This Senate Inquiry provides the opportunity to better understand the needs of assistive technology (AT) users while ensuring their safety and that of the general community. It is also an opportunity to aid Australian AT businesses by aligning the Australian AT market with the international marketplace.
Powered mobility is critical for seniors and those with disability to live full and meaningful lives and engage in society. In developing regulatory policy, caution is required to fully understand the use of AT and the needs of users. To focus on knee-jerk regulation of the power mobility device itself, without understanding the contributing factors to injury and death relating to the use of mobility devices, risks damage to business and users from poor regulatory outcomes. ATSA believes in fairness and equity for seniors and people with disability, rather than over-regulation or poorly targeted regulation leading Australia into misalignment with internationally accepted standards, or worse, the introduction of new hazards to users.
Factors contributing to accidents include – the operating environment, the capability of the user, the suitably of the device for the user, the level of training and support provided and the behaviour of others who share the space where these devices are used.
Factors such as an ageing population, people living in smaller dwellings and increased road congestion in cities are important considerations in understanding AT use. There are more aged people who want to maintain their independence through utilising mobility scooters.
ATSA considers that the best approach to regulation of AT in Australia would be to adopt and apply the internationally recognised standards for powered mobility in the Australian regulatory framework. In doing so the Australian Government can better implement the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and remove anti-business regulatory inconsistencies between the various levels of Government.
Any regulatory approaches need to be mindful of the principles of developing regulatory policy as adopted by COAG including the application of “Best Practice Regulation- A Guide for Ministerial Councils and Standard Setting Bodies”.
The adoption of the Universal design principles set out in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol, Article 2, Definitions, into Australian legislation will aid the design and importation of safe equipment and safe environments. This needs to be complemented with a well-supported and funded awareness program to improve the safety for all. In this regard, ATSA is willing to fully participate in the development and implementation of any such program.