Learn More About Power Mobility / Scooters
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A powered wheelchair must be selected carefully in order to ensure it not only meets the needs of the individual who will use it but also represents good value for the money being invested in it. Physical considerations include posture, strength, sensation, visual acuity and perception, and the ability to learn how to use the wheelchair safely. A functional evaluation should include actual use of the wheelchair in everyday settings; an evaluation of the individual's ability to get in and out of the wheelchair; and the ability to perform needed activities from the wheelchair. Transportation to and from various settings also is an important consideration: Is a van available to transport the individual in the chair, or is it necessary for the chair to fold or disassemble in order to be carried in an automobile trunk?
Powered Wheelchair Components
Frames - Many traditional-style models utilize the traditional cross-brace frame which allows the chair to be folded or collapsed for storage and transport once the batteries have been removed. Other traditional models and some power base chairs disassemble for transport. A number of chairs, however, are designed to be transported while carrying the user; consequently, they do not fold or disassemble.
Upholstery - for wheelchairs must withstand daily use in all kinds of weather. Consequently, manufacturers provide a variety of options to users, ranging from cloth to new synthetic fabrics to leather. Many manufacturers also offer a selection of upholstery colors, ranging from black to neon, to allow for individual selection and differing tastes among consumers.
Seating System - Sold separately from the wheelchairs themselves, as seating must be chosen on an individual basis. It is important when selecting a wheelchair or a seating system to ensure that the two components are compatible. Power base chairs, because of their more modular construction, frequently feature customized chair-style seating systems.
Brakes - Most powered chairs utilize a dynamic braking system in which the motor and brakes work together to slow and stop the chair when the joystick or other controller is released, and which automatically engages the brakes when the power is off or when the chair is not being powered in a forward or reverse motion with the controller.
Wheels/Tires - Power base chairs typically use four wheels of the same size, usually 8 to 10 inches in diameter. These chairs may have pneumatic, semi-pneumatic, or solid tires.
Footrests - A variety of footrest assemblies are available on both types of wheelchairs. They may be a rigid single unit, 90 degree-90 degree platforms, folding, flip-up, detachable, adjustable length, hemi- height, or have a combination of features.
Armrests - Armrests also come in several styles or with a combination of features. They may be full- or desk-length, or wraparound, and they may be fixed, removable, pivoting, and/or adjustable height.
Controls - Powered chairs generally include as a standard feature a manually controlled joystick to regulate the chair's speed and direction. However, most manufacturers offer customized control options to accommodate the varied abilities of the user, including sip-n-puff systems, head and chin switches, push-button controls, trackballs, and tillers. Many chairs also have programmable control features which allow the user or a dealer to adjust or set the chair's speed and control limits as the user's abilities change.
Drive System - the means by which power is delivered to the chair's wheels. Standard drive systems include gear drive, direct drive, and belt drive. The type of drive system affects the power available to propel the chair and the amount and type of maintenance the chair requires.
Batteries - A determining factor in the range and power of a powered chair. Generally, the larger the chair's batteries, the greater the power and the longer the chair's range between charges. Many chairs require two rechargeable 12-volt batteries. Most wheelchairs utilize U1, group 22 or 24 batteries, although other batteries are also used. More manufacturers are designing chairs around the group 24 battery because it affords a longer range. The type of battery required is also an important consideration in terms of safety, maintenance, and transport. Powered chairs may utilize lead acid, gel cell, or sealed wet batteries. Gel cell batteries require the least maintenance and have less danger of leaking than do the other battery types. Gel cell batteries are also required by a number of airlines when transporting powered
Special Powered Features - Powered chairs may offer specialized powered features to meet the user's needs, either as customization or options on a standard chair or as a chair designed specifically for a particular purpose. Among the available features are elevating and lowering seats, and reclining and/or tilt-in-space seats. Specialized chairs have the capacity to raise the user to a standing position, to negotiate stairs, or to be used as a lift or in transferring.
