Transport Select Committee Makes Recommendations on Mobility Scooters

April 17, 2010

The Transport Select Committee has called on the Department for Transport to clarify who is fit to drive a mobility scooter and to take decisive action following the current consultation. We must ensure that any such action taken by the Department for Transport doesn’t rob blind wheelchair users of our right to freedom.

The Transport Committee’s recommendations don’t specifically mention vision. However, media reporting of the Committees recommendations, included anecdotes about a blind scooter user being hit by a bus whilst crossing a road. I don’t know the details of that case, or even whether it is true, but it would appear that using a scooter had nothing to do with the accident. He made a mistake in judging when to cross the road but he would have made that mistake whether he was using a scooter or walking. It does not mean that blind scooter or powered wheelchair users are unfit to drive. The Transport Committee and the Department for Transport must not be allowed to confuse the issues.

As well as responding to the Department for Transport’s consultation, please also contact the members of the Transport Committee to explain that blind people can and do use powered wheelchairs and scooters safely. What matters is being safe, not sighted.

Other Blind Wheelchair Users

March 21, 2010

In case you are wondering how other blind wheelchair users manage to get around safely and independently, check out the following links.

The above are all American examples. Please leave a comment to tell us about other examples, anywhere in the world.

On Speed Limits

March 21, 2010

My powered wheelchair is able to go at speeds up to 4 mph. I use it at 4 mph when I can be confident of there being few obstacles and plenty of space. Most of the time I go at around 3 mph. In busy or cluttered places I slow down even further. For tricky manoeuvres I go right down to a snails pace of just ½ mph. The controls on my power chair have been specially programmed so that I can select speeds of ½, 1,2, 3 and 4 mph with a single button press to avoid me accidentally setting off at the wrong speed. This contrasts to many powered wheelchairs where speeds are selected by cycling through a menu. I have good control of the speed and adjust it to be suitable to my surroundings and abilities. Personally I would not feel very confident going above 4 mph even in very quiet areas but other blind wheelchair users, using different obstacle detecting/avoiding techniques may feel safe at higher speeds.

There may be a case for restricting the speed at which blind users of powered mobility vehicles may travel. For example, it may be appropriate to only permit blind people to use class 2 vehicles. These have a maximum speed of 4 mph and are for pavement use, only. However, any such restriction should be based on objective data about the distance at which we can detect obstacles and the space needed to manoeuvre. It must not be based on prejudice assumptions.

Please leave a comment to share your views on speed limits.

What’s it all about?

March 17, 2010

Freedom is a fundamental human right but the UK government is threatening to take it away from blind wheelchair users. We must act now to protect our right to freedom.

The Department for Transport is consulting on proposed changes to the UK’s laws covering powered mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs. One of the proposals is to introduce a fitness to drive test that would include an eyesight test. Imposing a vision requirement would have appalling consequences for those of us who are blind and need to use a wheelchair; it would strip us of our right to freedom.

With appropriate use of long canes, guide dogs and/or electronic obstacle detectors, blind people can and do safely use powered mobility vehicles. The assumption that good eyesight is necessary for the safe use of powered scooters and wheelchairs is prejudice, discriminatory and utterly unacceptable.

I am deafblind and use a powered wheelchair, a long cane and a sonar obstacle detector. I am able to independently and safely get out and about in my local area. Being able to get around my house, go for a potter around the village, pop to the mailbox or go to get a pint of milk from the village shop are things that matter hugely to me. If the use of powered wheelchairs were restricted to those with good eyesight, blind wheelchair users, such as myself, would be trapped in our homes and robbed of our right to freedom. That simply cannot be allowed to happen.

Don’t allow the Department of Transport to imprison blind wheelchair users. Please respond to the consultation on proposed changes to the laws governing powered mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs (DFT 2010-10), by 28 May 2010, and oppose the inclusion of an eyesight test in the fitness to drive test.

Users of powered mobility vehicles need to drive safely; we do not need to be sighted. That is the message we must get across to the Department of Transport, the NHS, scooter and wheelchair suppliers, the general public and the media. I’ll be posting more information and suggestions of how to achieve this over the coming months. Please keep checking back and leaving comments about your ideas and actions. Act now and help protect our freedom!


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