What is Jetweels?
JETWEELS Launches color, heart, clever engineering, and determination to excel in passenger transport.
Esma is a self-described “Arab American from Brooklyn.” A passionate, determined, and beautiful woman and business owner from New York. She is the oldest of 7. Esma’s mother had a stroke giving birth to her younger sister and, never spoke or walked again. Her 4th sister also has a disability. Caring for her family has been her responsibility and her honor since when she was a very young girl.
“Watching your mother who was a superhero, the ‘Wonder Woman’ of the house never walk or talk again was a life changing experience for me. When I started PAXAssist, pushing passengers with disabilities in the airport, I saw that there was more to be done than just the service. There was an absolute need to provide better tools to enhance the service, hence Jetweels was born”.
She was a woman who was also gifted with an amazing mind that enabled her to graduate from St. Francis College with a degree in Aviation Business. She went on to earn a Masters degree in Transportation Management from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn New York. She took on the male-dominated airline industry to create the first woman-owned business, getting her first contract with Japan Airlines for airport dispatching.
Years later, her company Global Aircraft Dispatch was asked to take over the “pushing passengers” role from the clients Egypt Airlines and El Al Israel Airlines. There was no organized system in place for “moving people” who could not independently transverse the large airports to get to their gate from arrival.
So she took on this challenge by utilizing her sense of problem-solving and her information processing system (brain), and she created PAXAssist in 2007.
Helping the disabled travel with ease
PAXAssist has been serving JFK Terminal 4 for 13 years with great success! Having developed a complex “Smartwheels” to provide the most advanced provisions of these services in the industry. They have enlisted groups like “Open Doors” to develop sensitivity training, which allows them to provide the most compassionate efficient care possible for airport customers in their care. They also have carts for those who do not need a wheelchair “Push” the full way but just want to grab a ride when tired.
The Innovative Idea of a Seamless Security Experience is Long Overdue
Through the long term commitment of companies like Jetweels, the travel experience for older adults and people with reduced mobility will continue to improve.
Open Doors Organization believes that there is a great need in aviation to improve the process of moving people with reduced mobility throughout the airport.
“The Jetweels wheelchair will do just that, while simultaneously improving the travel experience for people with disabilities. We are proud to support this product and look forward to seeing the impact this will have firsthand.”
Eric Lipp Executive Director
Jetweels VS Traditional Wheelchairs
At first, Esma used the inherited old chrome hospital type wheelchairs that they provided when she took over this work, and later she bought her own “fleet” of these hospital chairs, with vinyl sling seats with metal footrests that were often broken. People were getting injured… too often, it wasn’t uncommon for people to fall out or drop a foot off the foot plates. The staff was not exempt from injuries either; they also had problems using the lower push handles, which caused ergonomic back and hand issues.
Then came the “new staxi” which were much better for pushers but there was the issue of going through metal detectors. This process required people to get up in front of everyone waiting to get through the line. The walk-through could be painful and difficult, both emotionally and physically.
One time, as I waited for a “female assist” to give me my usual ‘wheelchair user pat down’ I saw an older man forced into a standing position, leave his chair behind and walk with great difficulty through a metal detector while EVERYONE waited and watched. I felt terrible for him as no one wants to feel vulnerable and weak and much less feel rushed while holding up a line in one of the most stressful places on earth…the airport.
Solving the problem with traditional wheelchairs at the airport
So, being the engineering mastermind that she is, she wanted to solve the problem she had seen and experienced firsthand. She would often go out and work to push customers through airports to see how things were going for her team and customers, up to half a million a year, each year in one terminal!
So, she set out and went to work five years ago. She enlisted the help of engineers and designers, industry folks, her staff of pushers, customers, and organizations that work in travel for people with disabilities.
Together, they set out to design something with no metal, easy access brakes, seat, and chest belts, and a comfortable ergonomic seated “ride” (with gel cushion available.) But why stop there?
Why not make them colorful and unique as well! That was precisely what they did with lime green and blue (which was our favorite as PUSHLiving has a penchant for blue) 😉 and red and white. But the colors are also customizable…. each airport and airline can choose what colors make them feel unique and excited to do this vital work.
