Kenguru a car crash waiting to happen

Today I went on a friends facebook wall and she was lauding the benefits to the disabled community of a car specially built for wheelchair users, well with the work I do in the community I was excited until that is I realised a texas company had bought the rights to an old dog with no new tricks. the car below is called the kenguru a car which originally a decade ago was promoted as being designed in eastern europe.

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As seen in the research below this was originally a hungarian car,
The Kenguru has only a single door to the rear of the vehicle for direct wheelchair access, It is opened by remote control. Inside the driver is nestled in a 350-kg (772-lb) fiberglass cocoon 2125 mm (83.6 in) long, 1620 mm (63.8 in) wide and 1525 m (60 in) tall. That's 375 mm (14.8 in) shorter than a smart fortwo, and only 15 mm (0.6 in) wider: extremely compact, in other words. Empty weight with the batteries increases to 550 kg (1200 lb).

Power from the batteries is delivered to two 2-kW motors located on the rear axle. These afford a maximum speed of 45 km/h (28 mph), a range of between 70 and 110 km (43 and 68 miles) and a climbing ability limited to 20-percent gradients – modest, but Kenguru is positioned very much for short inner-city trips (the phrase "enough is as good as a feast" irresistibly springs to mind). Motorcycle-style handlebars provide steering, though a joystick-controlled version is currently in development.

Initially developed by Hungarian company Kenguru Services, the Kenguru has design is at least six years old. It was spotted by Texan lawyer Stacy Zoern (a wheelchair user herself) who setup Community Cars which now manufacturers Kengurus in Pflugerville.

The Kenguru is priced at US$25,000, but that this can be significantly reduced where electric vehicle or vocational rehabilitation incentives are available. The vehicle is set for a US launch in 6 to 12 months. Distribution in a number of European countries should follow. Community Cars is currently seeking investment through RocketHub to develop the joystick-controlled model

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Here is my problem, when the Hungarian car was originally being promoted here in America I met and spoke with a rep at an abilities promotion and the following was discovered
1/its top speed makes it barely legal on open road, and unsafe in a situation when sudden acceleration is needed to get out of trouble.
2/it’s ability to survive frontal rear or side impact didn’t meet Us safety standards.
3/ the fact that it is marketed to paraplegic, quadra plaegis amputees and others permanantly confined to a wheelchair is a problem , most seriously impaired have leg shin and thigh straps and those with spinal injury have no ability to remove themselves from a life and death situation after a collision because there is only one exit and that is the rear.
4/ one of the most common crashes on free ways and in inner city is rear ending according to the auto repair industry and if you have no use of your lower body from spinal injury and you’re strapped into a chair and the only exit is at the rear and you have just been hit by a vehicle at speed in the rear the chance of escape is none and if the vehicle ended up in water and landed on its rear or the rear was under pressure from water the lack of ability to escape could cause loss of life.

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Before I was disabled I have been in a couple of auto collisions and had use of my legs when I was rear ended and flipped on my side I kicked out the windscreen, the other time I was seriously injured because it was a fibre glass car like the kenguru and it broke into dangerous shards on impact and the body collapsed around my then usable legs.
There are professionals in the auto industry that teach how to escape from a submerged vehicles, and one way is to kick out the windscreen or a side window but these vehicles are driven by people most times without the ability to kick anything anytime so what happens then?

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Don’t get me wrong, I dream of a day when a SAFE collision tested federally approved vehicle goes on the market that can be operated by the seriously disabled, there are many great reputable companies doing conversions now but built from ground vehicles have not had great success and this one has many faults.
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I am all for a vehicle company dedicating their time and developement money to a wonderfull purpose built vehicle, that meets all safety requirements and speed requirements to travel safely on our roads and not endanger the community you are targeting for sales any more than their disabilities already have. But sadly this is not such a vehicle.Open it up call it an all weather scooter, and admit it does not have sufficient speed to carry somene safely in all traffic, but until you do you are doing nothing more than rehashing eastern europes failures and anyone who bought the lada niva can tell you how that works. Sorry as an Australian I have to tell my readers this kenguru is all looks no hop.

