Although the CarFit organization has been in Gulfport annually for the last four years, this is the first time they’ve had help from Gannon University. The students who volunteered at Saturday’s event are part of a doctoral occupational therapy program and participated as part of their Advanced Interventions class.
Stephanie Adams, Assistant Professor at Gannon, said she initially was interested in how her class could get involved with CarFit when she found out the organization worked with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). She contacted Fran Carlin-Rogers, a National CarFit Instructor, and it was an instant match.
“CarFit wants OTs to do this because we have a vast knowledge of working with clients and community mobility,” said Adams.
“It may be that they’re learning things about their own vehicles,” said Fran Carlin-Rogers, speaking about the doctorate students. “And regardless of what type of clinical practice they go into, they’re going to be dealing with transportation issues. Wherever they end up, this will be giving them some sort of a basis.”
CarFit volunteers get matched up with a client, typically a driver of 60 years or older. They go through a checklist to see how the car fits the driver and how things in the car can be adjusted for a safer, more comfortable drive. Fixes can be as simple as moving a seat up a notch or suggesting the driver get a cushion to give them a boost of height over the steering wheel.
“A lot of times when drivers come to CarFit – and we had that experience today – where we’re asking about controls on their vehicles that they just had no idea could resolve some issues,” said Rogers.
Norma Monette, 76, is one of those drivers. During her session with third-year doctoral students Adele Ouegnin and Maria Tarbell, Monette discovered hazard lights on her car that she never knew existed.
“I didn’t know about the hazards,” said Monette “I had never used them.” Overall, driver Monette said she felt positive and knowledgeable about her vehicle after her session. “I would recommend people come, definitely,” she said.
CarFit holds multiple events in the state of Florida and across the US and has been active since 2006. The organization, sponsored by the Department of Transportation, AARP and AOTA, is run entirely by volunteers, including national instructors like Fran Carlin-Rogers. For more information on CarFit or to become a volunteer, visit their website at car-fit.org.
“We like to tell people it’s fun, it’s free and it’s fast,” said Rogers.