Drivers of motorized scooters and wheelchairs say proposed regulations are discriminatory.

Licensing wheelchair users ‘discriminatory’

A White Rock accessibility advocate says targeting mobility devices will create further challenges for those who need them.

Regulating the use of motorized scooters and wheelchairs will do more harm than good, says a White Rock woman who relies on one of the vehicles for day-to-day activities.

“I think it’s discriminatory,” said Leslie Konkin, of a proposal to be debated at next month’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

Put forth by Sidney council, the resolution urges the province to regulate the use of motorized mobility aids – including wheelchairs and scooters – and require training, testing and licensing of operators.

Konkin, 57, serves as an accessibility consultant on White Rock’s advisory design panel. She said that if adopted, such regulations will only make life more challenging for people like herself – it will not solve any problems.

While Sidney council’s resolution argues that seniors drive the appliances too fast on sidewalks without any regulation, Konkin said the majority of users – as with motorists – “are doing a good job of using them safely,” and that education and simple common sense amongst operators and pedestrians alike will go much farther to address any problems.

“I don’t think rules and regulations and mandates and licensing is going to solve anything,” she said, encouraging the issue be left where it now stands, between patients and their healthcare providers.

Living with multiple sclerosis and not able to walk more than a step or two unaided, Konkin has relied on a medi-scooter for about 15 years.

She said people need to remember that the equipment, for the majority of operators, serves as a replacement for users’ legs, not their vehicles.

“It would make things more onerous, as far as getting licensed, paying what they’re going to charge,” Konkin said.

“It’s just another thing an already energy-taxed person would have to deal with.”

Officials with the motorist-advocacy group, SENSE BC, describe the proposal as a “laughable” example of bureaucratic overkill.

Semiahmoo Peninsula politicians offered a range of opinions.

Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg said he doesn’t sense it’s a major problem but added “some authority” is probably needed, preferably through provincial law that lets individual cities regulate the machines if they deem it necessary.

“People are generally pretty well-behaved,” he said. “Public policy generally should not be developed for exceptions.”

White Rock deputy mayor Grant Meyer questioned the impact enforcing scooter regulations would have on that city’s already busy bylaw staff.

But White Rock Coun. Larry Robinson said he’s all for it.

“There has to be some type of regulation, including you to be approved or prescribed to use them,” he said.

Robinson said he has seen people operating electric wheelchairs holding up traffic.

And he said he knows people who don’t have a medical need for the machines but just like to use them to get around.

“I don’t think you should be able to walk into a store and walk out with an electric scooter and just drive it wherever you want. There has to be some qualification for the use.”

There’s currently no registration, insurance or licence required to operate the devices in B.C.

The province has indicated to UBCM it intends to develop a co-ordinated plan for safe operation of motorized scooters, including possible amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act.

The provincial coroner in 2008 issued recommendations supporting scooter regulation after several scooter-riding seniors died in crashes with vehicles.

The B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities opposes the idea.

“These are mobility devices that people need to get out into the community,” said executive director Jane Dyson. “Such a regulation would impede their independence.”

The proposal is among at least three transportation-related resolutions that will be on the floor at the UBCM convention in Vancouver in late September.

 

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