Questions over the effectiveness of some mobility aids

Published:08 August 2019

Image courtesy Flickr creative commons (Alexander Cunningham).

A CQUniversity research study has questioned whether many mobility aids developed to navigate the community, including public transport, are able to do so effectively.

Professor Carolyn Unsworth told the recent Occupational Therapy national conference that the Victorian-based study casts doubts on the value of the Blue Label awarded in accordance with a new Standards Australia Technical Specification (ASTS).

“The award of the Blue Label indicates that a mobility aid is able to enter, manoeuvre and exit public transport," Professor Unsworth said.

"However, questions have been raised regarding the accuracy of the Blue Label measurements for people using powered mobility aids on buses."

The study measured powered mobility aids against the ASTS to determine which would be awarded a Blue Label, and then captured 3D scans of buses and mobility aids and ran these through computerised software to investigate if Blue Label mobility aids can access buses.

"The data showed that four mobility aids that would be awarded a Blue label cannot access 11 of the 21 buses tested," Professor Unsworth said.

"Conversely, two of the mobility aids that did not meet Blue Label criteria could actually access 12 of the 21 buses and 67 per cent of access problems were in the swept path entrance to buses.

“So, while being awarded an ASTS 3695.3:2018 Blue Label may guide use, it is not sufficient to determine if a powered mobility aid will in fact be able to access a bus.”

Professor Unsworth said the best outcome could be achieved if buses moved to a standard, double-entry door in the middle of the bus, with entry via the ramp.

“Nine out of the 35 powered mobility aids fit at least 20 of the 21 different bus routes tested and are all commonly available and therefore suggested for people to consider purchasing if they want a mobility aid that can access buses.”

Of these, three were Class A mobility aids and six were Class B, and included five scooters and four wheelchairs: Pride Mobility Go Go Ultra X, Monarch Buzz 3, Luggie Std., Luggie Elite and Luggie Chair, Merits Yoga, Shoprider Venice and Shoprider Como and Trek Mobility  SupaChair.

“Users should be aware that while some Class A mobility aids can fit onto buses and are popular for travelling internationally, care should be taken as they are not generally recommended for outdoor use,” Professor Unsworth said.