Convenience or obstruction? Debate on allowing PMAs  in indoor spaces rages on

Convenience or obstruction? Debate on allowing PMAs in indoor spaces rages on

Four major shopping mall operators allow visitors to ride their personal mobility aids within their premises. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
(Source: By Kolette Lim | The Straits Times | Singapore | 09 Dec 2023)

An incident on Nov 12 at AMK Hub, in which an elderly couple were asked to
relocate their personal mobility aids (PMAs) because the devices were parked “indiscriminately”
and “to avoid obstructions”, has reignited the debate over the use of such vehicles in indoor
Four major mall operators – CapitaLand, Lendlease, Frasers Property and Link Asset
Management – told The Straits Times that PMA users are allowed within their premises, in line
with their aim to provide a safe and inclusive shopping experience.
PMAs include vehicles such as mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs, and are designed to
carry individuals who have difficulty walking.

While the Land Transport Authority regulates the use of active mobility devices on footpaths
outdoors, indoor spaces are not under its purview and are subject to rules, if any, set by property
Lendlease’s head of asset operations Jenny Khoo said the company’s malls have ample provisions
to support PMA users, such as proper ramp access and wider pathways.
It operates malls such as Jem and Paya Lebar Quarter, and is working with non-profit
organisation Disabled People’s Association to develop additional measures to improve
accessibility while reviewing existing ones.
A spokesperson for Frasers Property, which manages malls such as Tiong Bahru Plaza and
Northpoint City, said: “We constantly seek ways to improve accessibility at our malls and provide
barrier-free access for persons with mobility challenges and disabilities.”

The spokesperson added that security personnel on patrol will also help ensure that PMAs are
used safely and parked responsibly within its malls, “to ensure a pleasant experience for all”.
Besides shopping malls, supermarket chains that see high foot traffic, such as FairPrice, also
allow PMAs to enter their stores.
A spokesperson for FairPrice Group said that “front-liners stand ready to offer assistance to
seniors and persons with disabilities” at all outlets. “There are also strategically placed signs in
store, ensuring not only accessibility but also the safe usage of PMAs.”
However, even as malls are moving to welcome PMAs and their riders, other mall users have
flagged concerns over the safety risks posed by mobility aids and call for their restriction in
indoor spaces.
Mr Joseph Chua, who frequents Bedok Mall and other shopping malls, said mobility aids are fire
hazards and should not be allowed in indoor spaces.
“Many users also ride very closely to other visitors, obstruct the walkways and cause
inconvenience to others who have to avoid getting hit,” added the technology consultant, 46.
A call for education and regulation
Mr Vincent Low, himself a user of a mobility scooter because of a spinal condition that limits his
leg function, acknowledged the risk of PMA users colliding with other visitors in confined spaces.

The retired teacher, 58, said PMA users should avoid visiting shopping malls on weekends and
public holidays, when human traffic is at its peak.
“There’s always a risk of people who ride fast getting into accidents. It is on the rider to be aware
of the environment around them and be extra careful when riding, especially on weekends,” said
Mr Low.
But allowing PMAs to enter malls is non-negotiable, he said, as these spaces are essential in
allowing those with disabilities to integrate into the community and socialise with family and
Ms Joyce Wong, director of the centralised services division at SPD, a charity formerly known as
the Society for the Physically Disabled, lauded the efforts of mall operators who have put in place
services to improve accessibility, such as the provision of wheelchairs.
As Singapore moves towards becoming a “super-aged society”, it is likely that there will be more
users of mobility aids in the future, she added.
Thus, keeping accessibility requirements such as wider walkways in mind during the design and
renovation of malls would help to ensure a pleasant shopping experience for all visitors, she said.
However, she urged PMA users to behave responsibly in shared spaces, saying: “PMA users
should also play their part by using their aids in a safe manner, such as keeping to walking speeds
of 4kmh to 5kmh in indoor spaces to avoid any accidents.”
Mr Low, however, feels more needs to be done beyond just urging riders to be considerate,

“There should be more regulations imposed,” he said. “For instance, those who want to ride a PMA must take lessons and be certified, or have a caregiver follow them around.” There should be a mandatory course available at rehabilitation centres for those who wish to purchase a PMA, he said. The course should include lessons on the mechanics of the vehicle, signalling, turning, riding on inclined paths and entering a lift.  “It is always good to have training to mitigate the chances of causing injury,” he said.

