Many individuals with disabilities are choosing other power-driven mobility devices (OPMDs) such as Segways™ over traditional wheelchairs and scooters to provide them with enhanced mobility. In response, as we previously reported, the Department of Justice (DOJ) amended its regulations in 2010 to require businesses to allow the use of OPMDs in their facilities unless the business can establish that the particular OPMD cannot be operated safely within any particular facility. Three years later, businesses still have very little practical guidance from the courts and DOJ about when they may limit the use of these devices.
The regulations specify that businesses must analyze five factors to determine whether they must allow a particular OPMD to be used in a specific facility, including (i) the type, size, weight, dimensions and speed of the device, (ii) the facility’s pedestrian traffic, (iii) the facility’s design and operational characteristics, (iv) whether legitimate safety requirements can be established to permit the safe operation of another OPMD in that facility, and (v) whether the use of that OPMD creates a substantial environmental harm or conflicts with federal land management laws. But there is little guidance on how to apply these factors to specific situations.
The DOJ’s position is that “in the vast majority of circumstances,” public accommodations would have to admit Segways™ and other OPMDs. In its technical guidance document, ADA Update, A Primer for Small Businesses, the DOJ encourages businesses to develop written policies based on these factors specifying when OPMDs will be permitted on their premises and to communicate those policies to the public. However, it does not give examples of scenarios in which OPMDs can be excluded, other than to say a business may be able to limit OPMD use at certain times of the day when a facility has a high volume of pedestrian traffic.