A mobility scooter could well be a better choice than a powerchair for someone who doesn’t need to use such an aid all the time – if, for example, you need assistance to get to your local shopping centre, but are able to walk around the shops.
You need good upper body strength and reasonable balance to manage a scooter, otherwise a powerchair might be more suitable.
Don’t forget that you will also need to have somewhere waterproof to store the scooter – near a power source for charging the battery.
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or, you download a PDF with all the information – Choosing a scooter
One of the latest developments in the mobility scooter market, the five wheeled Quingo (shown right) combines the stability of a four wheeler with the manoeuvrability and ergonomic seating position of a three wheeler.
For adventurous travellers, an all-terrain mobility scooter such as the custom-built Mayan on the left, will take you out in all weather and all types of country. This scooter can be finished in any colour you like, including camouflage for those who want to make their way more discreetly!
Mobility scooters cover the range from very light and manoeuvrable three wheelers, some of which can be folded up and dismantled for easy transport in the boot of a car, to sturdy road-going four wheelers that will take you on considerable journeys. In between is a wide range of models with various features, for use both inside and out.
Some suppliers group their scooters according to power, range and size; as micro (the lightest and least powerful); mini; midi; and maxi (the most powerful, long-range road-going vehicles).
It is important to check that a mobility scooter suits you (and your home environment) before buying. Many Disabled Living Centres around the country have a range of scooters that you can try, and some of the manufacturers/suppliers offer a home demonstration service, so that you can make sure that your choice is right. This is particularly useful if you plan to use your scooter indoors.
Help choosing the right scooter for you.
• Types of Mobility Scooter
• Class 2 scooters can travel up to 4 mph and are only allowed on pavements apart from crossing the road to get to the other side.
• Class 3 scooters can travel up to 8 mph and are allowed on to the roads. This means that they tend to be larger than Class 2 scooters. The user doesn’t need a licence to drive one on the road but, all the same, they must respect the highway code. Class 3 scooters need to be fitted with lights, indicators, a horn, a rear view mirror and rear reflectors.
• Base plate – general information
The base plate is basically the body of the scooter and is made of steel, aluminium or a composite frame. It supports the feet and batteries. Depending on size, ground clearance and turning circle the base plate determines whether the scooter is for indoor or outdoor use.
The comfort and safety of the user are largely dictated by the design of the base plate. You need to make sure that the user can reach and use the controls while being comfortable. Some designs can be adjusted so as to be extended for longer legs. This extension will also mean a larger turning circle.
You need to try a scooter before buying it in order to determine its stability. Some scooters have modular base plates which allow them to be converted from a three to four wheeled model, or from indoor to outdoor use.
• Tiller – general information
The tiller is the control centre for the scooter – steering mechanism and drive controls. As well as the standard options for the tiller there are other control possibilities such as thumb levers, loop handles and joysticks.
Thumb levers are very common and will allow one thumb to go forwards and one to go backwards. They are touch sensitive which means that the pressure you apply will govern your speed. This kind of control requires quite a lot of dexterity.
Some manufacturers will design a tiller and adjust to the user’s needs for easier control and extra comfort.
Tiller steering for long periods can be quite tiring – which is why it is important to make sure that the seating position is optimised to give good access to the controls without straining.
Anybody with reduced upper body strength and/or poor balance might consider a powered wheelchair instead.
• Tyres – pneumatic, solid, tread
• Pneumatic tyres can puncture and need regular pressure checks but they are smoother and more comfortable for the user than solid wheels.
• Solid tyres do not need maintenance like pneumatic tyres and might also give better manoeuvrability on certain surfaces.
• Deep tread tyres give better grip and stability on kerbs, slopes and other difficult terrains.
• Wheels – size, quantity, drive
Scooter wheels are usually 6, 8 or 10 inches in diameter. The scooter’s ability to overcome obstacles depends on the size of the wheels. They can be all of the same size or larger at the back. Quite often front wheel drive scooters for indoor use will have smaller wheels. The scooter will be more stable and able to climb kerbs more easily.
The number of wheels is an important consideration – four wheeled scooters have more stability than three wheelers for turning and tackling kerbs, but are not as manoeuvrable. Five-wheeled scooters are a fairly recent development, combining the balance and ergonomic benefits of a four wheeled scooter with the manoeuvrability of a three wheeler. The fifth wheel is at the front; a larger wheel between two smaller ones.
Outdoor mobility scooters tend to be rear wheel drive, which provides more power and better grip on slippery ground. This is because the user’s weight is directly above the wheels.
You can have a free-wheel facility which allows the scooter to be pushed manually in case of emergency. However, this is very difficult as the scooter is heavy.
• Seat – general information
The seats are usually moulded plastic or contoured padding, with lift-up armrests. It is important to make sure that the scooter seat gives enough support, so that the user is not constantly having to adjust their balance. Also to ensure that the seat is not too narrow, so that it causes discomfort, nor too wide, so that the user does not feel properly secure. The added bulk of coats or jackets must be taken into consideration, if the scooter is for outdoor use.
To improve comfort some seats are height adjustable, to provide a better seating position. There are also designs with a powered, elevating seat to enable the user to reach higher areas. However, with these models, when the user is elevated their feet will not be in contact with any support and so they will not be as stable. This position also increases pressure on the thighs, and therefore should not be used for too long.
It is a good idea to check if the scooter seat can be rotated (90° – 360°) and if so whether this can be done by the user while sitting on it – this could make it much easier to get on and off.
It is a good idea to have forward and/or backward adjusting seats so that the user can reach the controls easily and comfortably.
Finally on particular models, it is possible to remove the entire seat in order to facilitate transportation.
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