Choosing Mobility Aids

Mobility scooters can make a huge difference in the lives of the disabled. In recent times, the number of mobility scooters offered has grown, leaving behind the old electric wheelchair concept. Today offers a dazzling array of indoor scooters, ranging from simple powered wheelchairs to deluxe models similar, for instance,  to the television promoted Hoveround. There are scooters more oriented for outdoor duty as well these days, in addition to dual duty scooters and those made to take along when traveling. Choosing the right scooter takes a lot more than going down to the health store and picking the one you like from the three or four on display. There are issues that need be considered that not only includes the type of use, but how one plans to pay for their scooter.

First off, there are mobility chairs and mobility scooters. Chairs tend to be very maneuverable and easily operated, usually by an armrest mounted joystick. They come in different duty ranges, from standard home use to more highly featured devices that might raise or lower the rider to match up to working surface heights. The more highly featured, the wider their abilities and more likely they can do inside and outside duties. However, they will require reasonably flat operating surfaces, not faring well on lawns, gravel, dirt or sand. They’re also more likely to be vulnerable to weather damage from wetness. Getting caught in a rainstorm could be catastrophic to the unit. Scooters are usually more robust, and a built to offer the device greater protection if caught in the rain. Scooters might come with three or four wheels; the three wheelers offering greater maneuverability while the four wheelers offer greater stability.

When it comes to getting assistance in purchasing a mobility device, chairs are a lot more likely to be eligible for subsidy from Medicare or the Veterans Administration, although light duty three and four wheel scooters may also qualify. Most heavy duty scooters oriented for outdoor use are much less likely to qualify for a subsidy because their use is more related to recreation than mobility needs. If you plan to use a Medicare or VA subsidy or grant, check out the chosen scooter or chair’s eligibility before you commit to a purchase.

Charis and scooter also populate a wide range of pricing. Some are as inexpensive as a few hundred dollars or can cost as much as a few thousand dollars. They also span a wide range of ruggedness and manufacturing quality. It’s always best to see a scooter first hand, actually trying one out before you commit to any particular offering. When that’s not possible, make sure to do due diligence and check out the seller carefully. Try to use a distributor with an excellent record of customer satisfaction. But also remember that a great seller doesn’t mean a great scooter, nor does a great scooter mean a great seller. Both need to be carefully researched, again using customer opinion as a guide to the best choices of both the device and the seller.

When it comes to outdoor scooters, travel speed becomes an issue. It’s terribly disappointing to get a scooter for mobility that takes you down the street to stores or to visit friends, but does so at a snail’s pace. Many scooters will only go two to three miles an hour. This may be fine for in-home use or getting around inside a store, but not so great for getting from one place to another. The size of the wheels and type of tires is also an important factor. The smaller the wheels, the more problems a scooter will have negotiating the terrain it’s operated on. If you want to scoot around town or around a community, the larger the wheels the better. Pneumatic tires will always offer a more gentle ride than solid tires. But like anything with air filled tires, there is a risk of a flat. Fortunately flat tires are usually very easy to fix, akin to a bicycle.

One also wants to consider the accessories or features. The type of seat, the inclusion of a seat belt, lights, and horn are definitely worth thinking about. Be sure to look beyond features like cup holders or carry baskets. Those are handy for some, but not required and can easily and inexpensively be added later, after a need is identified. Electric scooter means there are batteries involved, and so a charger is going to prove important. Always look to a “smart” charger that will provide a full or trickle charge, shutting itself off automatically to prevent damaging the batteries. Overcharging is a common problem that requires battery replacement, and that can be a very expensive repair. With any scooter, be careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions about battery charging and care.

And last, but not least, look at the method of control for the scooter. There are handlebar, tiller and joystick controls for steering. If a rider has issues with hands, arms or shoulders, a joystick is likely the best method. Otherwise, each of the control methods is fine. All scooters are usually pretty easy to steer, but their maneuverability can be very different from scooter to scooter. Some will turn in their own length, while some require a 5 foot radius to turn. It would be disappointing to get a scooter than was totally appropriate, only to find it couldn’t negotiate necessary turning.

When choosing a mobility device, select according to need, purpose, reliability, reputation of manufacturer and seller, and price or eligibility for grant or subsidy. Appearance is the least important feature to be concerned with. If you do your homework, it will pay off in the mobility you’re looking for, and that increase in mobility will add a wonderful dimension to your life.