Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2019/03/03
Synopsis: Guide to mobility scooters including advantages and disadvantages of electric or mobility scooters over power electric wheelchairs.
A mobility scooter is a mobility aid equivalent to a wheelchair but configured like a motor-scooter. It is often referred to as a power-operated vehicle/scooter or electric scooter as well. A mobility scooter has a seat over three, four or now five wheels, a flat area or foot plates for the feet, and handlebars in front to turn one, two or three steerable wheels. While a mobility scooter eliminates much of the manual strength problems of an un-powered wheelchair, its tiller steering mechanism still requires upright posture, shoulder and hand strength, and some upper-body mobility and strength.
A mobility scooter has a seat over two rear wheels, a flat area for the feet, and handlebars in front to turn one or two steerable wheels. The seat may swivel to allow access when the front is blocked by the handlebars. Mobility scooters are usually battery powered. A battery or two is stored on board the scooter and is charged via an onboard or separate battery charger unit from standard electric power. Gasoline-powered scooters are also available, though they are rapidly being replaced by electric models.
Assistive and small sit-down motor scooters provide important advantages to people with mobility problems throughout the world. A scooter is useful for persons without the stamina or arm/shoulder flexibility necessary to use a manual wheelchair. Also, swiveling the seat of an electric scooter is generally easier than moving the foot supports on most conventional wheelchairs. A mobility scooter is very helpful for persons with systemic or whole-body disabling conditions (coronary or lung issues, some forms of arthritis, obesity, etc.) who are still able to stand and walk a few steps, sit upright without torso support, and control the steering tiller.
What the scooter is going to be used for, and how often it is going to be used, will help to determine which model will be best. For example, somebody purchasing a mobility scooter which will be used daily to replace a car has different needs to someone purchasing a mobility scooter that will be carried in the car and used primarily at weekends for traveling short distances.
The batteries are rechargeable, and depending on the model of scooter, and will allow the mobility scooter to travel in excess of 30 miles. The smaller boot scooters have a range of around 10-15 miles depending on the model. The batteries can sometimes be upgraded to provide better performance, or an additional battery pack can be carried on the scooter to effectively double the range of the electric scooter.
The speed of the mobility scooter is determined by the amount of pressure put on the forward / reverse lever. The overall speed of the disabled scooter is governed by the speed dial on the control panel. When getting used to the electric scooter, it may be better to use a lower speed setting. On the road legal mobility scooters, there is usually a switch which lowers the maximum speed from 8mph to 4mph, which then allows the scooter to be used legally on a pavement.
In order to slow down, the user just needs to release the forward or reverse lever which then brings the mobility scooter to a stop. Disabled scooters have regenerative brakes fitted, which mean that the scooter can be left on a slope with out fear of it rolling away. An emergency bicycle style brake is fitted to some models for additional safety and security.
Class 3, 8mph mobility scooters are road legal, and so can travel on the highway. By law, these have to be fitted with full lights and indicators. This type of electric scooter is larger and more luxurious than those designed to be dismantled and transported in a car boot. These scooters are often purchased to replace a car, and so are much more powerful, and more rugged than a boot scooter. The scooters usually have an adjustable and removable seat. The more luxurious seats recline and slide and some even have a headrest, like a car seat. Depending on the model of electric scooter, the seat may be upgraded to a larger, more comfortable more supportive seat.
While a mobility scooter eliminates much of the manual strength problems of an un-powered wheelchair, its tiller steering mechanism still requires upright posture, shoulder and hand strength, and some upper-body mobility and strength. Other drawbacks of scooters are their longer length, which limits their turning radius and ability to use some lifts or wheelchair-designed access technologies such as kneeling bus lifts.
Mobility scooters normally require a key to start them and are immobile without the key. This allows the electric scooter can be left outside a shop or house safely and securely, and prevents unauthorized use. Disabled scooters have a freewheel mode, which allows the scooter to be moved, without the scooter being turned on. This makes storing and transporting your electric scooter easier, and can assist when the batteries are charging and it needs moving.
