Legal issues of carrying a baby on a wheelchair - New Zealand

Shanta Everington summarises the current legal position in the UK. Denise Ganley, writing from New Zealand, shares her thoughts on this from an international perspective.

Legal issues

Parents have a duty of care to ensure that a baby or child is carried safely. It is important to seek professional advice when planning solutions.

In the UK, all wheelchairs are classed as medical devices and their use is regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

There is no law that specifically prevents the user of a manual wheelchair from carrying a baby or child on the wheelchair, provided this does not endanger the occupants or the public. However, if you don’t own the wheelchair outright, it is important to get permission first.

Using a powered wheelchair

The law on powered wheelchairs is less clear. Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 they are permitted on public highways (roads and footpaths), but only if used solely by a disabled person. This would appear to prohibit a disabled adult from carrying a child on the wheelchair, but this has never been tested in the courts.

DPPi is in the process of clarifying the legal position for parents who use powered wheelchairs and scooters. The Department for Transport is currently reviewing the legislation. DPPi responded to the Department’s consultation document earlier this year, raising our concerns about the needs of disabled parents who use wheelchairs. We are awaiting an update.

Denise Ganley, from Auckland, New Zealand shares her thoughts from an international perspective.

"I was interested to read the item about carrying children on wheelchairs. I’ve not seen anything about this in New Zealand and, to be honest, if they had a rule prohibiting this then parenting would become extremely difficult for me.

I have two daughters, Olivia, aged two and Georgia, six, and they have grown up sitting on my knee while I am in my power wheelchair. Usually Olivia is on my knee and often Georgia is standing on the footplates. Occasionally, if we are somewhere busy, I have the seatbelt around myself and Olivia to prevent her getting off. However, I don’t usually use this. I believe I am a cautious wheelchair driver and I think this is quite safe. If such a rule existed I would be unable to go out independently with my children and this would not be acceptable for me."

Shanta Everington, DPPi Information Officer

First published in Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood international, Issue 51, Summer 2005.

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