Keri McMullan, on World Sight Day 2016 by Holly Hoogvliet

Low vision and mobility scooters

Keri McMullan has investigated the use of mobility scooters by older adults with low vision.

Currently there is no regulation of the use of mobility scooters, however the government has received recommendations to do so, in 2015 from the Research and Guidelines Steering Group of the Road Controlling Authorities Forum. Mobility scooters are commonly used as a form of transportation by many who are no longer able to drive a motor vehicle, may experience difficulty in walking distances, and in some cases have a degree of vision loss. So how safe is it for people with low vision to use a mobility scooter?

Keri McMullan investigated the safety of low vision pedestrians as part of her studies for her Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (see video below), then in her honours year Keri went on to interview mobility scooter users with low vision about their perspectives. For her Master of Occupational Therapy, supervised by Dr Mary Butler, Keri dug deeper to investigate how mobility scooter users with low vision balance their safety, risk and autonomy. For example what speed do they travel at, how do they make themselves visible, when do they use their mobility scooters, how do they interact with pedestrians, where are they going and how far, and where do they cross the street?

Keri found that older adults with low vision who use mobility scooters do so competently and effectively. The participants’ perspectives are a valuable contribution to any discussion about external scooter regulation and how we create thriving, inclusive and accessible footpath spaces for everyone. The NZ Transport Agency research report 621, Regulations and safety for electric bicycles and other low-powered vehicles July 2017, cites Keri's work as authority for the view that education would be more effective than regulation, as over-restrictive regulations could significantly decrease the quality of life of would-be mobility scooter users.

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