A little-known fact is that the origins of the mobility scooter date back to 1968, when the first power-operated scooter was developed by Michigan-based plumber Allan R. Thieme. Aptly named ‘The Amigo’ or the ‘friendly wheelchair’, the scooter was designed to aid a family member with multiple sclerosis and travelled at a steady 3-4 miles per hour.
When it was first launched it was considered revolutionary, but in today’s modern market there is a wide variety of mobility scooters available and with varying functionality.
There are four main categories of mobility scooter:
- Compact Mobility Scooters
Also known as travel mobility scooters these are the ones that make travelling on public transport easier. They are often easy to disassemble or are foldable.
- Mid-size Mobility Scooters
Designed for use both indoors and outdoors. The larger wheel size makes them suitable for use outdoors, but their manoeuvrability also allows them to be used indoors in stores, shopping centres and restaurants.
- Full-size Mobility Scooters
A larger version of the mid-size mobility scooter, these are also more powerful.
- All-Terrain Mobility Scooters/Heavy Duty Mobility Scooters
Not exactly a 4×4 but great if you have to navigate unpaved areas and rugged environments.
Another consideration is do you go for a three wheel or four-wheel scooter? If transporting it via a car to the local shopping centre you may want to consider a 3-wheel version as these tend to be smaller. The other main advantage of three-wheeled scooters is manoeuvrability. Three-wheelers will always have a sharper turning radius than their four-wheeled counterparts, meaning they can turn extremely sharp corners in a significantly better way than scooters with four wheels.
Within these general groupings there are two main classes of mobility scooter, class 2 and class 3. The differences in weight, power and speed enable them to be used in different environments, but also have different legal requirements for the user.
Small (class 2) scooters can be used on all pavements and footpaths, as well as in the home, but they are not permitted on the UK’s roads. The lighter frame makes them easier to transport and store, making them ideal for accessible holidays. The majority of the class 2 scooters can be dismantled into fewer parts and stored in a car boot. The lightweight structure also means they have a lower maximum weight capacity (usually 21 stone/135kg) and have a smaller average range of travel before they need charging. For example, they can usually cover a maximum of around 10 miles before charging is required. This may sound enough but remember they have a top speed of 4mph.
Class 3 mobility scooters are obviously larger and designed for travelling longer distances as well as tackling rougher terrain. Because of this they include a greater battery range, meaning they can travel further between charges, usually up to 25 or 30 miles. Top speeds can reach 8mph and are fully road legal, providing you’ve got the correct road registration (provided free of charge by the DVLA). It goes without saying there are restrictions to the road access. Class 3 scooters are not allowed on motorways, bicycle tracks or in bus or cycle lanes, but are legally allowed on dual carriageways. With these scooters being considered class 3 vehicles they must have horn, headlights, rear lights, indicators, a rear-view mirror and an emergency hand brake.
Despite the amazing possibilities these scooters can provide there are factors to take in to consideration.
- What is your mobility level?
- What is your tolerance level for standing, walking or sitting?
- What is your balance like? Can you remain steady when standing still or when seated?
- How is your posture? Can you hold your body upright?
- What size are you? Do you need a scooter with a specific weight tolerance?
- Do you have adequate cognitive ability, sight and memory?
As with all mobility equipment it’s best to purchase from a supplier affiliated with the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) to ensure you are getting advice and guidance from a business that has agreed to the BHTA Code of Practice and will not pressure sell.
If you have experience in using these mobility scooters, we would love to hear from you. Maybe you can share your story to help others. Get in touch here.