Author: disabledaccessdenied

I am a disabled woman who through no fault of my own has wheels under my ass. I rely on the decency and common sense of local, state and federal goverments, as well as the retail community to abide by the disabled access laws and provide adequate ramps, disabled toilets, and not use them as store rooms or broom closets. This blog exists to find the offenders and out them, inform them, and report them if necessary and shame them into doing the right thing when all else fails.

15 thoughts on “Kenguru a car crash waiting to happen”

  1. If you dig a little deeper into the research, the Kenguru is actually 100% legal and approved in the U.S. as a “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle” otherwise known as a “Low Speed Electric Vehicle.” The relevant U.S. law is the Standard 500. Think of the Kenguru more like a “moped” for people who use wheelchairs – mopeds aren’t allowed on the freeway either…and if you get hit in a moped…well people die on mopeds and motorcycles all the time, but people still drive them. It is a calculated risk some people take because they want to have easy, convenient mobility in their communities and it is a fun vehicle to drive! It should not be compared to a car. The Kenguru is not a car…it just looks more like a car than a moped because it is built to carry a wheelchair and protect people from the weather. The Kenguru is not a solution for everyone, but it is going to positively change a lot of lives and it will be offered in the future in Australia. Hope this helps to clarify!

    1. Australia has the toughest safety standards in the world, even disability scooters must be registered and insured for the road and meet transport standards. As for it not being a car when I originally spoke with the hugarian people they only promoted it as a car as for your flippant comment that people die all the time the people that ride mopeds and motorcycles as I did for 3 decade learn how to drop a bike in a crash to miniize their injury. These techniques all involve legs and control of muscles both which are missing in most wheelies. and lastly the chance to survive a moped crash is provided when you roll safely away how do you roll away when you are ina wheelchair with thigh and shin straps inside a bubble?
      You want to prove me wrong give me a demo in new york I’ll bring moped expert and a auto construction expert and a safety expert and you listen to their judgement we film it and interview you?

    2. Hi Stacy,

      I think you are missing one vital piece of this puzzle. This “moped” is being marketed to people without the same mobility as a standard moped user. In situations where an average user could free themselves from the “vehicle,” a wheelchair bound person would either not be able to at all or would have a significantly harder time, creating a senario where their likelihood of death would be significantly higher. When you create a “fun” transportation option for a person in a wheelchair your standards should be above and beyond that of a vehicle created for the average joe. You are putting already impaired people at greater risk for light threatening situations. I have to say that one way to express the benefits of your product by saying that people put their own life in their hands by using similar modes of transportation doesn’t give me great confidence to purchase such a product for my wheelchair bound partner.

  2. I only mean to say that there are no guarantees in life and we take risks all the time in exchange for gains which we deem worthy. I am myself a wheelchair user and have zero concerns driving the Kenguru…to me it seems much safer than the current alternative, which is me driving in my wheelchair downtown, sometimes in the street, getting nearly hit by cars on an almost weekly basis – as a pedestrian with zero protection. Also, I do not mean to be flippant…we of course are making the Kenguru as safe as possible including easy access to an emergency release for exit. My point was simply, despite “techniques” to fall “safely,” it is a fact that many people are severely injured and die on mopeds and motorcycles all the time and I do not think people with disabilities (again, of which I am one), should be coddled and protected more than people without disabilities. I want equality of choice to make a decision about what kind of vehicle I drive, and don’t want to be told I need something safer than everyone else because my legs “don’t work.” That feels patronizing. We would never sell a vehicle in any country that doesn’t meet that country’s standards and after that, we will leave it up to each individual to make his/her own decisions about what vehicle meets their preferred safety and other needs. Thanks for listening!

    1. As someone who is married to a person in a wheelchair, I thoroughly expect that if a vehicle of any kind is designed specifically for the use of a person who is in a wheelchair that it is designed with the understanding that they have limitations greater than those of standard users. No one is asking to be coddled but I am asking that the reality of a disabled persons life be taken into account prior to the release of equipment that can greatly endanger their lives. Perhaps it would be more helpful for you to describe what steps the manufacturer has taken to secure the safety of the wheelchair bound user in this wheelchair specific moped?

    2. Dear stacey I too am in a chair and I am the last person to be coddled, I rock climb and swim and road race and teach martial arts,but we do need to face some realities. In an accident we have mere seconds to get out, and most abelists can’t get out safely with just a seat belt but most of us with wheels under their asses are strapped in. What happens in case of fire or the vehicle upside down? we do sometimes have to face facts that we don’t need or want coddling but we do have extra requirements.

