WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Craig Mock remembers well the day Catherine Pitts called him last month asking if he knew of anybody who could install what she called “grab bars” on her ‘96 Nissan Sentra.
“Mrs. Pitts, she’s always kind of thinking outside the box,” said Mock, who is the owner of the Mock Tire store on Peters Creek Parkway near Southpark shopping center.
Pitts, who is 91, said she is somewhat disabled.
“I live on a three-wheel scooter,” said Pitts, a widow. “I have a bad knee and an operation is not an option. So I have to live with it.”
Whenever Pitts was ready to drive someplace, mobility typically became complicated after she put her scooter on a ramp on the back of her car. She dreaded falling.
“I had nothing to hold to, to get from the back of the car to the front of the car to get in the car to drive it,” Pitts said.
She started using a bungee cord that was attached to her car door striker, but it didn’t work well.
“It wasn’t at the right place and it wasn’t stable because it wouldn’t stretch if I needed to get hold of it,” she said.
Then she got the idea to use grab bars. After all, she already had them in her bathroom.
Then a friend mentioned that truck drivers held on to bars to get into the cabs on 18-wheelers. So she ordered a $50 pair of stainless steel, “truck grab handles” online.
At first, Craig Mock wasn’t sure grab bars would work on Pitts’ car.
“I called a couple of body shops and they wanted no part of it,” he said.
Mock replaces tires and breaks, and really doesn’t do body work.
But he told Pitts, who he has known since the 1990s, that he would do what he could for her.
“I think most everyone in business wants to help people or you wouldn’t be in business,” Mock said.
He was especially concerned about the bungee cord she was using.
“The spring could hurt her or she could get her foot or hand tangled in it if it came loose,” Mock said. “That was not a safe thing at all.”
After giving Pitts’ request some thought, Mock decided to use pop rivets to secure a bar to the rear door on the driver’s side of Pitts’ car and another bar over her car’s gas cap area on the same side.
Because the bars were fairly short, Mock’s mechanic polished and cut some galvanized pipe in two pieces to extend the grab bars.
The bars were installed in late February and Pitts is thrilled to use them.
“I suspect I’m the only car in the United States that’s got grab bars on it other than the heavy trucks, the 18-wheelers,” she said.
She is now on a mission “to get the word out to other disabled people that there is something that can be done to help them.”
Her hope is that auto manufacturers will one day give people an option of having grab bars put on new passenger cars.
But would there be a big demand for grab bars?
“We have not heard of grab bars on a car, but there are many different types of assistive technology that work for different types of people,” said Brianna Gross, the communications manager for American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). “For example, there are ramps that fold out of cars so that scooters/wheelchairs can be driven right into the vehicle.
According to the AAPD, there are 56.7 million people living with a disability in the United States. That’s nearly 1 in 5 people.
“This includes all types of disabilities, not just mobility,” said.
Gross said that it’s great if the grab bars work for Pitts and others.
One type of technology is not necessarily better than another; it simply depends on what works best for a specific person, as well as what is in their budget,” Gross said.
Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com