Challenges of using a scooter

Deanne Newton
Summary 
Years ago I used a scooter to get to work every day. I hired a scooter recently that was bigger than my old scooter. I had trouble getting off the train and getting into lifts. I wanted to know if scooters are larger than they used to be. My research found they can be. One reason scooters may be bigger is because they have to accommodate larger people. Many medium-sized scooters fit into today's lifts. But there is not much space left. I think buildings and lifts need to be built to fit scooters and wheelchairs of different sizes.
Posted by: 
Deanne Newton on 02/08/2012
A three-wheeled scooter with a basket.
mobility scooter

Are scooters too large?

Some years ago I used a scooter to get to work in the city every day. It really helped me manage the demands of full-time work. However my scooter is no longer working. Recently when I hired a scooter for a writer's event, I found I had significant difficulties.

Trouble getting around

The scooter I hired was much larger than the one I had owned. I was surprised it was described as medium sized. It seemed that standard scooter sizes had increased over time.

Because of the scooter's size, I had trouble trying to get off the narrow train ramp on the way to the writer's event. It took some minutes and held up the train. Fortunately the train driver and commuters tried to be helpful despite their delay. More alarmingly I had trouble fitting in the station lift, and then embarrassingly I couldn't fit into the lift at the writer's event. Fortunately a wheelchair was found that I could use for the day.

Scooter sizes

After experiencing considerable frustration getting around, I began to investigate whether large scooter sizes were common and if they had become larger over time. I found that many scooters being manufactured today were very large. I expected this would make them difficult to use in many buildings, particularly those that do not fit modern building standards.

I found there are three types of common scooters. These are compact or boot scooters, medium scooters and large scooters.

Compact scooters are described by the company Vic Scooters as generally intended for indoor use, with the ability to manoeuvre in tight spaces such as supermarkets. These scooters often break down into parts to be transported by vehicle.

Slightly larger models are described as suitable for indoor and outdoor use. For example, the Sapphire scooter is advertised by Scootamart as a relatively small scooter capable of being transported in the car boot. However at 121 cm long, 59 cm wide and a weight of 79 kg this is still reasonably sized.

Many medium scooters are very heavy, long and wide. For example, the Shoprider 889SL is equivalent to the scooter I hired. It is 130 cm long and 64cm wide. It has a weight of 85kg and a turning radius of 64cm.

Scooter companies

To support my findings I contacted Heather Joseph from Aidacare, a healthcare equipment company, who confirmed much of what I had found in my investigations. She says one of the most commonly hired models is the Celebrity X that is equivalent in size to the Shoprider. Heather agreed these medium sized scooters are actually quite large.

Although Aidacare's website does not offer scooter size information, Heather assured me she addresses this issue with customers over the phone.

Heather said, I try and match the scooter with the person. We try not to give them something too large. If they are over 100kgs you have to give them a larger model. I ask them over the phone what do you weigh and where are you going to take it?

Heather agreed with my suggestion that scooters have become larger over time. She feels this is in part to accommodate larger customers. She agreed that for use on the train and in lifts and toilets smaller scooters are easier to use. And she conceded that it is often still necessary to park larger scooters outside when going into shops and cafes.

Lift requirements

Interestingly Heather was not aware of the building requirements for lift sizes. I found that in Australia newly built lifts are required to provide a minimum space of 140cm by 160 cm of space. However, when the rise of the lift is no more than 12m, a lift of 110 cm by 140cm is adequate.

Existing buildings which provide a lift of 110 cm by 140cm are generally not required to alter their size to meet new access requirements. This means that although medium sized scooters fit into an average lift, space is very tight. There is not much extra room, particularly for the other lift users.

Despite the many advantages of scooters for users, I still think buildings and lifts need to be built to fit scooters and wheelchairs of different sizes. This way wheelchair and scooter users are able to enjoy full freedom of access.

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