Para Quad: Wheeling in the mobility of choice

Story and slideshow by WENDY DANG

Take a tour of Para Quad Mobility and see some customized vans.

For 36 years, Para Quad Mobility has been one of the oldest businesses in the Salt Lake Valley to install vehicle modifications for people who use wheelchairs. Located at 2572 S. West Temple, Para Quad stands to offer their services to those who need it.

As specialists in selling and repairing wheelchair lifts, Para Quad also installs custom-made hand controls for those with limited mobility. Anyone who is in need of a van or is having problems with their wheelchair lift can find help in the able hands of the main technician.

Fuhriman is one such technician. With stacks of framed certifications verifying his expertise, he is well versed in all things related to Vantage Mobility, Inc.

“They’re the ones in Arizona and who I used to go do my certifications,” Fuhriman said in regards to VMI who specialize in modifying minivans like a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna. They completely lower the floor in order to give enough headroom to those who use wheelchairs.

To accurately repair and maintain any work VMI has done on a van, technicians like Fuhriman must go through training and pass certifications in order to understand how each vehicle modification works.

The certification must be renewed every two years. Fuhriman used to go to Arizona to update his paperwork but he says “Now everything’s online,” jokingly lamenting a loss of vacation time.

Another name Fuhriman is more than familiar with is Ricon, a prominent brand of wheelchair lifts. These lifts are usually fitted in larger vans like a Mercedes or Freightliner Sprinter van that have raised roofs for passengers to have more head room.

When it comes to actually driving, Fuhriman does a lot of work with modified hand controls near the steering wheel.

If a customer cannot use their legs, Fuhriman can install a handle that modifies acceleration and braking with just a push of a lever.

Fuhriman says he prefers to work with the driving modifications because “the most rewarding are the ones that make the most difference.”

The cost of these modifications ranges depending on which vehicle assistance is needed.  If a family member who uses a wheelchair is looking for a vehicle to use daily, then a lowered floor minivan is recommended. If a hospital is looking to fit their van with a lift, then Para Quad would install an electric lift for them, Fuhriman says.

The Ricon lifts are about $6,000 plus another $500 or so for tie down security measures.

The adjustments for a lowered floor van start at $25,000 which is added to the cost of the standard van. That can bring the cost of a brand new minivan fitted with a lower floor to about $52,000-$72,000 total.

William Stoddard has owned Para Quad for the past six years.

Stoddard says a lot of customers cover the cost of these modifications out of pocket, but some have access to limited funds provided by the state. Stoddard said if an injury resulted on a work-related issue, then Workers Compensation Fund would help pay for the vans.

Besides retail customers that look for assistance for their daily needs, Para Quad has done a lot of work with Primary Children’s Hospital, Huntsman Cancer Institute as well as the George E. Wahlen Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center.

Local businesses also like to work with Para Quad. Tuyet Nguyen has worked with South Salt Lake’s New Image Vans for more than 20 years and does a lot of interior work like upholstery and carpeting for the vans.

“They (are) great people to work with. Very honest and fun,” Nguyen said.

Along with his work at Para Quad, Stoddard has created a public education initiative called “Don’t Disable the Disabled.” This public service announcement emphasized the danger and frustration people who use wheelchairs feel when a designated handicapped parking spot is occupied by someone who is not impaired.

The Disabled Rights Action Committee is working to create awareness of the initiative. Stoddard’s efforts to support it have been highlighted by three TV news stories by KUTV Channel 2.

The experience gained through working with Para Quad has equipped Stoddard with the necessary awareness needed to cater to each customer’s individual needs. Knowing the general details on most diseases and circumstances that limit mobility such as multiple sclerosis, Stoddard can counsel customers on which options would be best for them.

When it’s thousands of dollars at stake, Stoddard says, “We try and help people the best we can.”

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