To Whom It May Concern:
I’m quite concerned about a particular change that is documented in the Draft Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans dated April 11, 2007. As I understand in this document, the Access Board can define what a wheelchair or mobility device is, but cannot regulate wheelchairs or mobility devices. To change the definition of what a mobility device is causes quite a concern for many of us who strive to keep our passengers safe. Manufacturers can continue to build cheap mobility aids that cannot be safely secured to a vehicle and transportation providers have to figure out how to transport them regardless as to how risky it is to our passenger.
This draft states that the Access Board “has no authority to regulate wheelchairs or mobility aids”. I also noted that there is a mention that “some transit agencies were using the definition to exclude certain wheelchairs from receiving service, even when those wheelchairs could be accommodated within the vehicle”. I found no explanation of those wheelchairs that cannot be accommodated – and this is where we need to be concerned about the safety of our community members who rely on mobility aids to get around. Drivers come across so many different types of mobility aids and in recent years. I’ve noticed a lot more changes in design. I know of one passenger uses an umbrella type chair. It’s similar to the umbrella stroller I used for my daughter when she was a toddler. It’s lightweight and easy to maneuver, it folds easily for storage and it certainly doesn’t take up very much space when tucked away, however I certainly wouldn’t have ever considered using it as a “car seat”. I also see a lot of mobility devices that are very difficult to strap down in a bus. It wouldn’t take much for a manufacturer to add tie-down loops so the device can be strapped down in a manner that safety experts agree they should be, but why should manufacturers do it if they don’t have to? The time to notice that this is a problem isn’t when the passenger is in the bus trying to take their trip. If this draft is accepted by the US Department of Transportation as written, manufacturers will design their devices without any concern for how well or safely the passenger can be transported. For many unsuspecting consumers the problem won’t be noticed until the individual boards the bus.
We are willing to add regulations to car manufacturers so we can ride in a safer car and we are willing to regulate what can be used as a child/infant car seat so our young are safer when riding with us, so why aren’t we willing to put restrictions on what can be transported as a mobility device? Why aren’t we showing concern for the safety of those individuals who only want to be able to get to where they need to go?
I’m troubled by the fact that we’ve come so far in helping individuals to become mobile and I find it appalling that some manufacturers (hopefully very few) are going to make a buck by risking the safety of those individuals because they don’t have worry if the mobility aid can be properly secured in a vehicle or not. Must we wait for someone to get hurt? The transit agency can point a finger at the manufacturer for making a product that isn’t appropriate for transporting people and the manufacturer can point a finger at the transit agency saying it’s legal so it’s not their problem. In the meantime, the insurance settles and it’s forgotten about – until the next disaster. And so many won’t even notice that some of the most fragile people in our community are being put at risk! People who I thought were being protected by the ADA.
I plead with you to reconsider the wording in this draft. It may be so that the Access Board does not have the authority to impose regulations, however the Access Board does make the proposition to the US Department of Transportation and the DOT apparently relies heavily on the influence from the Access Board since they appear to accept the guidelines as proposed by the board. With or without the current draft, I hope this board will consider a definition for mobility devices that will allow us to transport the passenger safely. If it means transit agencies need to purchase products to make this happen (such as Q-Loops) then so be it. But manufacturers should not have free reign to determine how much money they can save on equipment that isn’t appropriate to be safely used in a moving vehicle.
I appreciate any effort you can give in helping to protect the individuals who are targeted to benefit from this draft.
Linda M Lewis
Black Diamond, WA 98010