Piles of scooters may be annoying to you, but they can be an insurmountable obstacle for someone with disabilities

By Carissa Donahoo

The author is a Marina del Rey resident pursuing a master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California with an emphasis on Social Change and Innovation.

Some people love electric scooters for the freedom of mobility they offer. Some hate the way they’ve basically taken over so much public space. Others couldn’t care less.

Whether scooters are here to stay or this year’s version of the ice bucket challenge, my greater concern at the moment is not whether scooters are good or bad, but that riders become more conscious of how they use them.

In Marina del Rey, Venice and Santa Monica, it’s easy to find scooters parked inappropriately and impeding rights of way. As a local runner, I constantly find myself encountering them blocking the entirety of the sidewalk, just begging to be tripped over. Everyone using the sidewalk is forced to dodge or to move the scooters just to be able to walk.

Imagine being someone who utilizes a wheelchair or other assistive device, already restricted on where you can go due to many buildings not being accessible. Now imagine not being able to access the sidewalk in front of your house due to a downed scooter being in the way. Imagine the feelings of helplessness and isolation by not being able to get around your own community.

Social remoteness is already common among people with disabilities; having more restrictions to getting outside rather than enjoying their community makes the isolation even more prevalent.

In December 2016, the city of Los Angeles launched a campaign called Safe Sidewalks LA to repair damaged sidewalks and make the community more accessible for everyone, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which clearly states that paths of travel must be “readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs.”

Just when people utilizing adaptive equipment thought they would be better able to access community spaces with Safe Sidewalks LA, another barrier has been erected. Electric scooters directly violate this regulation on a daily basis throughout the streets of Los Angeles.

Studies have found that social isolation is more prevalent when individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities cannot access their community due to the inability to even leave their house due to environmental factors.  If someone does not have access to their environment because of barricades that could easily be avoided, occurring day after day, a feeling of helplessness and isolation often occurs.

I am not proposing to get rid of the scooters altogether, but rather to have stricter rules and regulations for the users of electric scooters.  If they are parked inappropriately, the user needs to be given some sort of repercussion; their mindless actions are affecting those around them in ways they may not be aware of.

Electric scooter companies need to create spaces where it is appropriate to park their scooters, or the city needs to get more involved on appropriate parking and usage of the scooters.  Similar to “drop off zones” for Lyft and Uber, electric scooters can designate certain areas for the scooters too, so others are able to access the sidewalks. Fines should be given to those who show they do not know how to follow rules, just as a motorist would with their vehicle.

The rules of the road, including parking, are briefly mentioned when the app is first downloaded onto the user’s phone, and the user is able to access the rules whenever they are on the app, but there is no way for the rules to be regulated nor enforced.

Scooters can be a convenient way for many people to access their communities, but the carelessness of where some people leave these scooters is a serious problem that, beyond inconveniencing the able-bodied, actually impedes the rights of the disabled.