Self-regulation, scooters and low vision: The practice of self-regulation by older adults with low vision when they use a mobility scooter

Keri McMullan
17 November 2017 

McMullan, K. (2017). Self-regulation, scooters and low vision: The practice of self-regulation by older adults with low vision when they use a mobility scooter. (A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree Master of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand.) [PDF 3.31MB]


Background/purpose: Compared to non-visually impaired peers, individuals with low vision experience higher levels of social isolation, depressive symptoms and mobility impairment. Mobility scooters (hereafter scooter) allow meaningful community participation. However, as scooter popularity increases, scooters are attracting attention including concern over safety leading to discussions about regulatory approaches to managing associated risks.

By default, scooter use is self-regulated. A scooter is typically privately purchased, potentially without any prior assessment and training. Understanding is needed of the risks and barriers faced by scooter users, and their corresponding capabilities through self-management in addition to environmental strategies for overcoming these. This understanding can inform developing practice and policy in this area.

Aim/objective: To provide the perspectives of older adults with low vision of how they self-regulate their scooter use.

Method: I used an interpretive descriptive methodology with diverse methods: a ‘go-along’ short journey with 15 participants through their neighbourhood and a sit-down interview to explore their perspectives in depth.

Results/conclusions: Self-regulation practices included practical strategies such as speed management, or deeper decision-making like restricting scooter use to areas where risks are familiar. Each participant had calculated the meaning of a trip versus the potential risks, finding their individual comfort-zone. The life cycle of the scooter-use covered how self-regulation practices evolved with time. Lastly, participants’ decision-making could be influenced by feedback from others, alternative transport options therefore participants held a variety of opinions about proposed regulatory approaches.

Documenting the self-regulation practices of this sample gives us a better understanding of barriers to effective community mobility and how to manage these. The findings have implications for environmental design, development of alternative modes of mobility and can be incorporated into any scooter training. The findings support the notion of non-mandatory scooter training as an opportunity for new users to gain confidence and appropriate skills. Limitations caused by vision were self-managed, suggesting that measurement of vision does not directly relate to driving ability. More research is needed which evaluates the risks associated with scooter use and evaluates the effects of existing scooter training.\

Key words: Mobility scooters; Low vision; Community participation; Older adults; Self-regulation; Accessibility.

Keri McMullan's thesis was supervised by Mary Butler.


This thesis is available under Creative Commons Attribution licence CC BY 4.0 International

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