Mobility Scooters in the Wild: Users’ Resilience and Innovation
Presenter: Theresa Harada, Research Associate, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia
Recent research in Australia on mobility scooter users highlights that the built environment does not cater for their inclusion. The mobility scooter as an assistive transport technology is vital in ensuring access to public services to ensure health and wellbeing for people with mobility impairments. In this paper, we examine how users are co-producing urban design through their practices performed ‘out in the wild’. We identify the pressing considerations for how mobility scooter users both survive and thrive. First, mobility scooters, as electric powered mobility devices (PMDs), face similar legislative and regulatory issues to e-scooters and other niche innovations currently being trialled on city streets that both solve problems and create them for urban governance. How to create inclusive policies for PMD users that allow safe travel and easy access is currently not well understood. Second, the impact of climate change on energy systems is creating momentum for renewable power and smart systems that will in turn impact decisions and policies around electrified private and public transport and associated energy infrastructure. It is important that mobility scooters are not overlooked in planning for inter-modal electrified transport. Third, national and international efforts to achieve safer and more sustainable ‘car free’ cities to reduce congestion and increase liveability need to include design for PMD users. This could potentially provide spaces for greater inclusivity and social integration of PMD users through the design of public and private spaces. Finally, an ageing population globally is set to encourage demand for technologies and accompanying infrastructure to facilitate mobility into senior years. Given the nexus of legality, energy, sustainability and ageing positions this paper’s focus as an integral linchpin to critically informed and inclusive urban design.
Co-authors: Thomas Birtchnell, University of Wollongong, Gordon Waitt, University of Wollongong.