Zipping away mobility challenges

A mobility scooter is the ideal tool for individuals who require limited mobility assistance. But which one to choose? Caroline Rule gives a few tips.

A motorised scooter can bring a new level of independence to a person with mobility impairments. It becomes possible to pop down the road to visit a friend. The fun can be put back into going shopping. However, there are a wide range of scooters with varying features. It is important to consider the features that will be important to the user.

What features does a scooter have?

There are three- and four-wheel models. The three-wheel models have the advantage of being more manoeuvrable, with a smaller turning circle. They also have more legroom, as there is place for the feet on each side of the central wheel. However, the three wheelers are slightly less stable, particularly the smaller models. They, therefore, need to be driven with care.

The four-wheel version has a larger turning circle and is thus less manoeuvrable. However, it gives improved stability and is better suited for outdoors and rougher terrain with steeper gradients.

There is now a range of four-wheel scooters in which there are two small front wheels positioned close to each other in the centre. This gives improved manoeuvrability to the four-wheelers and increased stability to the three-wheelers.

The turning action of a scooter is usually achieved with a handlebar. The two options are a “T” bar, or a Delta Handle Bar. Both have a lever to be pulled or pushed for acceleration, but the Delta Bar allows the driver to rest their wrists while travelling. They have an electro-magnetic braking system, which causes the scooter to slow down as soon as the acceleration lever is released. A couple of models have additional braking.

Most of the smaller scooters are foldable or can be disassembled into smaller parts for ease of transportation. The larger models generally have a swivel seat that can turn 360o. This makes it easier to get onto and off the seat. It also enables a person to drive up next to a table and then swivel their seat to face the table.

Some models have a height-adjustable seat or a sliding adjustment to move the seat forwards and backwards. Most models have a variety of seat options. The larger outdoor models offer a rear-view mirror, turning signals, headlights, taillights, hooter, sun canopy, suspension and larger more comfortable seat options.

The pros and cons of a scooter instead of a powered wheelchair 

For a start, mobility scooters are often much more affordable than a powered wheelchair. They have greater range and can go further on one charge than a powered wheelchair. However, these scooters are often less manoeuvrable indoors. They are heavier and, therefore, more difficult to load into a vehicle.

Transfers onto a mobility scooter are more difficult, but the use of a transfer board can assist with this problem. Small three-wheel mobility scooters are less stable than powered wheelchairs.

How to choose the right mobility scooter

With so many scooters on the market, how does one go about selecting the “right” one? The most important questions to ask are: Where is it going to be used? Indoor use requires a smaller model. Outdoor use will require a larger model. Combined use will require a balance between the very small and larger mobility scooters.

What is the weight of the user? Smaller scooters have a capacity of 90 kg. Anyone weighing more than that will need to look at the larger models. Does it need to be transported and if so, how? Some scooters can be disassembled into three or four parts, which can be loaded into a car. This process needs a little strength and dexterity, and is best done by a helper without a mobility impairment.

Even the small models can still be fairly heavy for a smaller individual to lift into the boot of a car. Installing a rack at the back of the car or using a combi with a ramp are other possible solutions. Click here for a more comprehensive look at some of the mobility scooters on the market.

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