Typically, scooter users have some ability to walk, but are limited in distance or stamina--stroke survivors or people with milder forms of cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, post-polio syndrome, arthritis, and cardiac conditions, among others. Scooters are used to increase and extend the range of personal mobility and help conserve energy. Scooter users often have difficulty propelling manual wheelchairs, but do not require the sophisticated electronic controls and seating systems common in powered wheelchairs.
A number of other physical factors must also be evaluated when determining whether a scooter is an appropriate mobility aid. A scooter user generally must be able to sit upright for extended periods and have sufficient seated balance to maintain an erect posture. Further, sufficient upper body and arm strength to master the controls and steer and maneuver the unit are required. In addition, uncorrected vision disabilities, or conditions which may cause confusion or memory loss or which inhibit proper safety awareness may render a scooter an unsatisfactory mobility aid.
Scooter Configurations and Components
Base Unit - is basically the body of the scooter. Generally it consists of a steel, aluminum, or composite frame with a fiberglass or composite floor to support the feet and batteries. Some scooter bases also include a shroud over the front wheel and drive head, creating a dashboard for the unit. The base also includes the wheels and the drive train. In some scooters, the seat post is also part of the base. The base unit is the primary determinant of whether the scooter is designed for indoor or outdoor use, the vehicle's maneuverability, the size of its wheelbase, its ground clearance, its turning radius, and its overall dimensions.
A scooter should not tip easily during sharp turns or on inclines such as curb cuts (if the scooter is designed for outdoor use). Anti-tip wheels should be included as part of the frame to help support and stabilize the scooter. On front-wheel drive units, anti-tips are often located laterally just behind the front wheels because they generally lack the power for steep inclines. Because most rear-wheel drive scooters are intended to negotiate more rugged terrain, they are usually equipped with rear anti-tips to support the scooter on hills. Side anti-tip wheels are sometimes offered as options. It should be noted that lateral anti-tippers may cause difficulties on curb cuts and ramps.
On some scooters, the base unit may be comprised of modular units or may otherwise be disassembled for transport and storage. These same features may also allow the scooter to be converted from three- to four-wheeled models and/or from indoor to outdoor use.
Drive Train, Brakes, and Power System - The drive train is an integral part of the base unit and provides either front- or rear- wheel drive for the scooter. Front-wheel drive is usually found on smaller scooters designed primarily to be used indoors or outdoors on flat, paved surfaces. The motor of the front-wheel drive scooter is located over the front wheel and drives only that wheel. Because of the motor and wheel configuration, front-wheel drive scooters are usually direct-drive units, eliminating chains and belts. However, this also means that the front wheel pulls the weight of the unit and the rider. Consequently, these types of scooters have a lesser capacity to move their load than do rear-wheel drive models, and are therefore less capable of handling hills, curb cuts, and other outdoor terrain. This is compounded by the fact that front-wheel drive models generally have smaller motors, causing them to have a shorter range, less speed and power, and a smaller rider weight capacity.
Rear-wheel drive scooters are powered by motors connected to the rear axle, either via a chain, a belt, a transaxle unit, or some combination. Because the scooter is driven by the rear wheels, they push the combined weight of the unit and the rider, rather than pull it. The combined weight of the rider, the motor, and the batteries over the rear wheels, generally create better traction than that usually provided by front-wheel drive models. The increased traction combined with the more powerful motors used on rear-wheel drive scooters results in better climbing ability. The units also have a greater maximum speed, a longer travelling range between battery charges, and a larger rider weight capacity. These scooters have a wider wheel base and a greater overall length, making them less maneuverable and rendering some models unsuitable for indoor use. They may also be too large for van or bus lifts.
