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Ordinance that will allow Segway use is introduced

By Staff | May 20, 2009

During Tuesday’s City Council session, an ordinance that will allow the use of Segways – defined as “Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices” (EPAMDs) – by persons with physical disabilities was officially introduced. However, because it was the first reading of the ordinance, no discussion or testimony related to the items was allowed at the meeting.

Under specifications of Ordinance 09-008, which would amend the city’s existing ordinance prohibiting the use of EPAMDs on the Sanibel shared use path, sidewalks, roads and streets – with the exception of authorized tour operators – disabled persons would be required to apply for a conditional use permit to operate a Segway.

“An EPAMD may be used and operated on a marked bicycle path, shared use path and/or sidewalk, and at an intersection to cross a road or street even if a road or street has a posted speed limit of more than 25 miles per hour,” the ordinance reads, in part, “provided such EPAMD is operated by a person disabled for mobility purposes in accordance with all prerequisites and requirements established in this Ordinance.”

According to the ordinance, a “person disabled for mobility purposes” is defined as having one of the following disabilities that render him or her unable to walk 200 feet without stopping to rest:

Inability to walk without the use of or assistance from a brace, cane, crutch, prosthetic device or other assistive device, or without the assistance of another person.

The need to permanently use a wheelchair.

Restriction by lung disease to the extent that the person’s forced (respiratory) expiratory volume for one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter, or the person’s arterial oxygen is less than 60 mm/hg on room air at rest.

Restriction by cardiac condition to the extent that the person’s functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or Class IV according to standards set by the American Heart Association.

Severe limitation in the person’s ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological or orthopedic condition.

In addition, eligibility to apply for a conditional use permit for Segways must be certified to be viable. Such certification must include:

The disability of the applicant.

The certifying practitioner’s name and address.

The practitioner’s certification number.

The eligibility criteria for the permit.

The penalty for falsification by either the certifying practitioner or the applicant.

The duration of the condition that entitles the person to the permit.

The signatures of the applicant’s physician or other certifying practitioner, the applicant or the applicant’s parent or guardian and the employee of the City of Sanibel who processes the application. Under Section 4, Subsection B 1, the Sanibel Police Department will be in charge of issuing the conditional use permits, which will have varying expirations. Persons of long-term mobility impairment may have a permit issued for up to two years, while persons of temporary mobility impairment may be given a temporary permit not to exceed six months.

Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Bikes and Rentals, spoke in support of allowing personal Segway use by physically impaired citizens during the prior City Council meeting on April 21.

“The federal government has ruled on Segways and they have said that they should be treated the same way as a wheelchair,” he said at the time. “If somebody has a legitimate handicap, I think that we should consider allowing them to be used.”

Fellow resident John Carney also explained that he had contacted the United States Department of Justice, which regulates compliance issues of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He asked them why they hadn’t certified Segways as an approved mobility device.

“They told me that they didn’t certify anything – not a cane or a walker or a Segway,” Carney added.

At the conclusion of public discussion on the matter, council voted 5-0 in favor of drafting an amendment to the city’s standing EPAMD ordinance.

While the issuing fee for any conditional use permit associated with Ordinance 09-008 is not specified, City Manager Judie Zimomra pointed out that that the amount would likely be introduced during the second reading of the ordinance, scheduled to take place during the next City Council session at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, June 2. At the meeting, public comment on the matter will be permitted.