ADA Compliance: Wheelchairs and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices
By Soy Williams President, Soy Williams Consulting, Inc. | October 16, 2011
A line of travelers gliding effortlessly through the city scape on Segway® PTs might invoke scenes from a 20th century sci-fi movie. Less commonplace might be an amputee among them using a seat that has been retrofitted onto the device. Something of a novelty still, Segway® PTs have been at the hub of activity in the disability rights realm. These and other power-driven mobility devices have the United States government requiring lodging establishments to permit individuals with mobility disabilities using them in any areas of these facilities.
Technological Advances Lead to Opportunities
Technological advances since 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA") was signed into law have vastly increased opportunities for travelers with disabilities. In addition to the more traditional mobility aids such as manually- or power-driven wheelchairs and scooters, many individuals use devices that are not designed primarily for use by people with disabilities such as electronic personal assistive mobility devices ("EPAMDs"). Today, the most well-known available model is the Segway® Personal Transporter (PT).
EPAMDs, such as Segway® PTs and other power-driven mobility devices offer real benefits to individuals with disabilities. They are being used in traveling for business or pleasure with increasing frequency as they become better adapted to use by individuals with mobility disabilities and more affordable. While these mobility aids benefit people with disabilities, they present new challenges for the lodging industry. The time to prepare for accommodating a guest with a mobility impairment is now, before uninformed front desk staff send an unhappy guest to another establishment or perhaps even the Department of Justice (the "DOJ").
There is growing confusion about what types of mobility devices must be allowed in interior and exterior areas of a lodging establishment. The DOJ has received many complaints from both sides of the issue and became aware of situations where individuals with mobility disabilities have utilized for locomotion golf cars, large wheelchairs with rubber tracks, and gasoline-powered two-wheeled scooters and other devices. Unlike traditional wheelchairs or scooters, these devices, while benefiting many individuals with mobility disabilities, are not designed exclusively for them.