It was catch-up time for the local community at a Freedom Motors 20th Anniversary ‘open’ day. F2L spoke to several exhibitors and visitors including Nova Employment consultant, Renee Coulton who brought a group of young people to the event, keen to see a vehicle conversion process. “There are government incentives available for business to employ people with disability,” Coulton said.” But some businesses are not sure what is involved, but we are getting more people with disability into the work place. Currently I have about 16 in my program who we train, introduce to work experience and prepare for interviews and writing a résumé.” Some of the group were already undertaking work experience across retail and manufacturing, while another was waiting for his apprenticeship to come through. And the response from all was unanimous:  they enjoyed what they were doing and hoped it would lead to a permanent job. Freedom Motors national sales manager, Garry Dale said he is now considering a work experience program with Nova Employment. 

Stayput Restraints has updated its safety belt security system in response to a new NDIS safeguarding policy that comes into effect in July 2018. This will require the industry to reduce, or eliminate, restrictive practices such as the use of a buckle guard or behavioural harness. The new policy applies to physical, chemical and psychological restraints. Business development manager, Gavin Dawson demonstrated the additional safety feature on the Stayput Restraints, that uses a key mechanism, and he said meets the new requirements. According to Dawson, with the changes to individual funding, service providers are thinning out their fleets and starting to transition clients to a private car such as an employee vehicle, or taxi, instead of the disability service provider bus. “Using a system like Stayput enables occupational therapists and behaviour support practitioners to consider strategies that are less restrictive to what they currently have,” he said.

The first Fiat conversion in Australia, carried out by Freedom Motors, has just taken place and has already been sold. The vehicle is smaller and easier to park with features that include floor lights, with floor and wall carpeting. “It is, in effect, a tradies van which has been converted to give people more choice with a compact vehicle, Fiat Chrysler area sales manager, Amanda Dexter told F2L.  “We set up a special pricing structure for people requesting this type of vehicle. The end user gets to buy the car at a cheaper rate and then takes it to Freedom to do the conversion.”

Another exhibitor, GfK’s Mark Kline, said power wheelchairs are all the go now. “As well as delivering speed these machines give the user elevation that enables them to speak to people at much the same eye level.”

Greystanes Disability Services offers a range of home support programs in the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Nepean, Hawkesbury and Western Sydney regions. “We believe in the person-centred approach, working with clients to meet their specific requirements,” community engagement coordinator, Vanessa Balfour said. “We are very flexible in the support services we offer which can include taking someone to school or mobile nursing.”