Cruising for business

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Andrew Garnett loves to travel, and he thinks the 40 million Americans with disabilities should be able to explore the world, too. In 2007, he founded Special Needs at Sea in Dania Beach, Fla., to provide scooters, wheelchairs, oxygen and other equipment for cruise ship passengers. Garnett says disabled Americans take about 31.7 million trips each year. He finds it rewarding when a customer tells him, “The world is a much bigger place because of you. I don’t have to stay home anymore.”

HME News: Why should customers rent DME from you instead of traveling with their own?

Andrew Garnett: For safety, peace of mind and convenience. People bring their own concentrator or CPAP and they check it with their luggage and their luggage doesn’t make it to their destination. Or, a concentrator gets dropped into the ocean by the longshoremen. Also, on the airlines, the same place they throw your luggage is where they throw your equipment. If you’ve ever had a brand new suitcase, at the end of the trip it’s beaten up.

HME: What is the most popular equipment for travelers to rent?

Garnett: Either a scooter or wheelchair. A lot of customers don’t necessarily use that equipment at home, but they know that they are not as accustomed to doing as much walking and the ships keep getting bigger. When they go on their sightseeing tours, they may have difficulty keeping up.

HME: Do you also do repairs?

Garnett: On many occasions, airlines will call us and say “The equipment is damaged. Can you bring a replacement and fix (the passenger’s) equipment while they are on their cruise so that when they return it’s back in service.”

HME: What is your service area?

Garnett: We basically provide the service in any port city in the world. We have equipment and agents staged around the world. Somebody’s sailing out of Barcelona? No problem. We deliver it onboard and when they are done, we pick it up, sanitize it, perform general maintenance and have it ready for the next rental.