The beginning was almost tragic, the outcome truly remarkable. Keith Howell, president and founder of Howell Ventures Ltd. was in his early teens when he became a quadriplegic. As in most teenage boys, Howell still carried the desire to drive a car and be independent. After trying several styles of manual hand controls, Howell settled on one that dealt best with his disability. The only problem was that the manufacturer of the particular style had gone out of business. So, Howell set about to manufacture a set of controls that would emulate the easiest style of driving that he was able to find.
Twenty years later, Howell’s “SURE GRIP” hand controls have become a leader in the disabled driving aids market in both Canada and U.S.A. Howell Ventures consists of a major manufacturing facility, with its corporate office located in Upper Kingsclear, NB, Canada.
Just recently, SURE GRIP hand control’s unique “push rock” acclaimed style of driving—push forward for brake, rock back for acceleration—has been promoted by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) as the fourth recognized style of driving for the disable under nationally recognized terminologies. This endorsement brought a lot of industry credibility to Howell’s design.
Simply, the SURE GRIP hand control was constructed to serve people with perhaps the highest level of disability. The controls operate with very little hand strength and, unlike any other hand control on today’s market, the unique vertical handle allows the operator virtual two handed contact with the steering wheel—something no other product offers. SURE GRIP, while recognized early on as the product most appropriate for the most difficult cases, soon gained acceptance as the easiest to use control on the market for all users.
Howell then strengthened his position in the market through the development of training and evaluation products he made available to driving rehabilitation specialists. His creation of a unique mounting system that allowed trainers to interchange various styles of hand controls in their vehicles was one of his greatest inventions.
“There is seldom a day that goes by that I do not hear from somebody thankful for SURE GRIP hand controls. We hear stories about how the product has provided a disable person with independence, and so often the individual was unable to drive with any other style of control,” says Howell. “That is the part of the business that is so gratifying for me: knowing that when we ship a hand control, the person at the other end really is looking forward to getting mobile.
It means a great deal more to a disabled person than it does an able bodied person. I remember thinking that I could not be the only one who would benefit from this style of driving. Boy was I right!