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Segway - A Legal Personal Assistive Device

  • Published: 2013-04-04 : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: The Segway mobility device has been around for a number of years but is it a legal disability assistive device.

Quote: "People who experience a variety of forms of disabilities have found the Segway to be a highly useful type of assistive device, including people who have forms of arthritis, amputees, and many others who experience mobility limitations."

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The Segway mobility device has been around for a number of years now, yet the question of whether or not it is a legal disability assistive device remains. For example, as recently as the year 2006 the Ontario Ministry of Transport approved a test project with the goal of evaluating the use of the Segway. Under the program Canada Post mail carriers, police officers, as well as people over the age of 14 who experience disabilities were allowed to travel on sidewalks and roadways in Ontario.

The pilot test project was viewed by some as being flawed and perceived as involving poor judgment related to legislation that placed everyone at risk, whether the person operating the Segway was on the sidewalk or the road. Innovative Mobility was of the belief that people with disabilities over the age of 14 were allowed to use their Segways at speeds varying between 12.5km and 50km on roadways. Innovative Mobility also believed that Segway users needed no:

Segway picture
Plainly, Innovative Mobility is comparing the Segway to something more akin to a motor vehicle than say - a power wheelchair or a manual wheelchair. People who experience a variety of forms of disabilities have found the Segway to be a highly useful type of assistive device, including people who have forms of arthritis, amputees, and many others who experience mobility limitations. Among the people who find the Segway to be a useful mobility device are veterans.

The Segway as an Assistive Device

There is a group called, 'Disability Rights Advocates for Technology (DRAFT),' that distributes Segway scooters through its, 'Segs4Vets,' program. The program matches Segways with veterans who experience a number of different forms of disabilities. Segways have a small, 'footprint,' and a turning radius that is far smaller than the one a power wheelchair has. For the majority of people who use them they are less-fatiguing, more versatile, and have the ability to accommodate are larger variety of terrain. The best feature, according to those who use the Segway, is that it allows for face-to-face interaction.

The fact is that Segways do go faster than a power wheelchair and seem to represent more of a threat to pedestrians. A number of cities have banned Segways because of this fact. Other venues, such as Disney World and at least one Barnes and Noble bookstore in Arizona, have as well.

The argument from Disney appears to be that Segways have not been ADA certified as assistive devices. It is not clear how retailer objections will end up affecting this argument. A Segway disability-use permit, similar to the parking placards states in America issue, would seem to be a logical and simple solution to the issue of identifying Segway users with disabilities. As this issue with Segways is sorted out, people who use them may want to carry a note from their doctor with them and pursue some courteous information exchange.

The Segway is not for everyone who experiences a form of disability. While they may be modified in a number of ways, using them depends upon a variety of motor skills - as well as good judgment. Increasing or decreasing the speed of a Segway, or moving back and forward may have serious consequences. People who use them have expressed the advantages of being able to travel while upright for longer periods of time, as well as greater ease in going places power wheelchairs simply cannot go. Segways, unlike power wheelchairs, are often times coveted by people who are non-disabled as well.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Segways

What does the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) have to say about Segways? The DOT views Segways from the perspective of whether transportation entities such as transit authorities should allow Segways to be used on transportation vehicles when they are used as a mobility device by people who experience forms of disabilities.

The DOT describes a Segway as a, 'two-wheeled gyroscopically stabilized, battery-powered personal transportation device.' The Department's perspective is that the Segway was not designed for use primarily by people with disabilities and is not used mainly by those who experience forms of disabilities. The DOT notes; however, that some people with disabilities do use Segways as a personal mobility aid instead of more traditional devices such as a wheelchair or a scooter.

The DOT's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rule 49 CFR Part 37, 37.3 defines a, 'wheelchair,' as "a mobility aid belonging to any class of three or four-wheeled vehicles, designed for and used by individuals with mobility impairments..." Under this definition a Segway is not a wheelchair, yet a Segway - when used by someone with a disability as a mobility device, is a part of a broader class of mobility aids that Part 37 intends to be accommodated. Because of this, a Segway has a legal position similar to walkers, canes and so forth.

The fact that a Segway is not a wheelchair according to this definition finds the ADA regulation's provisions for lift and securement use specific to wheelchairs do not apply to either Segways or those who use them. However, transit providers are required to permit people with disabilities who do not use wheelchairs commonly to use the lift along with their non-wheelchair mobility devices to include crutches, canes, or walkers. Because of this, a person with a disability who uses a Segway as a mobility device must be allowed to use the lift.

On the other hand, transportation providers are not required to permit every Segway user to bring their device onto a bus or a train. Transportation providers can establish their own general policies in regards to Segways and other devices, the same way they can with bicycles or pets. However, when a device is being used as a mobility device by a person with a mobility-related form of disability - the transportation provider has to permit the person and their device onto the vehicle. The situation is similar to a transportation provider with a policy that does not permit a person's pet on board, yet must allow a person with a disability to bring their service animal on board.

It is also important to be aware that a transportation provider is not require to permit anyone at all, to include a person with a disability, to bring a device onto a vehicle that is either to large or that they determine will pose a direct threat to the safety of other people. A non-wheelchair mobility device that exceeds the weight and size standards for a, 'common wheelchair,' or 30X48 inches that measures 2 inches above the ground and weighs more than 600 pounds including the person using it, may be considered to be too large. The, 'direct threat,' standard is intentionally stringent, meaning it requires a determination that there is a significant risk to the safety or health of others that may not be eliminated by modification of procedures, policies, practices, or through the provision of auxiliary services or aids. A transportation provider desiring to exclude a particular mobility device on the grounds of, 'direct threat,' should consult first with the appropriate DOT operating administration and seek guidance.

Disney Settles Disability Bias Suit Over Segways

Walt Disney World Co. has settled a discrimination suit over its ban on two-wheeler Segways at its Florida theme parks by agreeing to provide disabled guests with at least 15 newly-designed four-wheeled vehicles.

Comments favoring allowing Segway use as mobility assistive devices for persons with disabilities

I initially used a wheelchair several years ago and then five years ago I began to use a Segway and today I address the question of whether public facilities should be required by the Department of Justice's rules to treat Segways as wheelchairs.

Segways and special needs

I always pointed out its great value to those with special needs, and how that alone should be enough to see its value...


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