      You show me the bases are covered and it’s safe and well thought out and I will put it on my blog every day and shout it’s brilliance from the roof tops, but seriously girl comments about people dying every day? you need media training because my partner media trains New Yorks most famous and when she saw your reply her reply was you shouldn’t be allowed to make comments like that without running it past your pr people. If I was buying it for a loved one and the owner made that comment, well to paraphrase a great movie “RUN FORREST RUN” you don’t sell a product by pointing out life is a roll of the dice, you’re preaching to the choir if there are wheels under us we know that but we don’t need anymore danger.

  3. One other interesting point…I drove a fully modified van. I never felt very safe traveling at high speeds due to my limitations in range of mobility and muscle strength. I got into an accident, and despite being in a highway approved “regular car,” I could not release or get out of the car. I had to be helped by a stranger bystander and the paramedics. This is because the locking mechanism will not release when the engine is running (as a safety), and despite my crash that totaled my van, the lock read the engine as “on” and would not release. If there had been a fire, or water involved, I would not be here today. Frankly, even if the lock would have released, I could not have gotten out of the van because the ramp won’t work unless it is on the ground… This to say your concerns of safety are not unique to the Kenguru, but face wheelchair drivers in any driving scenario… escape from a vehicle independently is just near impossible when you are in a wheelchair if you can’t physically get out of the wheelchair on your own. Again, I don’t want this to be used against me as an argument that I should not be allowed to drive. I want to be able to take that risk if I so desire, because I am an adult with the ability to make decisions on my own.

    1. You have the absolute to drive and appreciate you sharing your experience, and of course I’m truly horrified to hear that this is a position you found yourself in. I would think then you would be most driven to not put out a vehicle for equally disabled people that is less than the best it can be. People are welcome to take whatever risks they want with their own lives, that does not mean that manufacturers of eqiupment t hat they profit in the sale of should be able and permitted to take those risks. It is the duty of the maker of this moped to consider its user and create the best possible product that best ensures the drivers safety.

  4. noone is saying you can’t or shouldn’t drive but you and I both know not every wheelie has our chutzpah, you don’t just sell for the super confident you’re selling to all. I climb 50 foot rockwalls with just my arms but dear friends can’t climb out of their chair without assistance yet they should still have the right to drive but they and their loved ones need to know their safe yes anytime anyones on te roaqd it’s a crap shoot but the manufacturer needs to take the odds from the house and give them back to the player

  5. Evelyn, the perhaps unfortunate reality, is there is nothing a manufacturer can do to guarantee a person who uses a wheelchair can get out of the vehicle in the event of an accident. This is because we have limited mobility. There is not one driving option available on the market today that can make this guarantee, for people with or without disabilities. Just as car, moped, bike, and motorcycle manufacturers can not guarantee that people who can walk will survive an accident, neither can we, and certainly neither can other companies who provide driving solutions to people with disabilities. This is just the reality. We have a seat belt and an emergency exit release that can be accessed from within or from outside of the vehicle. This is no worse than the safety of any modified van being sold to people with disabilities today. Short of an eject button with a jetpack, I am not sure what we are even talking about here, or why the Kenguru is being held to a standard far above every other vehicle for people with and without disabilities on the market in 2013. We are meeting regulations and incorporating existing technology. Aside from that, your specific suggestions on how to improve the safety and ability to quickly exit a vehicle for someone who uses a wheelchair, and let’s say, flips their vehicle, would be warmly welcome. However, if the criticisms do not have a viable solution (due to the nature of having a disability), for the Kenguru or other modified vehicles, then the only way to interpret the criticism is to say: just don’t drive. As I mentioned, this is not an option for many of us. The reality I live with, is whether I am driving a Kenguru, a modified mini-van, a modified van, or even the van I currently use as a passenger in which other people drive me – in an accident, I simply, physically can not get out alone, or quickly. Frightening? Yes. Does this keep me from getting in a vehicle and living my life? No way.