Scooters are steered using the tiller which is similar to a bicycle or motorbike handlebar. The tiller is usually adjustable, depending on the model, and can often be dropped down for transportation. Mobility scooters are driven using the thumb or fingers pushing or pulling a lever. This control is called a "wig wag" and works on the "see saw" principle. If the forward lever is pushed, it is the same as pulling on the reverse lever, and vice versa. Some models are driven by pushing the lever with the thumb, whilst others are driven by pulling the lever with the fingers, like a bicycle brake. A Delta handlebar means that both forward and reverse can be controlled using the same hand. This is fitted as standard on some disabled scooter models and available as an optional extra on others.
Mobility scooters are very easy to use, and shouldn't be daunting. Despite all the various models and types to choose from, they all work in similar ways. The main differences are the number of wheels (three or four), the maximum speed, and the size of the disabled scooter.
2 wheel electric scooters, also known as Electric Bicycles or Mopeds, are a great, low-noise, zero-emissions form of transportation that are also suitable for persons with limited mobility. The electric scooter or moped is classified as a power-assisted bicycle, thus in most states (depending on motor size) you do not need a driver's license to ride the bike on the street, nor does it have to be registered, plated, or insured.
3 wheel electric scooters - Ideal for using indoors, especially in the home or in a shop, as they have a smaller turning circle than the equivalent four wheel model, which makes them easy to maneuver. Four wheel disabled scooters were previously perceived to be more stable but, due to technological advances, there is very little difference in stability between three and four wheel scooters these days. Most mobility scooter manufacturers offer three and four wheel versions of the same model.
4 Wheel Mobility Scooters - A 4-wheel mobility scooter offers the most stability of the three scooter categories. Two back wheels and two front wheels make the risk of toppling over extremely slim. If you have any balance problems, then a 4-wheel medical scooter is an excellent choice. While the double wheels in the front are not as maneuverable as their 3-wheel and compact cousins, 4-wheel scooters make up for the lack in rugged durability.
5 Wheel Scooters with Quintell Technology - The Quingo Scooters of FiveWheels Pvt.Ltd. combine the balance of a four-wheel scooter with the mobility and agility of a three-wheel scooter with the added benefits of much greater comfort and control as well as greater postural support. Quingo's 5 wheel stability system means a better turning radius without compromising agility. It means superior control on inclines and kerbs, Quingo's forward sitting position means safer weight distribution for hills and bumps. Quingo offers a staggering 80% more foot space, with adjustments in multiple areas to ensure a natural and comfortable ride with maximum comfort for every journey. Even in extreme situations Quingo's active tri-wheel steering easily navigates and stabilizes on uneven gradients smoothly and safely.
Pavement Mobility Scooters - A compromise between the boot scooter and the road legal scooter. These models of disabled scooter usually have some of the features of the larger scooters, such as lights and indicators, suspension, and a comfier seat than a boot scooter, but can usually still be dismantled for transportation. Some models have a top speed of 6mph, rather than the usual boot scooter top speed of 4mph.
Compact scooters - Sometimes called boot or trunk scooters - Very popular and are designed to be transported, and can be taken apart in a matter of seconds. The seat and battery pack are easy to remove, and sometimes the scooter chassis will separate into two parts. Depending on the model of mobility scooter, the components may have handles incorporated into them to make putting them into a car boot even easier. Some models of small disabled scooter separate without the need to disconnect plugs or cables which makes transporting the electric scooter even easier. These smaller mobility scooters, or boot scooters, are usually less luxurious than the larger electric scooters, and often do not have the same sort of features such as pneumatic tires, full suspension or a highly adjustable seat. The maximum range that the scooter can travel is usually less, as is the weight capacity.
Currently in the United States, Medicare will not approve a power wheelchair for persons who do not need to use the chair "inside their own home", even if their medical needs restrict the use of a mobility scooter. For example, a person with severe arthritis of both shoulders and hands may not be the best candidate for a scooter, but because they can walk a few steps in their own home, such persons are not seen as approved candidates for a power wheelchair either. Various disability rights groups are campaigning for Medicare to change this policy.