Personal Mobility Aids (PMAs): Concerns of travel time, grace period amid proposed changes to certification, speed limit

Personal Mobility Aids (PMAs): Concerns of travel time, grace period amid proposed changes to certification, speed limit


PHOTO: Yahoo Southeast Asia)
(Source: By Nisha Rahim | Yahoo News | Singapore | 23 Dec 2023)

SINGAPORE — Amid the controversy surrounding the on-and-off transition from EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay cards to SimplyGo at the beginning of this month, another transport matter is still awaiting resolution: the decision on recommendations proposed by the Active Mobility Advisory Panel.

These suggestions, put forth in December last year, focus on bolstering safety and encouraging the responsible use of Personal Mobility Aids (PMAs) in Singapore. The panel's proposed changes include restricting mobility scooters to individuals with certified walking difficulties, and lowering the speed limit for all PMAs from 10kmh to 6kmh.

Speaking with Yahoo Southeast Asia, businesses and commuters raised various potential concerns should these proposals are to become regulations. Some highlighted issues include the possibility of increased travel time, added inconvenience for those requiring certification, and the need for a grace period to accommodate customisations for the revised speed limit.

Impact of proposed changes on everyday lives
Eileen Leong, a 39-year-old who is diagnosed with orthopedic skeleton disease, has been utilising her motorised scooter since 2018.

While expressing gratitude for the increased accessibility in Singapore, she sheds light on the potential impact of the speed limit on her daily life.

"The speed limit will impact how much time I need to factor in my daily travelling time. If I have to change trains at stations like Dhoby Ghaut MRT, the distance between platforms may extend my journey, requiring me to leave home earlier in case there are any delays," she said.

On the other hand, Jay*, a 64-year-old male with a degenerative disc disorder who has been using a scooter since April 2023, believes the proposed changes won't significantly affect him.

He shares, "I believe in riding my scooter at a speed that will not put myself and others in danger. However, I believe there is a need to be aware of your surroundings when you commute, with or without disability."

Ensuring safer use of personal mobility aids in a growing demographic
Abhimanyau Pal, the chief executive of SPD, a social service agency that advocates for people with disabilities, welcomes the proposed measures, stating that "it is high time that measures are put in place to ensure that PMAs are used only by persons with mobility challenges".

He added, "As Singapore becomes a 'super-aged' society, more people will develop conditions that limit their mobility. Considering the increasing number of people who may develop mobility-limiting conditions, these measures not only address the current issue of PMA misuse but also contribute to the overall safety and well-being of a growing demographic of PMA users."

Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat stated in a Facebook post on 14 December that his ministry will review the panel's recommendations before responding with its decision.

Incidents involving Personal Mobility Aid users have gained attention over the years. There have also been reported sightings of individuals in public spaces using mobility scooters, seemingly without any mobility challenges.

How will businesses navigate recommendations turning into regulations?
Meanwhile, established PMA businesses with a decade-long presence, such as Falcon Mobility and DNR Wheels, told Yahoo Southeast Asia that there is a need for greater clarity.

Warren Chew, Falcon Mobility's managing director, highlights the challenge for PMA customers facing mobility issues, stating that the certification requirement could add to their inconvenience.

Customers, who are already dealing with mobility challenges, must first see a doctor to acquire a letter and then proceed to businesses like Falcon Mobility to purchase their PMA. Chew asks if the procedure can be made smoother, highlighting the diverse nature of disabilities.

Chew stresses that disability varies widely; just because someone can walk does not mean they can cover long distances. Examining the demographic of those requiring these devices, he notes that most are accustomed to walking short distances at home, facing difficulties when asked to cover longer distances.

"For example, joint pain; those with upper respiratory and heart problems will experience panting, and individuals who undergo dialysis will feel very tired afterwards. So, what conditions would qualify for such a letter?" he said.

Calls for clarity and grace period
Chew also acknowledges the challenges related to international specifications and calls for clarity on the grace period for implementing the changes.

"In terms of the sources of suppliers, most of these manufacturers, at least for wheelchairs, produce products based on UK specs. When they adapt to UK specs, they can sell their products in almost all markets, and UK specs have a speed of 6.4 kmh," he explained.

"Now, Singapore wants to limit the speed to 6 kmh, meaning all products entering Singapore must be customised. To me, it's not a big thing; it's just a minor inconvenience. The question is, what is the grace period provided? We don't know that yet."

Morgan Singh, the managing director of DNR Wheels, suggested a grace period of six months to inform suppliers about regulatory changes, considering the manufacturing and shipment timelines involved. He also emphasised that while verifying the need for PMAs may be necessary, it is not a major inconvenience.

"The only thing is how strictly the authorities enforce these regulations and how flexible they are for users who genuinely require PMAs. Presently, PMAs are often prescribed through therapy. Not every PMA user simply walks in with the intention to purchase one for themselves or their family," he said.

"While we do have customers who approach us directly, the majority in the market consists of devices obtained through hospitals."

(*Names have been changed upon request)

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