A mobility scooter
is a mobility
aid similar to a wheelchair
but configured like a motorscooter
. It is often referred to as a power-operated vehicle/scooter or electric scooter as well.
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
-powered scooters are also available, though they are rapidly being replaced by electric models.
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.
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
flexibility necessary to use a manual wheelchair. Also, swivelling 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.
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.
While a mobility scooter eliminates much of the manual strength
problems of an unpowered wheelchair, its tiller steering mechanism still requires upright posture
, shoulder and hand strength, and some upper-body mobility and strength. Other drawbacks of mobility 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. Often a mobility scooter has a low ground clearance which can make it difficult to navigate certain obstacles, such as travelling in cities without proper curb cuts
. Navigating nursing home rooms, where space is often limited, can also be a problem. Scooters also have fewer options for body support, such as head or leg rests. They are rarely designed for ease of patient
transfer from seat to bed. These limitations may prevent some disabled individuals from using scooters. In addition, scooter limitations may vary depending on model and manufacturer. A limitation of one make/model does not necessarily carry over to all. Individual needs may affect the suitability of a particular model.
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.