Infrastructure, education needed as use of mobility devices grows

Assistive mobility devices (AMDs) facilitate personal mobility and aid users in independent living and social interaction ("Mobility scooters 'designed to be safe and stable'"; Wednesday).

Users must be careful to choose models that are suitable for their weight and build, to ensure stability of their vehicles during operation.

Overloading an AMD with passengers or cargo may destabilise the vehicle and render it difficult to control. Maintenance is also important for AMDs.

Users require proper training to steer and control AMDs correctly, including on uneven surfaces. Some users reverse unsafely.

In other countries, AMD users have crashed into pedestrians, including young children. Serious accidents included one frail senior who died after a collision with a powered wheelchair travelling at 6.4kmh, and an able-bodied pedestrian who became confined to a wheelchair after being knocked down by a mobility scooter.

Top speeds for AMDs may go up to 12kmh or higher. While many AMD users move at walking pace currently, the Government's decision to allow AMDs to travel at 15kmh on pedestrian paths may lead users, including less competent ones, to increase their speed, and create a demand for models with higher top speeds.

Several countries have guidelines for mobility scooters to give way to pedestrians on pedestrian facilities.

It would be nice if AMD users could yield to pedestrians who appear more frail than them.

In some countries, AMDs accessing public transit systems must meet specific requirements (height, length, width, weight, turning radius, type of wheels, dry cell/battery use, and so on).

AMDs must remain stable and must be able to secure their users well on moving vehicles during the course of normal travel and under emergency braking conditions.

MRT operators need to improve their on-train dedicated facilities for AMD users. AMD users who move into a cabin usually prefer to be near the doors and unintentionally hamper the movement of other commuters.

I have seen an incident where, to facilitate his exit later, an AMD user turned his vehicle suddenly without alerting commuters standing nearby and nearly hit one commuter in the process.

At bus stops, two or more AMD users usually wait at different spots for their buses. Bus-stop shelters could be resized to dedicate a space for AMD users to board and alight, so that bus drivers can pick up and drop off all commuters smoothly.

Enclosed facilities, especially foodcourts and supermarkets, need to widen the aisles to accommodate people with reduced mobility and AMD users moving together safely.

Tan Lay Hoon (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2016, with the headline 'Infrastructure, education needed as use of mobility devices grows'. Print Edition | Subscribe