Wheelchair plan blasted
WHEELCHAIR user Eric Cook, who is quadriplegic, says proposed changes to wheelchair and mobility scooter regulations will leave some users housebound.
A Standards Australia draft document proposes a new blue label system that would require powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters to comply with a raft of new conditions, including weight, size and speed specifications.
Any device that does not comply would be prohibited from public transport, roadrelated areas and footpaths.
Mr Cook blasted the proposed new standard, specifically the 300kg maximum weight limit for a wheelchair or a scooter and its occupant.
“My chair alone is 170kg. I’m 193cm tall and not unusually overweight but I’m already on the brink of the limit,” he said.
“If I end up developing diabetes or even just get stuck in bed with an illness and put on weight, suddenly I’m not allowed in a taxi, on a bus, a train or a ferry.
“People stuck in wheelchairs tend to be heavier because it is much more difficult to exercise.
“The prospect of being confined to your own home is incredibly depressing and plays a huge amount on your psyche.”
Mr Cook also raised concerns with a proposed 140cm minimum height requirement for an occupied device.
If occupants are too short when seated, they will have to attach a flag to their wheelchair or scooter.
Other requirements are a low speed mode, initiated by the occupant, which limits the mobility device’s maximum speed to 5km/h.
Any mobility device weighing more than 120kg would also be prohibited from going on certain types of commercial aircraft, including the Airbus A330, and Boeing 777 and 737.
Assistive Technology Suppliers Australasia (ATSA) executive officer Chris Sparks said the proposed new standard would drive up the cost of electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters, the vast majority of which are manufactured overseas to meet less stringent international standards.
“A unique Australian standard with no global relevance would require additional testing and labelling of imported devices, which adds cost,” he said.
Mr Sparks also said close to 30 per cent of the mobility devices currently in Australia, classified as Class A, would be automatically ex-
Eric Cook is confined to a wheelchair.