    1. Point taken.. there are no 100% full proof “vehicles” of any kind.. either for disabled folks or not. Perhaps the challenge with perception of your product is how it is spoken about on your own site. On your site the word Car is indeed used and even more troubling is your response to this sites issues. To say that people die in vehicles, mopeds all the time and therefore your product is acceptable and bears no further responsibility to its user is concerning to me. By the nature of what you are selling, an enclosed mobility aid, you are leading people to think they are safer than they would be simply out and about in their wheelchair without anything surrounding them. You yourself made that statement in an earlier post. What concerns me is that their moped will not withstand the same amount of impact as do the mini-vans, modified vehicles you mentioned. Claiming that it meets federal law doesn’t cover the fact that if you are saying it can go on any road or share space with normal automobilites that surely must come with a duty of care to make sure that it if that vehicle is involved in any of the dangers that simply being on the road can produce, that it is capable of surviving such impact, same as other vehicles it shares a road with. Otherwise you have a responsibility to let people know the vehicles limitiations and perhaps not deem it worthy of road use. Lastly some thoughts on making it more secure is a side emergency exit and also having the windscreen be ejectible. I’m not an engineer and so I will not pretend to know how to make this happen but what I do know is that I would never put anyone whose care I value in your contraption. What is also concerning to me, is how you speak of this product and the perception that a persons personal choice alleviates the manufacturer of their duty. As someone who has media trained people to speak about products on a regular basis, I would seriously advise you to avail yourself of PR persons expertise because your choice of language in responding so far has only made me feel more uneasy about the conception of your product.

  6. Let’s face it – no matter what is said, there will always be individuals that misconstrue statements. I am sorry if after reading my comments, you feel we do not care. That is very far from the truth. I am speaking openly and honestly about the state of the technology and the risks involved in operating a motor vehicle from a wheelchair. I would rather have full disclosure in my communication and let people make informed decisions than have a PR person feeding me what to say to appease people, despite the truth. This is a big part of who I am as an individual and how I want our company to interact in the world. To be real about issues, get real feedback and have real responses. I am an attorney by profession and feel strongly that sugar coating the reality won’t do anyone any favors – I don’t want a PR person telling me what to say just so we can sell more vehicles…I want to speak openly and let people make an informed decision, and I think my candor is appreciated by most. I do like your suggestions and I will certainly make some changes to our website right away. Thank you again for this exchange.

    1. well I am your purchasing public and while I appreciate candor as well what you call sugar coating others call a gentle touch. You can be honest without sounding uncaring or flippant Every article about your product calls it a car your own website calls it a car the stories on the blog where my story is up all call it a car and your own company and your self are described in the press as carmakers. So you can understand with the word car being used at every turn the purchasing public can only expect standards required of carmakers and I do know for a fact back In hungary it was being marketed as a car to be driven on all roads. I am not hating on you I am an advocate for our community and I feel as I’m sure you do the ADA is the most under enforced law ever made and to that end we the members of our commuity are left to our own devices and the actions of grass root advocacy to demand of any manufacturer even if they themselves are dis or otherwise abled a standard of care that is recognizing of the needs of the disabled and respectful of their wishes as a purchasing public. I wish you luck with the “KENGURU” (btw I’m australian and wish it was spelled properly) I will be watching, I am newyor based and If you are ever here for any expo or show I would love to mmet you and see what has been done to improve the vehicle

    2. well I am your purchasing public and while I appreciate candor as well what you call sugar coating others call a gentle touch. You can be honest without sounding uncaring or flippant Every article about your product calls it a car your own website calls it a car the stories on the blog where my story is up all call it a car and your own company and your self are described in the press as carmakers. So you can understand with the word car being used at every turn the purchasing public can only expect standards required of carmakers and I do know for a fact back In hungary it was being marketed as a car to be driven on all roads. I am not hating on you I am an advocate for our community and I feel as I’m sure you do the ADA is the most under enforced law ever made and to that end we the members of our commuity are left to our own devices and the actions of grass root advocacy to demand of any manufacturer even if they themselves are dis or otherwise abled a standard of care that is recognizing of the needs of the disabled and respectful of their wishes as a purchasing public. I wish you luck with the “KENGURU” (btw I’m australian and wish it was spelled properly) I will be watching, I am newyor based and If you are ever here for any expo or show I would love to mmet you and see what has been done to improve the vehicle

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