Safety of Power Mobility Devices

January 18, 2019 | Aging Services Risk Management


The use of power mobility devices (PMDs), including scooters and power wheelchairs, has become common among older adults in the community and in continuing care settings such as assisted-living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and nursing homes. Although PMDs offer residents with disabilities or other restrictions greater mobility and freedom, many safety concerns are associated with their use, for residents who use the devices and for other residents, staff, and visitors in the facility. Risks may include the following:

Continuing care facilities must not violate federal regulations that protect the need for "reasonable accommodations" for individuals with disabilities, such as the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have penalized facilities for implementing certain restrictions (e.g., requiring PMD users to obtain insurance) on residents who use PMDs. However, facilities are not prohibited from placing certain limits on the use of PMDs, especially those designed to ensure the safety of all residents in the facility. A well-designed PMD policy must accommodate the needs and safety of the individual PMD user, account for the safety of the community at large, and harmonize with applicable laws and regulations.

This guidance article discusses the safety risks and legal challenges associated with the use of PMDs in continuing care facilities and provides facilities with guidance on how they can minimize safety risks while complying with federal or state regulations that protect residents' rights.

PMDs generally refer to any...

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