For those with disabilities, travel can seem out of reach.
A Ponte Vedra Beach startup is trying to remove at least one barrier with a new venture called HandyQuip.
The goal is simple: Enable people to quickly find needed medical equipment like electric wheelchairs, walkers or medical beds to rent when traveling or to evaluate before purchasing.
Co-founder Stephane Poussou said the idea came to him when his family wanted to take his brother-in-law, Brendan, to Las Vegas to celebrate his college graduation.
Brendan had suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. When Poussou and his wife started planning the trip, they ran into road blocks when it came to finding the medical equipment his brother-in-law would need while in Nevada.
Poussou’s wife spent days on the phone doing research, trying to find the right store.
"Over these many days, she was able to rent what she thought was the right bed. But when we arrived in Las Vegas, it was the wrong bed, and Brendan could not use it," said Poussou.
Poussou, who has a background in mathematics and physics, saw a problem that needed fixing, so he set about working with a programmer who is a Microsoft-certified software engineer to create HandyQuip.com.
The medical equipment rental site will launch on Tuesday. To start, Poussou has partnered with Southeastern Medequip in Jacksonville Beach. He’s also in discussions with other area medical equipment vendors and hopes to be able to cover a large portion of Northeast Florida.
Poussou cites Jacksonville’s existing medical community and growing reputation as a medical tourism destination as a logical place to start his business.
He’s been learning the ropes with support from the Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida.
"From the start, they've been guiding us through the startup of the company," said Poussou, who will hold a kickoff event for HandQuip Tuesday at the Adam W. Herbert University Center in the Board of Trustees Room.
Anyone interested in an advance look at HandyQuip can visit the site now, but Poussou said the medical equipment ordering engine, which is called Quinn, is still being finalized with products.
The user process is simple. Customers use a calendar to select the dates the equipment is needed and type in the location. If the equipment is available to rent, a list of options will be returned.
"As we ramp up, some searches may not be available yet. But pretty soon we'll be able to cover a lot of equipment in a lot of areas," said Poussou.
He said there is a nationwide need for a simple medical equipment rental solution.
"There are 12 million people that use ambulatory equipment every day, such as wheelchairs and canes and walkers," he said.
Poussou added the nation’s medical needs will grow quickly as Baby Boomers enter retirement.
"By 2030, 1-in-5 Americans will require medical equipment of some form every day," he said.