Mobility scooters have transformed the lives of the elderly and disabled. While wheelchairs have helped to mobilise people since their introduction in the 1780s, scooters undoubtedly gave many their independence.
Across the UK, town centres, shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and public transport have all adapted to become more accessible to those using mobility scooters.
Having the freedom to leave your home and socialise with the community is so important. With mobility scooter technology ever-evolving, there will be even fewer limitations with mobility aids in the future. Before we get into the potential of wheelchairs and scooters, let’s take a look at how this technology evolved.
The history of the mobility scooter
It is widely accepted that the first mobility scooter was invented in 1968. Plumber Allan R. Thieme invented the world’s first power-operated scooter when he became frustrated with the mobility options available to a family member with multiple sclerosis. According to an article by Timeline, Thieme spent his night’s building in his garage in Bridgeport, Michigan. The final product – a small yellow scooter capable of travelling 3-4 miles per hour – was affectionately named The Amigo.
Although the brand still exists today among the many mobility scooter businesses globally, it’s remarkable to think that this revolutionary piece of technology started out as a garage project. Providing independence to elderly and disabled people all over the world, the mobility scooter was a huge leap from the wheelchair, which had been around (albeit in a rudimentary form) since the 6th century. Foldable wheelchairs were introduced in 1933, bringing with them the convenience of travel, as they fitted in cars. The foldable wheelchair was invented by Harry Jennings in Los Angeles for a friend who had been disabled in a mining accident.
Over the years, many people have adapted their mobility scooters in weird and wonderful ways. We’ve seen the world’s most expensive mobility scooter for sale by John Bell & Croyden, featuring 80,000 Swarovski crystals, as well as a souped-up scooter capable of travelling up to 126mph. Although these examples may seem absurd, novelty scooters continue to draw attention to these versatile pieces of technology. A charity in Scotland even launched a Mobility Scooter Wacky Races event to raise money and help users to familiarise themselves with their equipment. The more organisations and individuals raise awareness of limited mobility and mobility scooters, the more positive the future looks.
Global interest in mobility scooters led Monarch Mobility’s founders, Lee Calvert and David Leach, to start their brand in 2001. Although they both had experience in the industry, Lee and David felt that the ‘high-pressure selling’ techniques being used in the sector did not suit them. Instead, they launched Monarch to offer their customers a different experience, one where they were listened to and given ample opportunities to try various models before making a decision.
Rather than waiting for business to roll in locally, Lee and David spread the message of Monarch far and wide and launched with offers that were relatively unheard of in the business, such as ‘buy one get one free’.
Having worked with various products over the years, Monarch decided to create their own based on previous models they have found to work particularly well that were discontinued by the manufacturer. They have long worked with customers to listen to their ideas and suggestions to help make their products more beneficial. By offering people the opportunity to test mobility scooters through home demonstrations, they are given the freedom to choose a scooter that is perfectly suited to them. The industry is constantly evolving and by working with the elderly and disabled to listen to their needs, Monarch’s products are changing for the better.
The future of mobility scooter technology
As well as adapting mobility scooters according to the needs of the elderly and disabled, there’s an environmental aspect to this technology which may come in handy in the future. A recent article published by The Conversation states that mobility scooters are one of the only purely electric vehicles in widespread use throughout Australia. The author suggests that governments are waking up to the dangers of air pollution and considering the potential of electric vehicles: “As governments around the world commit to electric vehicles, they will need to come to terms with a range of alternatives to the traditional four-seater, long-range, large-footprint automobile. The mobility scooter offers a vision of what this future might hold.”
Whether or not they hold the key to a greener future is to be debated, however mobility scooters will continue to adapt to support the elderly and disabled in their lives. Monarch wants to continue helping people to enjoy an independent lifestyle and hope to see innovation in the industry in the years to come.