Ow. My head hurts.
And this is why.
“A man on a moped crashed into a man in an electric wheelchair the other night in the middle of Fourth Street. There on the front page of the paper was a police tape picture of one of those objects we see all over. The wheeled mobility industry calls it a power chair.
A what? A “power chair”? Wow, I’ve never heard of one of those before! Whatever could this “power chair” item be? What is it for? Should I be frightened? It’s something to do with teh fat, right? Cos there’s “fatter” up there in the headline.
They’re everywhere, it seems, dotting the downtown streetscape, a kind of ant trail from the condos to the Publix and back.
The temptation is to declare these are the new symbols of this city. Used to be folks sitting on green benches, God’s waiting room and whatnot, and now it’s folks sitting on … these.
Truth is, though, power chairs and mobility scooters are far from just a Florida phenomenon, and mishaps are not unusual.
WHAT? These … contraptions … are in places OTHER THAN FLORIDA too? SOMEbody really did just discover powered mobility devices for the first time. And they’re not happy.
[...] Electric mobility devices, or EMDs, are everywhere because of trends in geriatrics and bariatrics. Those are the portions of the health care industry that deal with old people and fat people.
This is America, getting bigger and older, fatter and grayer, rolling into the future.
[Snip prolooooooonged agonising - they're not quite motorised vehicles, they're not quite bipeds, what do we CALL them? How do we TREAT them? The sky is falling!]
They don’t need to be registered, after all, and they don’t have state plates. And what about the people in them? They don’t need a license. Does that make them pedestrians? They’re clearly not using their feet.
[More agonised whining. Did you know that now and again, old people drink alcohol? Shocking, I know.]
State law also says sidewalks are for pedestrians. No motors.
Reeeeally? Are you sure about that State law? Did you, say, look up what “pedestrian” means? Here’s a clue, from a the 2010 Florida Code, TITLE XXIII MOTOR VEHICLES, Chapter 316 STATE UNIFORM TRAFFIC CONTROL , 316.1995 “Driving upon sidewalk or bicycle path”, which I found with a 60-second Google search:
(1) Except as provided in s. 316.008 or s. 316.212(8), a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk, or sidewalk area, except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.
(2) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.
(3) This section does not apply to motorized wheelchairs.
Section 3 is fairly recently clarified, but it’s clear from other law sites that motorized wheelchairs were considered pedestrians by custom before the clarification.
Now that that’s settled, back to the “older and fatter” article:
This is to say nothing of the fact that the manufacturers of EMDs say (even if they don’t really mean) that their products aren’t meant for outdoor use. Medicare, which last year paid out $547 million for power chairs, won’t pay for an EMD unless it’s specifically meant for indoor use.
Did somebody not quite bother to, oh, I don’t know, talk to an actual person with a disability? Somehow who, say, I don’t know, maybe…. uses a scooter or powerchair?
No, let’s just assume that the ridiculous requirements of subsidy schemes, which assume that PWD are confined to quarters at all times, must reflect reality. Crips, right, they oughtta stay indoors, y’see? Because others enabled folk will NOT KNOW HOW TO DEAL with their freaky wheelymobiles. AWOOOGA.
Newsflash, folks: We crips go outside. We go to the shops, to the library, to the doctor, to friends’ houses, to bars, to restaurants, to arts events, to work, to university, to our kids’ schools and friends’ houses and sporting matches. And some of us go on wheels. And – shock, horror – there are wheeled mobility devices made for our outdoor needs. There are even wheeled mobility devices made for rugged terrain and hiking trails.
Yes, there are also products designed mostly for indoor use (personally I wouldn’t want to deal with a three-wheeled scooter outdoors, not with our sidewalks, but YMMV.) Those are generally marked “For indoor use”. To differentiate them from, oh, I don’t know, the products that are designed for outdoor and indoor use.
Do you not believe me? Do you need some examples? Here are some just from my local vendor [they don't pay me, I'm just a happy customer]:
The SHOPRIDER™ 889E represents prestige and class combined with unparalled stability and style, all at an economical price. The four 330 mm tyres provide added safety and comfort when utilised for any outdoor activity.
Traditional rear-wheel drive and compact design enable the FPC to easily manoeuvre and negotiate many obstacles both inside and outside the home.
The SHOPRIDER™ 778ER not only manoeuvres well indoors, it is also ideal for the open spaces provided outdoors.
The SHOPRIDER™ 778DXD allows you to travel in comfort and style to all the favourite outdoor activities you enjoy.
This St. Petersburg Times article, if the published product bears any resemblance whatever to what the journalist wrote, is just ignorant, unresearched twaddle. Not even poorly researched. Unresearched.
Moving on, the article hits the usual fat epipanic buttons:
[...] Meanwhile, two in every three Americans are overweight, one in every three is obese, and childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years.
‘We’re going to see more and more people riding around in scooters and wheelchairs,’ said Mike Moran, the executive editor of a leading home medical equipment trade publication, ‘because we’re going to see more and more old people who can’t walk and more and more heavy people who can’t walk.’
And there are no other categories of mobility device user. They are:
Do you know what words this article doesn’t use, not even once?
Their only mention of disability is to briefly mention that in the UK some people call motorised mobility devices “invalid carriages”.
And here’s the kick in the tail:
And last month, at a medical equipment trade show in Atlanta, Moran saw a product on its way to market that made him gasp.
‘Oh. My. God,’ he said. A power chair for a 600-pound person.”
Bariatric bed frames and support surfaces are now being reinforced to handle up to 1,000-pound patients. “We have a lot of patients in the 600-pound range and 400-pound patients are very common,” one vendor said.
And in 2004, an article at his publication referred to a code for a powerchair with a capacity of up to 600 pounds:
EXX16-Bariatric, Captain’s Chair (patient weight capacity equal to or greater than 450 pounds up to and including 600 pounds) frame motorized/power wheelchair.
And alllllll the way back in 2002, they referred to an actual product, a powerchair with a weight capacity of up to 1000 pounds.
Mobility equipment is nothing new, fat people are nothing new, mobility equipment for fat people is nothing new (on account of if there are fat people, there will be fat people with disabilities), and I’m finding it incredibly hard to believe that this item is any sort of novel concept for someone running a medical equipment trade publication. I would find it much easier to believe that he is disgusted, because people are arseholes, but surprised? Nope.
Wonder if he knows they’re depicting him as a gormless twonk who doesn’t know his own business?
And d’ye know what the fart icing on the shit cake of this article is?
The caption on their image reads:
A man in a motorized wheelchair legally crosses Second Avenue S, just west of Fourth Street S in St. Petersburg.
Oh noes! A wheelchair user is legally crossing the street! Outdoors, in the room with the big blue ceiling! On a PEDESTRIAN CROSSING! Sie’s not even using hir FEET! How could this possibly be LEGAL?
[Cue internet cake-farting fetishists. They'd be more interesting than this contemptuous clueless claptrap.]