I decided to poke a bear to see if consumers still have power. In an off-shoot manner, I was reading about a leak in my neighborhood on a local news site, and an irrelevant search result about a car contest winner came up. So I started searching for car contests to enter in and how ironic it would be for me to win a car. (Can’t do full disclosure here in case it can be used to invalidate my entries). Some contest mentioned Neil Tjin and proclaimed him to be a top automobile designer. So I decided to do a quick search, and found he’s done the American Dream and entrepeneur in what I perceive to be a legal Fast and Furious-esque fashion. Below is a slightly revised version of an email I sent in. I wonder if it will provoke any reaction or response. I wish I knew the secret to pitching and reaping the opportunities or rewards. Like the people who pitch and then start getting job offers or stuff from companies. Until then, I will just send in feedback as a consumer and hope something sticks.
Dear Neil Tjin,
I hope this message finds you well. [Self-identifying introductory details omitted]. I came across your name after learning about the Tjin Edition Roadshow from a contest for a Ford Mustang GT contest sponsored by UTI. I would like to enlist your help regarding automobile design challenges for a niche market. I am not affiliated with any corporation or entity. I am simply working class.
The problem: cars have to undergo aftermarket mods for drivers who have physical limitations (i.e. hand controls, or muscle weakness in a portion of their body.) The secondary problem is accessibility/availability for consumers to be able to test drive products to determine if the product is suited for them. It usually is a big production to try to track down something to test it. Why would a consumer want to take a big gamble to find out something doesn’t work well for their needs?
Anyways, most cars that offer solutions for those with disabilities do so in a condescending way. Someone loads the person as though the person is cargo in the trunk of a van, or an aftermarket ramp in the side. None of these options empower a consumer with a disability who drives themselves to be able to independently get into and out of the vehicle without some degree of burden and extra wear on both the person, their medical equipment and their vehicle.
Has an automobile designer ever thought that a consumer with a disability wants to be able to own and operate a luxury or sports vehicle? Maybe a consumer with a disability wants the hand controls along the steering column and aspects of it need to be similar to how one operates their wheelchair? Some vehicles are backwards and it does not feel natural because in a wheelchair (manual or electronic) you push forward to move forward, you pull back to stop. A lot of aftermarket hand controls force drivers to press back to accelerate and forward to brake. Maybe the stuff needs to be left handed or left footed for those who have better control over the left side of their body instead of being right-side dominant.
I’m tired of trying to take things and adapt to them. Why can’s an automobile be adapted to my needs? How can I learn how to drive if the stuff needs significant modification. Why modify it if I am not sure it’s going to work for me? Why do I have to research all the few places with demos which I have to make special trips to out of state to test?
The shocks in the back of a van are rough on my back. I can go up and down ramps independently, but the way the vans are, make it impossible to manage a ramp, get in and situated, and then stow the ramp, or unstow the ramp. Why? Why do the tie downs for the wheelchair have to be operated by someone else? I can bend down and attach them. I just can’t reach to tighen the straps. Why? Why does the automobile industry make it so I am not successful with even getting into a vehicle unassisted?
It would be great to see what solutions the future can bring. I study Human Computer Interaction and like to look at automobile design. I don’t know about engineering automobiles. I know about interfaces and the psychology of technology. I just don’t understand why the automobile industry ignores people and drivers with disabilities when 30% of the population has at least one disability. 30% of potential profits is far too much for companies to walk away from. Help people with disabilities be perceived as independent, not as cargo that needs carted around simply because the automobiles are poorly suited to their needs.
Thank you for time and future contributions. I know you, your family, and wife Mei will continue to produce great things. I hope you consider using some skills and knowledge for the betterment of a social cause you are as passionate about as you are automobiles.