The tiller, with forward/reverse directions and speed controls, is the steering column centrally located at the front of the scooter. Direction can be controlled by thumb paddles, finger controls, or a switch. There are two types of mobility scooters: front-wheel drive (FD) or rear-wheel drive (RD). The FD is usually a smaller device and is best used indoors. Rider weight capacity is generally upwards to 250 pounds maximum. The RD is used both indoors and outdoors with rider weight capacity of 350 pounds. A heavy duty RD is capable of carrying up to 500 pounds, varying by manufacturer.
Allan R. Thieme built the first mobility scooter in 1968, in Bridgeport, Michigan. Thieme was personally motivated to create this product in order to help a family member diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This first mobility scooter, a front-wheel drive model, was conceived and built at his home. The Amigo, as it was brand-named, initiated the entire “scooter” industry. Today, Amigo Mobility International Inc headquarters is located in Bridgeport, Mich.
Mobility scooters are now available in a wide range of models, from tiny folding travel scooters to heavy-duty bariatric models. Scooters are commonly available for loaner use at public facilities, such as grocery stores and for rent at theme parks/amusement parks.
A main selling point of the electric scooter is that it does not look like a wheelchair, which many people see as a sign of old age. However, as increasing numbers of elderly persons choose mobility scooters, the scooter is now developing its own reputation, at least among the able-bodied, as a geriatric item. Mobility scooters are generally less affordable than powered wheelchairs, and often harder to obtain from insurers or health care agencies.
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.
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