Welcome back! Last time I went over the things that I have come to know about the modern motorized or electric wheelchair. This time I will go over what I have learned about another popular mobility device: the medical mobility scooter. The mobility scooter is a mobility aid or device that is similar in concept to the motorized wheel chair, but it is configured in much the same way as a motor scooter. It is occasionally also referred to as such things as a power-operated vehicle, a medical scooter, a personal mobility scooter or even as an electric scooter. I have even heard references to it as being a handicap scooter once in a while, but I don't particularly prefer the choice of "handicap scooter" as a name for it. You might also once in a while see references made to a "medicare scooter"; this is not so much a reference to any particular manufacturer or model of personal mobility scooters as much as it is a reference to the category or subject of a Government Health Care agency funded personal mobility scooter. It is important to not let yourself be confused by all of the different handles or references out there!
So, what exactly is in the name? What's it all about?
The mobility scooter's basic design includes a driver's seat over two rear wheels, a flat area for the feet and the handlebars in front for steering. The handlebars allow for the steering/turning of either a one or two steerable wheel front formation. The driver seat is sometimes designed to swivel, allowing the driver access to the vehicle when the front is blocked by the handlebars. Most mobility scooters are battery powered. A mobility scooter battery is usually stored on board the scooter and is charged with the use of a seperate battery charger unit which is plugged into a standard electric power outlet. There are also a number of gasoline powered scooters in circulation but these are quickly being replaced by mobility scooters of the electric powered variety.
The front steering column is where the forward and reverse controls as well as the speed controls are located on the scooter. There is usually some kind of throttle or switch on the column that makes it easier to control these functions. There are two types of mobility scooers available: front-wheel drive (FD) and the rear-wheel drive (RD). The FD scooter is usually a smaller mobility device and is really best used while indoors or in a more calmed terrain. The maximum rider weight capacity is around the 250 pounds mark. The RD scooter is used both in the indoors and the outdoors and has a maximum rider weight capacity around the 350 pounds mark. A more 'heavy duty' RD is actuallycapable of carrying up to even 500 pounds, this of course can vary based on the manufacturer of the scooter.
The earliest commercial mobility scooter was a front wheel drive model and was developed in 1968. The brand name of this scooter was the Amigo, and Amigo mobility scooters are still with us today, with the company now being known as Amigo Mobility International Inc, based out of Bridgeport, Michigan. This company's scooter design was the one that really brought mobility scooters into the public eye and started the growing demand for these vehicles. Another scooter manufacturer that you might have heard of is Pridemobility: there are many scooters out there bearing the Pride mobility scooter brand name on them.
Mobility scooters are now available in quite a wide range of different models, from the tiny folding travel scooters to the heavy-duty bariatric models. Mobility scooters are commonly available for loan use at public or community facilities, such as some major grocery stores and are sometimes available for rent at various theme parks and amusement parks. I believe that it is also possible to purchase some forms of mobility scooter insurance for your vehicle.
Like with anything else, mobility scooters have their various advantages and disadvantages, depending on the model in question. The smaller sit down type of scooter has some important advantages for people with mobility issues or restrictions; A mobility scooter is an option for any individual without the stamina or arm and shoulder flexibility necessary to use a manual wheelchair. As well, the ability to swivel the seat of the electric mobility scooter is generally much easier a way to embark or disembark a mobility vehicle than the process of moving the foot rest supports found on most conventional wheelchairs. A mobility scooter is also most helpful for individuals with any condition which has resulted in the disabling or weakening of their entire body in general. I am aware of individuals with conditions such as severe forms of arthritis, cerebral palsy, and congenitive heart or lung issues that have benefitted from the use of a mobility scooter in the performance of their everyday duties. Of course in all of these cases, the individuals in question still have the ability to walk short distances and have the required upperbody strength necessary (without any torso support) to properly steer their vehicle.
Something else I have noticed is that some people with electric scooters are happy to have them because they feel that the scooter is not really seen in the same light as a motorized wheelchair which many people associate with severe disability or as a device for the elderly; Of course I can see an irony in this assertion as well, since more and more elderly individuals are now using mobility scooters the general public cannot help but view them as a mobility device of the elderly.
As I said,scooters can also have their disadvantages for users. Even though a mobility scooter can eliminate many of the manual strength problems faced by individuals using a manual or unpowered wheelchair, the steering mechanism of the scooter still needs the driver to be able to maintain an upright posture while driving the vehicle. As well, the user needs to have the aforementioned shoulder strength, hand strength, and some upper-body strength and mobility to properly control the vehicle. Another issue of the scooter is the nature of its design; Because it is longer than a powered wheelchair, it has a larger turning radius and this of course can reduce maneuverability in smaller spaces. I have known individuals with power chairs that would have just found navigating a mobility scooter much too frustraing in their apartments, especially in such confined spaces as most apartment bathrooms - even if they are designed with the disabled individual in mind. I can think of at least one client who is often frustrated by the turning radius of her scooter when leaving her apartment because of how much backing up and turning is involved in leaving her apartment. Also, it is not as easy to turn back and lock her front door in her scooter as it would be for her in a powered wheelchair. Following from the idea that the scooter is larger in size than an equivalent wheelchair, is the fact that many scooters can have difficulty fitting into various mechanical lifts which have been designed with wheelchairs in mind. (of course this issue is being addressed with the increasing prevailence of the mobility scooter lift) As well, more than just spare mobility scooter batteries are available today: there are an increasing number of mobility scooter accessories being made available to scooter owners which can be found at any mobility scooter store or outlet. Even more and more used mobility scooters are coming onto the market which is not all that surprising when you think about it. On a similar note, the rise in poularity of the personal mobility scooter has led to a rise in the number of companies out there that are now offering scooter owners the opportunity to purchase mobility scooter insurance if they feel the need for such coverage of their vehicle. Of course the need for such mobility scooter insurance coverage may be more pressing for some than for others depending on how their vehicle purchase has been financed in the first place.
So as you can see, there are a number of differing benefits and limitations to both the powered wheelchairs and the powered or electric mobility scooters, and both are beneficial to different segments of the disabled and elderly in the community. This realisation leads me to conclude that one type of device is not better than the other, but instead equally beneficial for different individuals.