Is it a wheelchair or a scooter? You might have seen one in your neighbourhood; an elderly person who is self-sufficient while moving around her house independently and with ease, as if driving a scooter, while sitting in her wheelchair. It’s called a Mobility Scooter. Now you’ve become more interested with this type of vehicle. Let’s read along…
Let us start by learning about wheelchairs. They have been said to have existed in as early as the 6th century, when the first known image was carved in a stone. During the 16th century, King Philip II of Spain was already using a wheelchair that had leg and arm rests. In 1932, the first folding tubular wheelchair was built by Engr. Harry Jennings. This was built for a paraplegic friend, Herbert Everest.
Scooters on the other hand evolved from motorcycles. The first motorcycle that looked like scooters were made from 1914 or earlier, but the first patent was given in 1921. They were primarily designed for personal transport.
In 1968, Allan R. Thieme from Bridgeport, Michigan, invented the first known mobility scooter, the Amigo. It was created for a family member who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was experiencing loss of mobility. This simple act of compassion for a loved one, created an impact and started the entire “scooter” industry. Mr. Thieme’s idea of adding power to the manual wheelchair did not just made a big impact to his relative, but to the entire disabled community in the world.
Mobility scooters are also known as electric scooters or power operated vehicles/scooters. It is in most cases, used by people with limited mobility. It is ideally beneficial for those who has arm or shoulder flexibility limitations, to those who doesn’t have the stamina to walk around in a long period of time and to those who has systemic or whole-body disabling conditions like arthritis, lung or coronary issues, cerebral palsy, etc.
The vehicle is primarily designed with comfort and mobility in mind. The area for the feet is usually flat. The seat as in the manual wheelchair, also has arm rests and is fitted over the vehicles’ two rear wheels. Some seats were designed to swivel for additional mobility and comfort. It also has handlebars in front, which controls one or two steerable wheels. The user should have an upright posture with enough hand and shoulder power to control the tiller steering mechanism.
Batteries are the usual power sources for the mobility scooters. Modern designs are electric powered and use rechargeable batteries. Depending on the design, some can go as far as 40 miles per charge. Because of this power source, mobility scooters can be used indoors and outdoors.
There are two styles of mobility scooters. First is the 3-wheeled mobility scooters which are made for tight spaces and allows maneuverability, these are recommended for indoor use such us in homes, malls and supermarkets. It is also ideal to use in narrow alleys. The second is the 4-wheeled mobility scooter, which is basically designed for more stability and better balance to avoid tripping over.
When choosing your mobility scooter, you should consider the different types available in the market: There is the “Travel”. This type is designed for easy transport and is usually lightweight. “Traditional” mobility scooters are those that can be disassembled and can support a good deal of weight. The last type is the “Heavy duty”. These are made for the larger users. They are fast, durable and rough. Just like the traditional type, they can also be disassembled.
Now that you’ve learned about that interesting vehicle that your neighbour is using to maneuver around the park and in the malls, will you just walk? or will you also get your own mobility scooter, for that leisurely cruise around the neighbourhood that you’ve always wanted to do.