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Segway Scooter as an Assistive Device

A group called DRAFT (Disabililty Rights Advocates for Technology) distributes Segway scooters through its Segs4Vets program, matching Segways with veterans with a wide variety of disabilities. Segway scooters have a very small ‘footprint’, with a turning radius that is much smaller than that of a power chair. For most users they represent a less-fatiguing, more versatile means of ‘walking’ — as well as one that accommodates a wide variety of terrain.

Best of all, say users, a Segway, unlike a wheelchair, allows face-to-face interaction.

Sounds like a great, feel-good post doesn’t it? Maybe — but it turns out that the obstacles these vets face aren’t the ones you’d expect. Because Segways go much faster than a power chair and appear to represent a greater threat to pedestrians, many cities (liberal, people-loving San Francisco, among them) have banned them. So have other venues: Disney World and at least one Barnes and Noble store in Arizona, among them.

Disney’s argument seems to be that the scooters haven’t been certified as ADA assistive devices; it’s unclear how retailer objections will play out. A Segway disability-use permit — like the parking placards issued by every state — would seem to be a simple, logical solution to the question of identifying scooter drivers with a disability, but hey, I’m only thinking logically here. While the world sorts this out, riders might want to pack a doctor’s note and see if some courteous information exchange can get them to that latte.

Segways aren’s for everyone with a disability. Though they can be modified in various ways, their use depends on considerable motor skills, along with a dose of good judgment. (Speed is increased or decreased by leaning forward or back; forgetting this can have serious consequences.) Those who use them particularly cite the advantages of being able to travel upright for longer periods of time, and the ease of getting where power chairs just don’t like to go. There’s a certain cool factor, too. Unlike a power chair, they’re likely to inspire some admiring glances; this assistive device is coveted by people without disabilities, as well.

Segway image from Flickr

3 replies on “Segway Scooter as an Assistive Device”

I thought about renting one for a conference last year, because there was no way I was going to be able to get around Moscone Center – a huge conference center in San Francisco. I called up slide4less, and they were really nice and willing to work with me. They offered to deliver it to me at the convention center and pick it up again in the evening, for something like $150 a day.

That was pretty expensive, and I also figured out there would be no way I could stand up all day on it – if it had a sort of barstool, then yes.

I ended up buying a $300 folding Quickie wheelchair off ebay instead.

Segs4Vets has a version with a seat attached, but I doubt there’s one for rent anywhere. I think an all-day rental of a standard Segway might work pretty well for someone who could easily get into and out of chairs — then you could sit down and rest whenever you needed or wanted to. But that wouldn’t work for many people, of course.

And that price tag — $150? Whew. Isn’t that about a week’s rental for an economy car?

Your eBay solution was smart, Liz! That’s a great resource for everyone to keep in mind for those ancillary items that no one wants to buy new.

I lost a leg in Iraq, and my Segway is a LIFE SAVER. Soon, the DOJ will publish a rule that will need you to comment if you agree that Segways should be protected like a wheelchair…anyway, they are very useful for people who can stand and balance but not walk well (amputees, burns, fused knees, back problems, COPD, etc.)

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