Backlash sees changes to wheelchair and mobility scooter regulations halted

Proposed electric wheelchair and mobility scooter regulations could leave some users housebound. Stock image
Proposed electric wheelchair and mobility scooter regulations could leave some users housebound. Stock image

PROPOSED changes to motorised wheelchair and mobility scooter regulations that threaten to leave some users housebound have temporarily been halted following overwhelmingly negative community feedback.

A Standards Australia draft document proposed 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.

Users failing to comply would be ineligible for a blue label, barring them from accessing public transport or using road-related areas like footpaths.

The new regulations would also prevent any wheelchair weighing more than 120kg from carriage on widely used commercial aircraft such as the Airbus A330, and Boeing 777 and 737.

In a statement released earlier this month, Standards Australia said more than 600 comments were received during the public consultation period.

“Due to the high volume of public comments committee members will be expected to meet again in 2017 to continue work on the resolution of public comments,” it said.

“In accordance with Standards Australia’s processes this includes the undertaking of a second round of public comment and resolution if required.”

A Standards Australia spokesman said the original proposal for the new regulations was submitted by a representative of Engineers Australia and sought to develop a technical specification to assist users to identify wheelchairs and mobility scooters that are suitable for use on public transport across all states and jurisdictions.

Seventeen interest groups formed the committee responsible for the draft Australian Standard, including Physical Disability Australia (PDA) which argued strongly against the proposed measures.

PDA president Liz Reid said diverse nature of physical disability meant many Australians were using powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters that did not comply with the proposed regulations.

“If the proposed specification standard and labelling is adopted, endorsed and enforced by the Australian Government, many Australians may find themselves unable to participate in social and economic life,” she said.

“It would be an act of discrimination against already marginalised members of the community.”

She also called on Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt to stamp out the proposed new standard.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said Standards Australia was a non-government, membership based, not-for-profit organisation and that the Government did not have the authority to intervene directly in its activities.

Standards Australia is also unable to enforce or regulate compliance with any of its standards without government support.