Brakes - most rear-wheel drive scooters utilize an electronic or electro-mechanical dynamic, regenerative braking system. This type of braking system works in tandem with the motor, first to slow and then stop the vehicle when the pressure is released on the thumb levers or the controls are otherwise disengaged. When the scooter is not being powered forward or in reverse, the brakes are engaged, thus preventing the scooter from moving. During the application of the brakes, excess power from the motor is channeled to the batteries, providing recharging. Because the brakes are engaged when the scooter is being actively powered, most scooters with this braking system are equipped with a clutch on the motor or another release lever to manually disengage the brakes to allow the scooter to be pushed in case of emergency.
Some scooters also use disc brakes or disc brakes in combination with the braking system discussed above. Some scooters--usually front-wheel drive models--are not equipped with electronic or electro-mechanical brakes. In the absence of a brake system, a manual parking brake applied by lever to a rear wheel is provided. Manual parking brakes may also be offered either as optional or standard features on other scooters to provide extra braking on hills and inclines.
Batteries - most scooters utilize 12- or 24-volt motors and electrical systems generally with one or two 12-volt batteries to power the drive train and controls. Twelve-volt systems are most frequently found on front-wheel drive scooters, and usually require one 12-volt battery, although two six-volt batteries are sometime used. Some manufacturers offer add-on units for 12-volt systems which allow them to utilize two batteries to extend the scooter's range between charges, although speed and power are not affected. Rear-wheel drive systems generally require two twelve-volt batteries to power 24-volt systems.
These batteries are "deep cycle" batteries intended for wheelchairs and scooters and generally last between 12 and 18 months, although with conservation and regular charging, longer life may be achieved. Deep cycle batteries are designed to provide a steady supply of power and be discharged and recharged on a
regular basis. Automotive and marine batteries, on the other hand, are designed to be starter batteries, providing short bursts of power only. Consequently, marine and automotive batteries should never be substituted for deep cycle batteries.
There are three basic types available for use with scooters: Lead acid (or wet cell) batteries, sealed lead-acid batteries, and gel cell batteries. Lead acid batteries are the least expensive of the three types, but they also require the most maintenance. In addition to regular charging, electrolyte and water levels must be checked regularly, with water added frequently to maintain appropriate levels. Because these batteries are not sealed, there is danger of acid spillage and explosion if the batteries are not handled properly. Despite these potential problems, lead-acid batteries provide the benefits of a two- to six-month longer battery life and up to a ten percent greater running time than other battery types. Sealed lead acid batteries are maintenance-free versions of these batteries. Because they are sealed in cases, it is unnecessary to add water and the danger of acid spillage is reduced or eliminated. The cases are vented to prevent gas build-up that can lead to an explosion. Finally, gel cell batteries are the most commonly used battery type on scooters. They are sealed in their cases and require no maintenance other than regular charging. Gel cells are the safest of the battery types, with no danger of spillage and limited risk of explosion. However, gel cells are more expensive, and may have a somewhat shorter life than other battery types.
Wheels and Tires - The size of the wheels and tires on a scooter have a direct effect on the scooter's ability to surmount obstacles and its stability. Scooters are generally equipped with six-, eight-, or ten-inch wheels, although other sizes may also be used. Some models use the same size wheels both front and rear, while others may have smaller wheels in front and larger rear wheels. Smaller wheels are generally found on front-wheel drive scooters intended for indoor use. As a rule, the intended use of the scooter should dictate the size of the wheels and tires. The larger the wheels, the more stable the unit. Similarly the larger and wider the tires, the greater the unit's traction and capacity to manage such obstacles as curb cuts and uneven outdoor terrain.
Several types of tires are available for scooters. Manufacturers generally offer a specific tire as standard equipment, with others available as extra-cost options. Pneumatic tires include air-filled tubes and are similar to those found on automobiles. Air pressure should be checked regularly to maintain proper levels, and tires may need to be replaced if punctured. The addition of an anti-flat compound before inflation reduces the risk of tires going flat. They provide good shock absorption when properly inflated. Foam filled tires are similar to pneumatic tires, but include foam inserts rather than air-filled tubes. These tires cannot be deflated and, therefore, require less maintenance. They may be more expensive than pneumatic tires and may not offer a consistently comfortable ride. The least expensive tire option is the solid rubber tire. These tires require the least maintenance, but provide minimal shock absorption and are intended primarily for indoor use.
