What is a mobility scooter?
Mobility scooters are a motorised wheeled device that help people who have difficulty walking or travelling long distances to get around more easily. They can be used as a mobility aid both indoors and outdoors, and assist people to undertake daily tasks like grocery shopping, health appointments, and social activities with more ease.
It is important to note that mobility scooters are not designed to be used as a replacement for a wheelchair, as mobility scooter users will often need to walk short distances to get on and off the device.
How can I stay safe on a mobility scooter?
More than 1,000 Australians land in hospital due to mobility scooter-related injuries each year. It is important to stay safe and understand the rules for operating a mobility scooter, such as how to start, operate, and most importantly, stop.
Make sure you know how to share a footpath with other people, and how to cross the road safely.
For the first time out, have a family member or friend accompany you to test how to mount and dismount public transport, along with the how to get in and out of the scooter.
Much like learning the ‘feel’ of a new car, it will take time to know the limitations and features of the scooter – particularly external factors such as extra weight with shopping bags, or how it performs in wet conditions.
Just like a mobile phone, it is important to keep your mobility scooter charged and maintained before use.
Always have the details of an emergency contact on you when using your mobility scooter in case you break down or get into an accident.
What types of mobility scooters are there?
As mobility scooters come in varying sizes, fits, and seating styles, make sure to choose the right one for you.
Whilst personal preference may be a factor in choosing the features of mobility scooter, as these are therapeutic devices, advice needs to be sought from a qualified health professional as to what features are needed.
Consider these options when looking for a mobility scooter:
Portable / travel mobility scooter
These folding mobility scooters are designed to be disassembled, are very light, and can be folded to a small enough size to pack into a car or plane when travelling.
Travel scooters normally come with three or four wheels, and provide less padding. These models also tend to have a lower ground clearance and tend to get stuck on raised kerbs and uneven surfaces.
Three-wheel mobility scooter
Designed as a standard full-size mobility scooter, these models can be used both indoors, and on smooth surfaces outdoors such as paths.
With the three-wheel design, it provides very tight turning circles which are perfect for use in the home.
Four-wheel mobility scooter
These are heavier duty, and are recommended for primary use outdoors and for long distances. Four-wheel scooters are much more effective on gentle hills and ramps over a three-wheeler, but will not be able to handle serious off-roading.
Heavy duty mobility scooter
Built to last in the tough conditions, heavy-duty mobility scooters can withstand dirt and gravel – making them perfect for going on walking trails or traversing a property. Many are also equipped with heavy-duty suspension to handle small debris, and can withstand steeper inclines.
What features come with a mobility scooter?
All mobility scooters come with seats of varying comfort and ability. For instance, travel or portable scooters have seats that are smaller and not as padded for flexibility, whereas heavy duty mobility scooters may have seats that swivel, are contoured, and may come with a head and armrest.
Along with an accelerator, mobility scooters will also feature functional braking and handbrake. Many also have a central tiller linking to allow the user to adjust the distance from the seat to the controls.
As most mobility scooters come with some form of suspension, handles, seat, and battery, there are add-ons and after-market parts that you may want to look into to make your journey more comfortable and practical, including:
- Safety flags
- Cup holders
- Side mirrors
- Cane holders
- Storage baskets
- Weatherproof canopies
Most mobility scooters should also come with storage, whether that is a front-facing basket, under seat storage, or area for bags at the back of the scooter.