NSW man born without legs wants electric skateboards legalized as mobility aids for people with disabilities

Born without legs and using only his right arm, Steve Lyons relies on his skateboard to get around.

“I switched from prosthetic legs, which I had been using since I was five, to a skateboard when I was 16 and have been using a skateboard ever since,” Lyons said.

As a young child, Steve wore prosthetic legs to go outside, which he used until he was 16 when he started using a skateboard.(Provided: Michael Sheppard)

“I’m 47 now and I’ve been using my shoulder as my hip all this time. [using a manual skateboard] means it doesn’t work anymore.”

He now has an electric skateboard, which he says has given him autonomy to a whole new level.

“It’s the holy grail of living with a disability – you want that autonomy and being able to do whatever you want is above independence.”

Before electric skateboarding, Mr Lyons said he would need to find a disabled park near the mall so he could get out, move around and back with relative ease.

“With this thing, I can park anywhere I want where there’s a reasonable parking space and I can go do whatever I need to do.” he said.

“I can go from one end of CBD to the other without any problems.”

But despite ordering the electric skateboard through his NDIS funding, it is illegal for Mr Lyons to use it where he lives in Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast.

“I know that there are many people with physical disabilities who use [electric] skateboards or scooters because they prefer them to wheelchairs, but right now anyone using one as a mobility aid is breaking the law,” he said.

Electric scooters all of the same color and brand, lined up in a rack along a path.
E-scooters are the only electric PMDs allowed in an NSW trial and must be from the e-scooter sharing scheme.(Provided: Mack Male CC image from Flickr)

In New South Wales, the state government is conducting a trial in select council areas to allow the use of electric scooters (e-scooters) on designated cycle lanes and cycle lanes with speed restrictions and a Minimum age limit of 16 and safety requirements in place.

But Mr Lyons said he was concerned the trial would not consider all electric personal mobility devices (PMDs), including skateboards, or refer to their use by people with disabilities.

Steve Lyons approached his local MP Leslie Williams about getting electric PMDs, including skateboards, classed as mobility aids for people with a medical condition or disability.

A man with no legs and one arm on a skateboard on a wooden floor painted with basketball stadium lines, grayscale.
Steve Lyons on his manual skateboard training in the Port Macquarie Roller Derby League.(Provided: photograph of wild cherries)

A spokeswoman for Ms Williams said she would not comment on individual correspondence, but the ABC understands the MP has been advocating for the devices to be legally recognized as mobility aids for those who need them and that she met with NSW Active Transport Minister Rob Stokes to discuss the issue.

Transport for NSW told the ABC it would consider “a range of regulations including the use of e-mobility as a medical aid” as the trial progresses.

“We will seek to engage with the community, including people with disabilities, and continue to listen to feedback throughout the trial as they continue to explore the future of electric scooters and electric mobility in the world. ‘State,’ a spokesperson said in a statement. .

“In response to a request from Minister Stokes, Transport for NSW will look into the possibility of including electric mobility devices as medical aids to provide wider and safer choices for people with disabilities. This will be completed within coming months.”

A man with prosthetic legs, wearing shorts and a backpack, last walks a body of water
Steve Lyons tried some test legs again in 2010, but after some back and hip issues he found the skateboard to be better.(Provided: Jade Douglas )

Mr Lyons said he wanted this ‘put into law so that in certain circumstances these vehicles would be considered mobility aids in the same way as an electric wheelchair’.

“Disability and inclusivity are always added at the end,” he said.

“By having the trials and not including accessible uses of the technology, you’re starting over.”

Mr Lyons said he would like Port Macquarie to embrace electronic testing and see what kind of capabilities and accessibility needs these vehicles could meet.

A Port Macquarie Hastings Council (PMHC) spokesperson told the ABC in a statement that the PMHC did not plan to participate in the current trial of the electric scooter.

“While we are certainly interested in the idea of ​​promoting more accessible transport options such as electric scooters in the community, we believe that further work is needed to improve the safety and accessibility of infrastructure for appropriate use. electric scooters in our area,” the PMHC spokesperson said.

Editor’s Note 3/8/2022: This story has been edited to remove incorrect information regarding where electric skateboards and scooters are illegal to use on public roads, trails, and recreation areas.

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