Seating - The most common seat found on scooters is a chair-style seat similar to those found on boats. The basic seat is molded hard plastic or fiberglass, but most manufacturers offer a padded-seat option, usually with a choice of vinyl or fabric upholstery. Vinyl upholstery is frequently less expensive, but because it is a slipperier surface, it may not be the best choice for those whose disability makes it difficult to maintain position or balance.
Armrests - are another consideration in seating. Some scooters offer armrests only as an option; others offer fixed armrests as standard with flip-up armrests available.
Tiller - The control and steering mechanism for the scooter, usually containing the controls to drive the scooter forward or in reverse, as well as steering the front wheel or wheels. Most scooters offer one type of standard tiller with other controllers available as options. Possibilities include thumb levers, loop handles, joysticks, and others. Thumb levers are the most common controls, allowing the user to keep both hands on the handle bars while using the left thumb to power the scooter in reverse and the right to power the scooter forward. The amount of pressure applied to the lever will determine the speed of the vehicle (unless it is equipped with a proportional speed control). Consequently, a fair amount of hand control is necessary for safe operation. Finger control levers or a joystick may be alternatives. Some manufacturers may also be able to adapt controls to user requirements at extra cost.
The tiller itself is often an upright post attached to the front wheel. However, it is also becoming common to find flexible, accordion-style tillers which can be adjusted for height and/or position. This not only enables the user to place the tiller in the most comfortable position while driving, but also allows it to be moved up and out of the way during transfers. In the absence of a dashboard or shroud over the front wheel, a control box with the key lock, battery level indicator, speed controller, and other features may be
affixed to the tiller handlebars.
Since a joystick controls both speed and direction, scooters equipped with them generally do not have the post-and-handlebar tiller; the joystick is usually attached to an armrest or to an armrest extension, with a choice of right or left mounting. While this frees the space in front of the user and may accommodate easier transitions for some, the lack of handlebars may make transfers more difficult for others.
Other Accessories - In addition to the standard features common to all scooters discussed above, manufacturers offer a variety of standard features and optional accessories. Most scooters are equipped with a key lock for turning the scooter on and off, thus conserving battery life and preventing unauthorized use; a battery-level indicator and a proportional speed controller to limit maximum speed.
A wide range of accessories also are offered on most scooters, such as crutch and cane holders, oxygen carriers, front and rear baskets, trailers, headlights, tail lights, horns, canopies, and others. Some manufacturers even offer sidecars to allow an additional passenger. As when purchasing a car, options and
additional features increase the base cost of the unit, but accessories should be evaluated in light of their capacity to create a mobility aid which provides maximum user independence. At the same time, it should be kept in mind that some options may decrease battery life, maneuverability, and/or travel range.
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Mobility scooters are an excellent means to keep your independence, giving you the ability to visit the shops, friends and family whenever you wish. They are simple to use, easy to maintain and economical to run. There is a wide range of models available; therefore it is vital to undertake thorough research prior to buying to ensure you purchase the scooter which best suits your needs.
By determining the purpose and usage of the scooter will help identify which make and model will best suit your needs.
Benefits of Mobility Scooters - Users Feedback...
“I can now go where ever I like on my own.”
“It has changed my life completely I can now go out when I want whereas before I had to stay indoors as it was too painful for me to walk it has given me back my independents.”
“I can truly say that it has given me back the freedom to live my life to the full.”
Portable - Folding Mobility Scooters.
Ideal for transporting, light weight and maneuverable. These models are suitable for use round the home, in shops or short trips. They can be either 3 or 4 wheels, and usually travel up to 4mph.
