In some locations, it is quite easy to find rental equipment. In other locations, you will have huge difficulties finding rental equipment. I recently learned about an organization which rents mobility and medical equipment worldwide---Special Needs Group. Until I discovered Special Needs Group, I was not aware that such an organization exists. I asked Andrew J. Garnett, founder & CEO of The Special Needs Group for an interview to learn more about worldwide wheelchair and scooter rental and also about cruising with a disability.
Gene: Can you give an indication of the size of your operations? Approximately how many employees do you have? Where are your warehouses located?
Andrew: We are a tightly run company with worldwide reach. We have a core staff of 12 employees at our offices in Fort Lauderdale with associates, partners and service providers at 55 locations in 20 countries around the world.
Gene: Please give a general idea about where you can and can not deliver medical and mobility equipment?
Andrew: The short answer is, we can deliver wheelchairs, scooters and other special needs equipment directly to your cruise ship stateroom, hotel, or resort in any major embarkation port city in the United States, Europe, Asia or South America.
We have delivery and pick-up, and can accommodate one-way rentals in key travel destinations around the world.
We have not yet delivered to Antarctica or the Poles – but given enough notice – we’re not canceling this out.
Gene: You rent mobility and medical equipment to people who are taking cruises or just traveling. Yet, when I read your blog, it seems to be focused on the cruise industry. Why is that? This gives me the impression that most of your business is renting to people who are taking cruises, is that right? Is it unusual to get a non-cruise related order?
Andrew: Like any service, we follow demand. And because cruises are so accommodating for travelers with special needs, there are simply more people taking this type of vacation, so that’s where the demand is now. Special Needs Group has worked closely with the cruise lines for many years. They refer their passengers to us, as do the travel agents who specialize in cruises. We assist cruisers with their pre and post cruise hotel stays and excursions.
We frequently receive requests from land travelers and deliver wheelchairs and other equipment to their hotel rooms, resorts, convention centers and other venues around the globe. The requests can include hospital beds and baby cribs for children with special needs. Our sand beach chairs are popular for families staying in a resort. We certainly welcome requests from land travelers.
Gene: Can you give an estimate of costs? Let’s say I would like to rent a manual wheelchair for a week to be delivered to my hotel in Seattle or Fort Lauderdale. How much would that cost, with everything included?
Andrew: As with any rental service, our rates vary according to location, type of equipment needed, length of rental and the availability of equipment requested. At this time, a standard wheelchair rental for seven days in Seattle or Fort Lauderdale is $75.
Gene: How much would it cost to rent a mobility scooter for a one week cruise?
Andrew: Again, prices vary depending on city, whether it is a one-way or round-trip rental, and of course, the type of scooter. But as an example, a standard scooter out of Miami or Fort Lauderdale for seven days is $175.
Gene: Do you get most of your business via travel agents, cruise lines or customers?
Andrew: It’s a good mix of all three. Travel agents frequently place orders on behalf of their clients and travelers often call us directly. Additionally, Special Needs Group is a preferred accessibility supplier for almost all of the major cruise lines. So when someone is planning a cruise, the cruise line will refer us to the travel agent or cruise passenger – and then the agent or passenger will book directly through us. We are also the first and only Preferred Accessibility Partner for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry’s largest professional organization. Cruise lines often purchase items through us such as wheelchairs for embarkation and debarkation, Braille printing, portable hearing impaired kits, and more.
Andrew J. Garnett, is CEO of Special Needs Group. Special Needs Group is the leading global provider for special needs travel around the world. They offer a broad range of special needs equipment for purchase and rental including wheelchairs, scooters and power chairs, oxygen, specialized mobility equipment, hearing impaired equipment, and more. Recommended by all the world’s major cruise lines, Special Needs Group also services guests visiting hotels, resorts and convention centers. Andrew has over ten years of leadership within the Special Needs industry, as an advocate, educator, consultant and service provider. Known worldwide for his expertise, Andrew helps shape industry policy vessel design for the cruise industry. An advocate for the disabled and with a vision to “dissolve travel barriers”, Andrew founded Special Needs Group / Special Needs at Sea in 2007, creating a company that quickly became the category leader.