ATSA claims Nationals’ mobility devices plan will punish seniors & people with a disability

mobility devices
mobility devices

 

David Sinclair has hit out at the Nationals’ plans to implement regulatory changes to motorised mobility devices. David Sinclair is Executive Officer of Assistive Technology Suppliers Australasia (ATSA). He claims Senator Williams’ motion from the recent National Party conference will punish seniors and people with disability.

Nationals Senator John Williams secured support at the party’s Federal conference. The party agreed to push for mobility devices & scooters to be speed limited to 6 km. Also, Senator Williams was successful in calling for a maximum tare weight of 150 kilograms. Further, he argued the drivers do not need a licence, insurance or medical checks. In fact, he claims they cannot ensure they are physically and mentally well enough to be behind the wheel. Ultimately, the lower speed limit would reduce the risk of accidents.

Proposal would limit Scooters’ top speed to 6 km per hour and their maximum tare weight to 150 kg

ATSA claims the proposed changes are unfair

“The National Party is calling to implement severe regulatory changes for motorised mobility devices that will disadvantage some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said David Sinclair, Executive Officer of ATSA. Mr Sinclair said the Nationals should have sought expert advice from mobility specialists and those with real-world experience of disability before calling for such wide-reaching reform. Assistive Technology suppliers stand by their clients and refute the claims of “risk” made by the National Party”.

“The Nationals’ proposal ignores the current well-established structures that already exist in Australia for the management of motorised mobility devices”, claims ATSA.  “Such devices are already regulated by road & traffic agencies. That includes Austroads, Standards Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Customs and the Department of Infrastructure”, says David Sinclair.

“People in rural and regional areas will be most affected”, claims ATSA.

Slow down tiger!

The current legal top speed of 10 kmph is equivalent to jogging. ATSA claims that this is already limiting to individuals who rely on these devices to commute in the Australian climate. They say that to reduce the speed further might unnecessarily place vulnerable users at risk. In fact, they claim it will take longer for them to travel to their destination.

100% of mobility scooters & 90% of electric wheelchairs sold here are imported.  They meet international standards. Plus, they are designed for large markets in Europe, the USA & Asia. Australia represents 2% of the world Motorised Mobility Device market and manufacturers will not build specific models for such a small market.

The end result could be less choice and higher prices, claims ATSA

Impact on motorised wheelchair users

The Nationals’ policy could also have an impact on motorised wheelchair users. That’s because they fall under the same regulations as mobility scooters. Therefore, the Nationals’ policy could mean Australia will have the strictest regulatory environment in the world for such devices.

Further, setting a maximum weight limit of 150kgs could mean larger people and those with complex needs (i.e. quadriplegics, those with cerebral palsy etc) may not be able to get a legally compliant device that meets their needs, claims ATSA. If true, this could limit their lifestyle and make them more housebound.  ATSA claims this is contrary to the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities to which Australia is a signatory.

Could 6km per hour be dangerously slow?

Member of the Safe Scooter Committee, Julie de Waard, said the 6 kph speed limit proposed was “dangerous”. She claimed the speed limit to 6kph would make it dangerous for riders to cross roads for example. “They wouldn’t get anywhere. At 10kph crossing a road is already dangerous,” she said. “More important than speed is educating people.”

“I personally think helmets should also be considered,”Julie de Waard.

Both parties expressed concerns that the National Party may not be consulting widely enough. Also, Ms. De Waard says these regulations may cost the Government more. She claims they “would then need to find other ways to get people around. Like improving public transport in regional areas,” she said.

“ATSA believes in fairness and equality for people with disabilities. Rather than over-regulation leading to misalignment with internationally accepted standards ATSA considers a public awareness campaign to be a far more productive and effective proposition.

“ATSA believes that the focus should be on education, including training of scooter users and encouraging all pedestrians to look where they are going.  However, the Nationals seem determined to unfairly punish the majority of motorised mobility users who do the right thing,” Mr Sinclair said

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