Ideal for use on pavements, they are suitable for trips to shops, visiting family etc. They are more stable than the lighter portable scooters and capable of traveling greater distances. They are restricted to pavement use.
Ideal for use on pavement and road for longer trips. 8mph scooters are able to travel on the road and should be equipped with lights and indicators.
Questions to Ask Before buying Mobility Scooters
An electric mobility scooter could be your ticket to personal freedom. It could help you to live a more independent life.
The decision of which motability scooter to buy can be daunting. However, mobility products are an investment that you can enjoy for many years, so taking the time to do your research can save you frustration down the road.
Use this guide to help identify what you need from your mobility scooter.
1. Indoor or outdoor travel?
For inside use consider the turning radius and ease of maneuverability. A compact model could be the right choice for you.
For travel outdoors, you will want to have a more solid model that can handle rough ground and uneven pavements gracefully. Stability and speed will be important considerations. 4 wheel electric mobility scooters could be your best bet.
2. Will you be navigating curbs or steep hills?
If so you may need one with extra power. A 4 wheel model often has the power and the stability to handle such obstacles.
3. Will you be driving on roads?
If you are likely to be driving on roads instead of on pavements, you should consider any local laws. In most cases, medical scooters have to travel 8 MPH to be used on roads, and must be equipped with both headlights and taillights.
4. Consider any restrictions you may have at home.
Consider the width of your front gate or door and any steps you need to negotiate. If storage space is going to be an issue then fold and go model may be an option.
5. Ensure the mobility scooter will be comfortable?
Consider the leg room and support you require. A swiveling seat will make getting on and off easier.
6. Does it need to be transportable?
Transportable mobility scooters are designed for convenient travel. Some makes for sale models can fold down to fit into the rear of a car, or be assembled and disassembled without requiring tools.
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Anyone who is finding walking a struggle will acknowledge that their independence has started to diminish. However, with the modern range of scooters on the market visiting your friends, the shops or anywhere else can be made easy. The majority of electrical scooters, and certainly all models that we supply, are very easy to use, require a low level of maintenance and are economical to run. The only problem you may have is choosing the right model for your requirements, as we have a wide range of scooters to choose from. As you will see, our website has been designed with providing as much balanced information as possible about each scooter, to ensure that customers can undertake plenty of research before making a purchase. A good place to start is for people to decide the reasons for their mobility scooters, and then they can more easily identify the right model for their requirements. For example, you will need to decide things such as whether the scooter will be used for indoor or outdoor travel. For inside use, a compact scooter would be more suitable as they will have better manoeuvrability, and for outdoor, a more solid, perhaps even four wheel scooter would be the best option. Further if you know you will be using it to navigate curbs and steep hills you will certainly need to look at the more powerful scooters, which can handle obstacles better as a result of their increased stability.
If you are simply looking for a scooter to be used indoors then a compact mobile scooter will likely be your best option. However, for frequent road use as opposed to use on pavements or on the grass, medical scooters must travel at eight miles per hour, plus be equipped with headlights and taillights according to local laws. Most people will have an idea of where their most common journeys will be made. As such try and think of any obstacles you may have to face on these routes, plus bear in mind some restrictions that you may have at home. The storing of mobility scooters will need to be considered for example, and if you have a narrow entrance to your home, perhaps a fold and go mobile scooter would be best. For anyone who thinks that they will be using a scooter frequently, ensure that the model you purchase is comfortable, and be aware of the leg room and support you may require. In terms of getting on and off, some models come with a swivelling seat making this a piece of cake. If you are still able to drive, or have a friend or family member with a car who often provides you with lifts, then having transportable mobility scooters will make travelling far more convenient. Check out models that can be folded down to fit in the rear of a car, and those that can be broken down and reassembled without the need for tools.
