By Bas Stevens. I cannot tell you how disappointed and confused I am with the recent news that the UBCM is seeking tougher new regulations for mobility scooters and wheelchairs.
Firstly, please allow me to tell you a little about myself. For 65 years I lived as an able-bodied person with no disabilities. In 2007 I was diagnosed with cancer and, as a result, had a hip disarticulation – my entire leg was amputated at the hip. I have no stump. When I lost my leg, I made a conscious decision that I would not drive a motor vehicle again, whether it is with hand controls or without. For the past four years I have been using an electric mobility scooter. Prior to my amputation I was an active person and the mobility scooter has allowed me to remain active and has allowed me a great deal of freedom to get around. It has restored my independence.
It has been my experience that it is not the operators of mobility scooters/wheelchairs that require tougher regulations but rather the police need to be more vigilant in enforcing the crosswalk laws. Barely a day goes by when I do not have a close encounter with a car, pick-up, bus or truck in a marked crosswalk. It has come to the point that I no longer report these incidents to my local police because they tell me to keep a record – time, date, plate number, etc., and report on a monthly basis. Pray tell, what use is this?
Municipalities want to charge licensing fees for users of mobility scooters and wheelchairs? How ludicrous! Maybe some of these lawmakers should try spending a few days on our scooters and in our wheelchairs. They would soon learn that the uneven sidewalks are enough to shake fillings from their teeth; that the sidewalk ramps are too steep and very often not properly aligned with the crosswalks; to say nothing for the steep incline and descent on many of the “pork-chop” islands.
I view this proposal as but another attack on the disabled. Many of us are on fixed incomes and having to pay additional fees would create a further hardship. It could possibly rob many of their independence. Maybe the provincial government and the municipalities should consider ways in which accessibility for the disabled might be improved. ALL new business establishments as well as those undergoing major renovations, regardless of size, MUST have an automatic door opener. In the case of raised entrances, there MUST be a ramp to provide scooter and wheelchair access. Please do not allow me to go into the access issues to restrooms in restaurants and other public areas. This is an absolute disgrace! Many mazes are easier to navigate.
Until the government and municipalities have addressed the access issues that I have mentioned – I am certain that there are many more, they MUST abandon the issue of “tougher regulation of mobility scooters and wheelchairs”. If they choose to move forward with this, what are they proposing for electric 2-wheeled scooters? They do not require licensing and their top speed is considerably faster than any mobility scooter or wheelchair that I have seen.
As a footnote to all of this, does one not think that we, as Canadians, are long overdue for a Disabilities Act akin to what Senator Ted Kennedy championed for the disabled in the United States? The way it currently stands, we must fight tooth and nail for virtually everything.
Thank you for your time and listening to the views and observations of one who has lived as an able-bodied person and now as one with a disability.