Before it comes to purchasing one of our mobility scooters, you may need to consider whether you can travel with it on public transport or by car. Below, we have put together the important factors to consider before you choose which mobility scooter to buy, and the long-distance journeys you may need it for; commuting to work, visiting friends or relatives out of town or even flying off to holiday destinations. When it comes to long-distance travel with a scooter, it is a good idea to know what features to look for when buying, and the rules and regulations of public transport to be aware of.
Travelling by car, public transport and plane
Having a mobility scooter should not mean you cannot live a full and active life. The point of mobility aids is to regain independence and freedom that could have been lost or reduced due to difficulty walking.
Most people with a disability will still need to travel to other towns, across the country and even abroad for the reasons we have mentioned above – for work, seeing family or holidays. There have been huge improvements made in providing access for wheelchair and mobility scooter users in the UK, EU countries and globally, though there is still a long way to go. When bringing a mobility scooter with you, the journey may require more planning.
What to consider when buying a mobility scooter
When buying a mobility scooter, there are many factors to consider beforehand. If you will be using public transport frequently, you may need to adjust your priorities. For those who need to remain seated, there are fewer difficulties when boarding buses and trains, especially if you are using a standard sized powered wheelchair or class 2 mobility scooter. Large class 2 scooters may be too large to fit through the doors or in the allocated spaces, or too heavy for ramps. In most circumstances, you will not be able to take a class 3 mobility scooter on public transport. For foldable scooters or wheelchairs which you can carry for short distances, there may be some difficulties finding space, as they are often classed as luggage.
Useful tips for flying with a mobility scooter
There are legal requirements and safety regulations in place for airlines to make travel accessible and easy to those with disabilities, and government guidelines state anyone with a disability can travel within Europe with up to two items of mobility equipment free of charge. Airlines suggest stating your need for a mobility scooter or wheelchair when booking, so if assistance is required, the airport and airline can provide it, free of charge. Every airline will have different requirements for travellers with mobility equipment, and it is best to notify them 48 hours before you fly so any necessary arrangements can be made.
The powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters allowed on planes are those with dry or gel cell batteries and lithium-ion batteries. Be sure to check with your airline, but generally, mobility scooters weighing an excess of 150kg require pre-authorisation. Folding class 2 scooters and folding powered wheelchairs face fewer obstructions when transported on planes. It is possible on some airlines to transport large class 3 mobility scooters, though the exact make and model would need to be given, so the airline can check if there are any storage limits for keeping the scooter in the hold during the flight. Should the airline be unable to accommodate your mobility scooter, it may well be possible to hire a suitable alternative at your destination.
Useful tips for taking mobility scooters on public transport
Although there are no legal requirements for transport companies to give access to those travelling with mobility scooters, the Confederation of Passenger Transport which covers bus and rail companies has a Code of Practice set out. Scooter users will be asked to take training sessions so they can easily manoeuvre on and off the bus. Bus companies then operate permit schemes so you can show a card, proving your vehicle fits their criteria. In general, for anyone travelling with a mobility scooter, again, there are far fewer challenges using either a fully folding class 2 scooter or a powered ‘reference’ wheelchair which conforms to the standard measurements of 700mm wide and 1200mm long. Small class 2 scooters up to 600mm wide and 1000mm long can usually be accommodated too. Ramps and lifts usually have a safe working limit of 300kg and if the total weight of scooter and rider exceeds this then it is unlikely you will be able to board.
Buses also have a single wheelchair space, so if it is occupied, you will likely have to wait for another bus. Users of folding mobility scooters who can walk a short distance can take their scooter or wheelchair on buses and trains as luggage, whereas users of large mobility scooters are usually not likely to be able to use public transport due to their size.
With trains, it is not a good idea to arrive at a train station and assume you can travel with your mobility scooter; there are many rail operators and they all have different rules. When booking an advance train ticket, or if you know the day you will travel, you should contact the relevant train company before so you know if they can safely accommodate your scooter. You may also need to confirm if the station has step-free access. Letting the company know 24 hours in advance means that station and train staff can provide assistance if it is required. The main issues mobility scooter users may face when travelling on trains is the weight of the scooter on ramps and manoeuvrability in the train carriage.
Travelling in cars with a mobility scooter
Taxis and private hire vehicles are expected to make provisions for transporting those with disabilities. Hackney cabs and taxies in London and other major cities are required by law to accommodate a wheelchair. An accessible taxi may have a ramp, with safety straps inside to secure the scooter or wheelchair. In most cases, taxis can only accommodate wheelchairs or small class 2 scooters, although folding scooters should not be a problem. If the mobility scooter or powered wheelchair you purchase will be frequently used in cars or public transport, you should make sure you can fold it and lift it with ease, or that a travelling companion can do so as well.
When travelling with private hire companies, letting them know in advance and outlining your requirements so the appropriate vehicles can be provided. For larger scooters, you may need to contact a specialist disability transport service.
For more information on the legal requirements and your rights, head to the government page about transport if you are disabled. For further reading on our website, we have advice on planning an accessible holiday and the best airlines for disabled passengers.