Legal liabilities, loopholes in enforcement
Should a PMA collide with a pedestrian in an indoor space, both the rider and the property
owner may be held liable if the rider is proven to have been negligent, said lawyers.
If the rider had failed to exercise proper vigilance while riding the PMA, the rider is obligated to
compensate the injured party for damages.
The amount of damages is contingent on the severity of injuries and degree of negligence
displayed, said Mr Raphael Louis, lawyer and managing director of Ray Louis Law.
The mall may also be held liable or partly liable, as “by permitting the use of PMAs indoors, the
shopping mall potentially creates a hazard for other pedestrians within the mall premises”.
The injured party can take legal action against the mall, as “it is commonly understood that the
mall is intended for pedestrian use and is typically crowded with foot traffic”, added Mr Louis.
The rider can also be arrested, said Mr N. Srinivasan, a lawyer and director at Hoh Law.
“Any tortious act can be an offence if there is any reckless or dangerous behaviour,” said Mr
Srinivasan. A tortious act refers to one that brings harm to others.
Mr Srinivasan added that the rider can also be liable for damage to property, if any is incurred.

But Singaporeans face a “perennial problem” as it is difficult to seek compensation from PMA
riders who cause damage, said Mr Srinivasan.
Even if victims seek compensation, no damages will be paid by the riders if they are not
financially stable.
It is also difficult to identify the riders, and many of them ride away after colliding with property
or people as there are no licence plates, he added.
“There is no way to find out unless there is some form of identification for PMA vehicles.”
Mr Srinivasan said it should be made compulsory for PMA riders to buy insurance, so owners can
make claims for any damage incurred.
In September 2019, a PMA rider crashed into an automated sliding glass door at Singapore
General Hospital, causing the door to fall. In June 2019, a woman on a PMA
crashed into a glass door at Toa Payoh Bus Interchange, causing it to shatter, and left the scene immediately.
In accordance with the Active Mobility Act, PMAs have to keep to a maximum motorised speed
of 10kmh on outdoor paths, but there are no regulations for speed limits in indoor spaces.
The penalty for riding a non-compliant PMA on a public path outdoors is a fine of up to $5,000, a
jail term of up to three months, or both.
A mobility scooter weighs between 20kg and 40kg, while an electric wheelchair weighs between
15kg and 30kg, said PMA retailer Mobot’s general manager Chew Boon Hur.

There are no restrictions on the maximum weight or width of PMAs, while personal mobility
devices (PMDs) have a maximum unladen weight of 20kg and maximum device width of 70cm.
Motorised PMDs, which include e-scooters, hoverboards and unicycles, have a maximum
motorised device speed of 25kmh. Unlike PMAs, they are not allowed on public footpaths, which
are paths next to roads and within Housing Board estates.
In March 2022, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (Amap) said a review to implement restrictive rules surrounding PMAs was ongoing. The review followed a spate of complaints from residents
that such devices were abused by those without mobility issues.
Amap chairman Baey Yam Keng in March 2022 mentioned the possibility of requiring potential
users to obtain a doctor’s certificate to prove their disability. Although PMAs are designed for
those with mobility challenges, there are no regulations on who can purchase these devices.
Panel member Steven Lim told ST in November that the review is ongoing, and more details will
be released when it is completed, although he did not specify a date.
PMA retailers ST spoke to said they did not think any restrictions, both on the purchase
and indoor use of mobility aids, should be imposed.
Mr Warren Chew, managing director of Falcon Mobility, said mobility aids usually do not exceed
a speed of 8kmh and the majority of retailers would sell only vehicles with built-in controllers
that limit their speed to 10kmh.
According to the Active Mobility Act, it is an offence to sell vehicles that are non-compliant and
are able to go beyond the speed limit.
The elderly in Singapore typically prefer mobility scooters to other aids, Mr Warren Chew said, as
these are stable and easy to ride, and many use them for essential activities such as visiting
clinics and supermarkets.
Mobot’s Chew Boon Hur agreed, saying that the elderly find motorised mobility aids, which are
usually priced between $1,000 and $3,000, “an essential tool to increase their independence and
quality of life”.
Instead of being pushed about in a wheelchair, which they fear is associated with the stigma of
“being unhelpful to society”, they prefer to use scooters to move around.
He said restricting the use of PMAs indoors would defeat the purpose.
He added: “If users are not allowed to park or drive inside malls, they might not be able to walk
that 200m distance from the mall entrance to the supermarket.”
He also feels there is no need to stipulate an age or medical condition to decide who can use a
mobility scooter, as having to produce proof of disability may discourage those who genuinely
need mobility aids from buying them.
He said: “Some of our customers are not disabled. But they are plus-sized and might not be able
to walk long distances. However, the public might view them as young and able-bodied and deem
them unfit to use a PMA.

“We believe that mobility scooters must remain accessible to those who need them, as they give
them a better quality of life.”

Mr Tan Chin Heng, whose TikTok video on his parents’ experience at AMK Hub made headlines,
feels that greater clarity is needed regarding the rules and regulations of PMA use.
However, he also called for compassion and empathy from the public.
On his video, he wrote of the mall’s directive to his parents to remove their PMAs from the
second floor to the first: “If my parents (were) able to walk from L1 to L2, I don’t think they need
the mobility aids.”

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