US classifies Segway PT as a mobility device under ADA

In September 2010 the US Federal government specifically classified the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) as a mobility device under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This new rule accommodates “…the growing use of the Segway® PT as a mobility device by returning veterans and others who are using the Segway® PT as their mobility aid of choice.”

The Segway PT has always been legally defined as a type or category of mobility device under enabling legislation in most US states (usually as an “Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device” or EPAMD), and users typically have the same rights as pedestrians. They are permitted to ride on footpaths and in public places and parks like a pedestrian, and in cycle lanes and along urban roads with cars like a bicycle. The Federal government determined in 2001 that the Segway PT would not to be regulated as a motor vehicle, but as a consumer electronics product, and this allowed each individual state to determine an appropriate classification and rules of use. However, this left use of PTs by disabled persons – who’s rights are protected and confirmed by Federal legislation – somewhat unclear.

The Federal regulations of the ADA were last updated prior to the invention of the PT, and certain sections therein gave rise to some uncertainty if a disabled person using a PT had the same rights as a disabled person using a wheelchair. The new rules under the ADA make it clear that disabled persons in wheelchairs, power chairs, mobility scooters and Segway PTs are legally entitled anywhere a pedestrian is allowed, and that premises must make reasonable provision for such access (and may not restrict access, except for a few very limited exceptions).

The Segway PT has proven to be far-and-away the very best mobility device yet devised for tens of thousands of people with a very wide range of mobility impairments – both physical and neurological.

This is of little surprise because the Segway PT was specifically designed to be suitable for this purpose, with this intention identified in the earliest patent applications pertaining to the PT’s technology, and appropriate elements of “Universal Design” built into the product right from the beginning of the development stage.

Prior to his death, the late Jimi Heselden donated 1,000 Segway PTs to Segs4Vets – the US charity that provides PTs to disabled veterans of America’s wars. This charity had previously provided 400 PTs to vets that had been purchased from fundraising. These numbers alone are a prime demonstration of the utility of the Segway PT to persons living with disabilities. It is estimated by Segway NZ that at least 25% of the more than 65,000 Segway PTs sold to date are used by people with mobility impairment. Here in New Zealand the percentage is believed to exceed 35% of the approximately 300 PTs in this country, or about half of all private (ie: non-commercial) owners of PTs.

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