Before purchasing a mobility scooter, you will want to make sure that when it comes to travelling with a mobility scooter further than the range of the scooter, either by bus or train, taxi or by plane, that you can take your scooter with you. Here you can find out the most important factors to take into consideration before choosing which scooter to buy, whether you commute to work daily or want to visit friends or relatives in other towns, or even want to fly off to sunny beaches on holiday, you will want to know what features to look out for, and what the rules and regulations are.
Travelling with a mobility scooter
Having a disability should never mean that you cannot live a full and active life. Indeed, the whole point of mobility aids, like powered wheelchairs and scooters, is to regain the freedom and independence that might otherwise have been lost because of difficulty walking.
Most people with a disability will still need to travel to other towns, or even other countries, for a variety of reasons, the most obvious of these being for work, to visit relatives and going on holiday. There have been huge improvements made in providing access for wheelchair and mobility scooter users in EU countries and globally, although there is still a long way to go and sometimes your journey will require considerably more planning if you intend to take your scooter with you.
What to consider when buying a mobility scooter
There are many factors to consider before buying, but if you intend on doing a lot of travelling on public transport with your mobility scooter then you may need to adjust your priorities. If you can walk far enough to use a foldable scooter or wheelchair, then it can be treated as luggage and you should experience few difficulties. For those who need to remain seated, there are far fewer obstacles to boarding buses and trains when using a standard sized powered wheelchair or a smaller, class 2, mobility scooter. Larger class 2 scooters may be too large to pass through the vehicle or fit in the allocated space or be too heavy for ramps and lifts to accommodate them. In most circumstances, you will not be able to take a class 3 mobility scooter on public transport.
Flying with a mobility scooter or wheelchair: Useful tips
There are, as you would expect, legal requirements for airlines to make travel accessible to those with disabilities. Both assistance in the airport and checking in your scooter should be free of charge. However, airlines all have their own specific regulations, so regardless of any advice here, you should check with your airline at the time of booking or at least 48 hours before travelling so they can make any necessary arrangements and if you will need any assistance with transfers. You will not be able to take your own chair or scooter onto the plane. They will arrange a chair for the transfer and for the flight if necessary. All modern types of battery; Absorbed Glass Mat, Gel Cell, and Lithium-Ion, are safe for transporting by air, subject to certain conditions such as isolating the terminals. As a rule of thumb, folding class 2 scooters and folding powered wheelchairs will face the fewest obstructions to transportation by air. It may be possible to transport even the largest class 3 mobility scooters on some airlines, although you would need to give them the exact make and model so they can check as there are practical limits relating to storage in the hold. Should the airline be unable to accommodate your mobility scooter, it may well be possible to hire a suitable alternative at your destination.
Taking mobility scooters on public transport
Although there are no specific legal requirements to provide access for those travelling with mobility scooters on public transport, there is a Voluntary Code of Best Practice set out by the Confederation of Passenger Transport which covers participating bus and light rail companies. Many bus companies operate a permit scheme so that you can show a card to prove 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 standard measurements, 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 usually only have a single wheelchair space, so if it is already occupied you will almost certainly have to wait for another bus. Users of folding mobility scooters, who can walk a short distance, will be able to take their scooter on buses and trains as luggage. Users of larger class 2 and class 3 scooters will most probably not be able to use buses at all due to their larger size.
The legal regulations covering rail travel in the UK are complex, partly because it needs to allow for older rolling stock, but generally railway operators must ensure that they have made all reasonable alterations to older stock to enable passengers with disabilities to use the system, and newer stock must be designed and built to modern specifications. Again, wheelchairs, both powered and unpowered, and folding class 2 scooters offer the fewest challenges for travellers. For larger mobility scooters you will need to contact the appropriate rail operator to check what they can arrange for your specific circumstances. The main limiting factors will be the number of available scooter/wheelchair places on the train and the safe operating limits of ramps and lifts.
Which mobility scooter will fit in which car?
Taxis and private hire vehicles are also expected to make provision for transporting those with disabilities. Licensed Hackney carriages in London and other major cities are required by law to accommodate a wheelchair. If travelling with a private hire company, it is wise to outline your requirements in advance, so they can send an appropriate vehicle. Even so, in most cases, taxis will only be able to accommodate a wheelchair or smaller class 2 scooter. If you have a folding scooter, that should present no problem. For larger scooters, you may need to contact a specialist disability transport service.
If you are purchasing a scooter with plans to transport it in your own car, then you should make sure that you or someone who will be with you, can fold it down and lift it into the boot.
For more information on the legal requirements and your rights, https://www.gov.uk/transport-disabled
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