Future Of WHILL And Scootaround
“In short, I see WHILL and Scootaround forming a worldwide platform for mobile device use,” he said. “This includes providing rentals and product sales to customers, as well as an expansion of our Mobility-as-a-Service solutions to major airports, venues, and public spaces worldwide. To meet that demand, we will continue to manufacture new and responsive products that will shake the trees of our industry and perhaps align us to “disrupt” on a major scale, in keeping with your magazine’s motto.”
Renaud believes it all comes back to helping people live their lives to the fullest. WHILL and Scootaround’s current initiatives will allow them to do that on a global level within the coming years.