Overcoming wheelchair obstacles
Now, this is IMPORTANT, as there has been some early social media criticism based on incorrect assumptions.
“If they don’t try and force us in them, then all is good, as we would hate it personally” -said one Twitter user with a disability.
This chair is meant for people who have temporary disabilities like the elderly or those who can not walk long distances and are using airport services such as PAXAssist to be transported through the airport.
It can ALSO benefit those who have their own personal wheelchair, and they can choose (not forced) to be transferred with assistance or independently through security checkpoints. This approach will allow them to maintain their dignity if they feel uncomfortable being touched.
Sexual Abuse survivors, elderly woman, and children may feel traumatized being touched during public pat downs, and these incidences have been too often videotaped and put on YouTube for all to see.
Now that the chair is designed, and the first production run has arrived in New York, it is time for a test drive, and Esma does it with a bang! A party befitting of all the effort and investment, considering the fact that this project was over five years in the making at Terminal 4! The chairs are rolled in, speeches are given, drinks are had, and all have a moment to celebrate the work and the future.
When everyone goes home, Esma and her team begin to do the real work! Roll them out to the customers, some of which have used PAXAssist services for years. Armed with surveys in hand, all who take their first ride are asked for their input.
Jetweels Reviews from first-time users
Here is what they had to say!
“Very safe & Comfortable”
“I really love the wheelchair, it gives me great maneuverability and great access”
“Chair is lightweight and easy to move around”
“Strongly liked! It was very helpful for my parents”
“It is very comfortable to sit in and looks eco-friendly”
Ann Cronin, Director of Marketing and Business Development, stated:
“Jetweels has already proven to reduce wait times in security lines and not to mention the reduced need for additional pat downs as it can go directly through a metal detector.”
The next step for Jetweels
The next step is to get these chairs in airports across the country. And doing so requires a great team and a dedicated sales force that can show how injuries, hygiene, morale, efficiency, safety, appearances and most of all, dignity can all be consequently improved with the addition of this shiny new fleet of chairs.
If they need help paying for them, sponsors can add logos to the chairs to help alleviate this cost. Just like the ADA, change costs money, but these new designs will soon leave the metal and vinyl foam chairs in the dust heap of history!
The convenience of Jetweels
These chairs can also be used in any place that requires ADA assistance. They can be provided to those who want to enjoy the equivalent services of a venue or program. Museums, for example, imagine how cool they can be decorated!
Theme parks, stadiums, tourism, hospitals (no tubes getting caught in wheels!), children’s hospitals (they can design their own chairs!), or an older model home or facility where a standard wheelchair cannot fit through a door.
The JETWeels is only 22 inches wide. So cruise lines who sell out of accessible rooms, narrow spa or sauna doors can be accessed with no damage as water or scratching can’t hurt this chair.
There are more great ideas on the horizon that will add to the overall experience of security, safety, and the feeling of confidence when traveling while not walking. We would love to hear your respectful feedback!
To learn more, request a demo or sales information, please feel free to email [email protected].
- Excerpt from “The Anti-ADA Bar Crawl – Is Your Business at Risk?” - September 26, 2019
- Where to Roll in Town: A Wheelchair Users Guide to What is Hot and Trending in Travel - June 13, 2019
- Wheelchair Travel: Cuba Libre? How Free is Cuba for Travelers on Wheels? - June 11, 2019
- Wheelchair Accessible Farming and Gardening - June 8, 2019
- Jetweels Carries Passengers in a Whole New Fashion! - May 14, 2019
- Wheelchair Accessible Ireland Tour – Join Us In One of the Most Loved Countries - April 16, 2019
- PUSHLiving Podcast 018 | WOW! Woman on Wheels Empowerment Retreat with Kristina Rhoades - March 12, 2018
- Disability Tour Operators Deliver #AccessibleTravel - July 28, 2017
- ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act: The Long Road Toward Inclusion - June 25, 2017
- Education and Exposure is Key to Bias Against Disabled Mothers - May 14, 2017