Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Scooter Users Are The Menace

Yesterday I read this post at Hoydon About Town, regarding the fact that scooter riders are dying in Australia. 

Mobility scooter deaths ‘alarming‘”

Mobility scooter drivers have been warned to be extremely careful when using their vehicles, with the consumer watchdog alarmed at 71 scooter-related deaths in the past nine years.

Consumer Affairs Minister Craig Emerson has taken the step of issuing an official warning about the scooters, with concerns their increasing popularity is putting vulnerable lives at risk. [...]

“Obviously some of the people who use them aren’t the fittest people on Earth, that’s the whole reason for their existence,” he said. “I don’t want to see anything severe happen in this space, but I do think we have an obligation to warn people of the dangers of using these scooters, particularly at dusk when they’re not so easily seen.” [...]

The warning notice has a number of recommendations for scooter drivers, including ensuring the scooter is highly visible, avoiding very steep hills, taking footpaths or quiet roads when possible and wearing a helmet.

Mr Emerson says it is also very important for people to be aware of any effects that medication may have on their driving ability and to avoid drinking too much alcohol before driving.

While this is a story about Australia, as a person who relies on a scooter for transportation, I can safely report similar conditions occurring here in Niagara Falls, Canada.  Each time I get on my scooter, I feel as though I am taking my life into my own hands.  Even though a scooter has nowhere near the speed or mobility of a car, it is often treated as such.  When crossing the street  it is not uncommon for a car to pull out suddenly in front of me, though they would do no such thing with a "pedestrian".

One of the things that bothers me the most, is that it is the scooter that is understood as the menace.  In the above story, it is suggested that the deaths are occurring because of  we differently abled people are over medicated and therefore not aware of our surroundings; nowhere does it suggest that possibly the driver of the car could be at fault, or the government for failing to provide proper sidewalks or paths which we may use safely. 

I ride my scooter primarily on the sidewalk because I do not trust cars or drivers, even though I have a legal right to ride on the road.  Even on the sidewalks the cracks and terrible slopes make it a dangerous proposition.   Though curbs legally are supposed to be lowered in order for us to travel, often I have to go down one street to find a curb low enough to safely cross. 

What I have learned is that the differently abled are seen as an inconvenience.  Most places require small changes to make them either accessible or safe for the differently abled and yet far too often either governments or individual property owners refuse to make accommodations.  It needs to be understood that a failure to take into account our lives leads to death.  I have already seen a man end up with sever head injuries because of a curb that was insufficiently lowered this summer and I actually fear looking up the statistics for death involving people with mobility scooters. 

It seems to be the tendency of those within the majority to paint the minority as the true hazard because of a stubborn attachment to privilege.  This can take the form of victim blaming as in the above article, purposefully devaluing our bodies, or creating us as invisible.   If a car and a scooter collide, it is certain that the person in the car will have less injuries and yet we are the menace.  By the most reasonable of thought processes it is a leap of logic that has no basis in reality to suggest that it is a failure on the part of the differently abled to be adequately aware or cautious. Simply existing as an “other,” or marginalized body in this world means that one learns that hyper awareness is a  necessary survival mechanism.