MIAMI, Oct. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The concept for a unique company, Special Needs Group, sprang from a travel agent's need for special request medical items for cruise passengers leaving from South Florida.
Five and a half years ago, CEO Andrew J. Garnett literally began the business of "Delivering an Accessible World™" - the company's corporate trademark, in his Florida bedroom, at the request of a travel agent whose clients needed oxygen and wheelchairs for their seven-day Caribbean cruises.
From that humble beginning, Garnett's companies, Special Needs Group (SNG) and Special Needs at Sea (specializing in Cruise Ship services), deliver, assemble, and later retrieve a cadre of mobility, vision, hearing and other assistance items directly to cruise ship staterooms and hotels for travelers in the U.S. and abroad, or to a traveler's home before they embark.
Parent company SNG is the exclusive provider of both oxygen and wheelchairs for Norwegian Cruise Line and also has an exclusive program with Holland America Cruise Line for providing shoreside Kiosk pick-up and delivery service of mobility equipment in Fort Lauderdale and Seattle. Norwegian Cruise Line is also test piloting the program on the newest and largest cruise ship, Epic at the Port of Miami. The services SNG provides for special needs travelers across the globe don't stop at the cruise port.
Simple items like a bed wedge to correct esophageal reflux (usually too bulky for passengers to manage with their luggage) can make the difference between a fun and memorable family reunion aboard an Alaskan cruise or at a resort, and miserable heartburn-ridden nights with fitful sleep.
Many potential travelers who need a patient lift to transfer from their home hospital hospital-style bed to a wheelchair thought they were unable to travel any more. SNG regularly delivers such items and more, directly to a cruise ship stateroom or hotel room in a myriad of locations stateside and abroad, with their US and European warehouses stocked with supplies.
According to Holly Marocchi, a respiratory therapist and travel agent from Sea Puffers, a company that organizes travel for oxygen dependent and other special needs travelers, "Many of our customers used to think that since they're on oxygen, and perhaps in a wheelchair, their travel days are over. That's no longer true, in large part due to great companies like SNG. We just took about 40 clients on an Alaska cruise, with about a quarter of the group on liquid oxygen, concentrators and portable oxygen provided by SNG," she reflected.
"Prior to SNG's existence," Marocchi continued, "we had a heck of a time finding the durable medical equipment to rent for trips. The home care, durable medical equipment dealers just have no concept about their customers having a life outside the confines of their homes. Now we use SNG almost exclusively at sea."
According to government statistics, Americans with some type of disability, whether it be sight or hearing impairment, mobility or other challenges, comprise about 20% of the population, over 62 million people. Travel industry vendors, like cruise lines, hotels and travel groups are quickly realizing that the aging population, as well as those born with or challenged with more temporary special needs due to surgery or an injury, still want to travel, and CAN... with the help of organizations like SNG. www.specialneedsatsea.com
Ambulating by wheelchair or scooter doesn't curb the desire to travel. Neither does the need for a Seeing Eye or diabetic/epilepsy alert dog. Bringing a customized, high-quality wheelchair, scooter, power chair or rollator on a cruise is de rigueur for the company, but other special needs travelers have needs that can easily be met by SNG.
Canine assistance dogs need a place to relieve themselves, of course. SNG can solve that dilemma, and deliver a 4'x4' wood mulch or sod box to cruise ships, just for that purpose, allowing travelers to bring their service animals on a trip.
Now considered the premier expert in the business of matching travelers' special request accommodations worldwide, Garnett's company maintains warehouses on both the East and West coasts of the U.S., as well as in Europe.
"I'm so proud this service can make travel possible and more enjoyable for our customers, their families and friends," said Garnett. "It's truly a 'feel good' business! Many say they never would have been able to take their trip without our services, and that we have made the world a bigger place for them. Until finding out about us, they thought that they would have to stay home watching TV for the rest of their lives, instead of experiencing the places they loved to visit."
SNG not only provides the products, delivery and retrieval for their travelers' requests, they now train travel agents in this field. Just under 1000 agents, including Marocchi, have completed their certification course to become Travel Advocates for Special Needs Travelers, a burgeoning segment of the travel market.
The ability to travel with mobility and breathing challenges is life-changing information for the special needs traveler. This certification helps travel agents to understand and serve the special needs traveler and their families.
"I am also a respiratory therapist with decades of experience in the medical field," commented Marocchi. "I was prepared to be judgmental about the certification program, especially because the oxygen delivery portion of it is complicated. I found it was very accurate, informative and educational for travel agents to provide the best vacation experience for all their clients, especially this previously underserved special needs population."
Sometimes, an injury or surgery inserts an unexpected kink in a group's travel plans. SNG can help here, too. A family reunion on a cruise ship or on land provides several good examples of additional circumstances where SNG can literally save the entire reunion trip.
When one of the grandchildren breaks a leg skiing a week before the reunion, the trip might be threatened, as no one wishes to leave the child behind. A rented wheelchair or scooter that fits right through the standard stateroom door might be just the right choice to accommodate the leg cast, without having to change to an "accessible" room.
The key concept is, to contact SNG or one of their certified travel advocates to enquire about options to make everyone in the group comfortable, provide with the right type of bed to be able to rest, to be able to keep up with excursions through wheelchairs or motorized chairs and scooters, as well as other items like Braille menus, listening assistance devices, etc.
The Special Needs Group site now also offers links to SNG Certified Accessible Travel Advocates™ across the country, who are prepared to tie all the details together for Delivering an Accessible World™ to special needs travelers to enjoy more of the world, traveling comfortably at their own pace.
For more information, contact:
Andrew J. Garnett
Special Needs Group President/CEO
Phone: (954) 585-0575 Toll Free: 1-800-513-4515
Fax: (954) 585-0577 Toll Free: 1-800-513-4516
Web Site: http://www.specialneedsatsea.com
For Media Relations:
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SOURCE Special Needs Group, Inc.