If you have decided that you will most likely be transporting a mobile scooter on a regular basis and therefore will require a portable or folding scooter, then there are a few things to be aware of. These scooters have been specially designed to be light enough so as to be easily lifted in and out of a car boot, plus they can be dismantled into sections, such as the chair, rear wheels, front section and battery to make the rear section lighter when lifting. All our mobility scooters are tested, and it was found that the portable scooter could be easily dismantled and fitted into the rear of a car without any problems. In just a couple of minutes, the chair was simply lifted out after pulling a leaver and both the front and rear sections were divided by pulling yet another leaver and lifting simultaneously. Finally the handle bars were folded down and all the components were then ready to be stored away. Having dismantled the portable scooter, of course we reassembled it, and this was found to be as easy as taking it apart. Once people have familiarised themselves with this, they should next take the time to become acquainted with how to drive their mobility scooters before taking it outside the home. Basics such as steering, starting and stopping can be easily practiced in a safe and quiet area before being used on the pavement, but make sure the weather is decent when you do so.
As soon as you have learnt the basics in terms of driving a scooter, the next element to be aware of is maintaining it, which is very important for ensuring the longevity of your machine. Firstly, and probably the most important aspect of their maintenance is making sure that mobility scooters are serviced at certain intervals so that they remain in good working order. An added benefit of regular servicing and most important of all is that by doing so you are ensuring that are safe to drive. Other than simply servicing, there are certain things you can do to help with the mobile scooter’s maintenance. First off, make sure to keep is as clean as possible at all times, so as to prevent the likes of dust, grit and dirt from getting trapped in the moving parts of the machine, as this is what causes general wear and tear. Try also to keep the scooter as dry as possible. Although it is inevitable that it will become wet at certain times, if you keep it dry the risk of it becoming rusty is significantly reduced; plus ensuring fabrics on the scooter such as the seat are kept dry, also helps to prolong its lifespan. To get the most out of the battery that charges mobility scooters it is advised to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on how best to charge it, so as to make sure you get the maximum travel range when using the scooter.
Who can benefit
Anyone who is finding it a struggle to walk a short distance without getting tired or feeling pain could truly benefit from a scooter. There is no reason to be ashamed and it is certainly no admission of defeat in making the decision to purchase one of the many different mobility scooters that we have to offer. In fact owning one will simply give you greater independence and vastly improve the quality of your life. For anyone that seems to be using up far too much energy by simply taking a few steps, then using an electric scooter will save your energy, which can be put to better use elsewhere. Compared to a standard self propelled wheelchair, an electric scooter will certainly help with relieving stress to shoulder muscles, elbows and wrists. Plus by using an electric scooter you will be able to travel far greater distances in a quicker time, as mobility scooters have the capacity to travel up to 35 miles before the battery needs a recharge. Another benefit is that as they need a key to start you can leave the scooter outside a shop without worrying about it being stolen. If you have simply become resigned to the fact that you will no longer be able to go out for a whole day shopping or enjoy walking with your loved ones such as grandchildren, then by taking the step of buying an electric scooter, you will be instantly rewarded with a new lease of life.
When it comes to the crunch time of buying a scooter, make sure to take a few other things into account aside from the price. Obviously you will want to find a bargain, but having a machine that is reliable and more importantly safe should be made a priority. In this regard check the different capabilities and functions on the mobility scooters carefully and look for one that is suitable for your requirements. As customers have a tendency to change their scooters not long after purchase, to save you this inconvenience make sure to test the stability of the scooter to see how secure you feel when driving it. It may sound obvious, but many people fail to read their user manual prior to use, so don’t fall into this trap. For those considering a scooter to use on the road, check for safety features such as front and rear lights, head and arm rests, battery charge level indicator, hazard lights, indicators, horn, brakes and rear view mirror. Charging the battery properly is also important and should be done only with the supplied equipment from your manufacturer in a dry environment. Other features to look out for are puncture proof tyres, reverse warning siren and an improved suspension. Finally, when it comes to taking mobility scooters out on the road, the Highway Code should be observed at all times, and rules 36 to 46 are those pertinent to driving a mobility scooter and powered wheelchairs.
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