The OT’s Perspective: 16 Mobility scooter questions to make the right choice for your clients

As an OT, I’ve done a lot of home visits in my time, and often, it’s been to look at scooter access or to dispense advice about how to choose the right scooter.

In order to help you navigate these tricky waters, I’ve put together a quick guide on what to consider when it comes to scooters for your customers and the questions you need to ask in order to ensure the best outcome:

1. How easy is it to get on and off?

It’s vital to ensure that your client can transfer on and off a scooter, and my advice here is that you test it out in a couple of environments (like outside and down the road) and not just in the showroom!

2. Is it comfortable enough for longer trips?

My suggestion is that your client sits on the chosen scooter for at least 10 minutes to bed in and ensure it is comfortable enough.

3. Does it fit in the car and can it go on holidays?

If the scooter needs to be transported in a car regularly, then it needs to fold and will need to be tested to ensure it actually fits in the car!

When it comes to holidays, check out Calvert Trust – they provide holidays for the disabled and will have the necessary facilities to accommodate a scooter.

4. What does the clients’ typical day consist of?

Does the client pop to the shops or do longer journeys?

5. How will it be charged?

There are lots of mobility scooter charging points around the UK but it’s wise to ensure your client knows where their closest is and that they ensure that it is fully charged before you set off on your journey.

6. Where will it be stored?

This is vital, as communal flats no longer allow storage within hallways, so there must be space to store the scooter in the client’s home. Depending on their circumstances, your client may be eligible to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant to fund a scooter store externally to your property.

7. What are the height and weight?

Clearly, any scooter needs to be lightweight whilst still being sturdy.

8. What is the budget?

This is an important consideration – care should be taken to make certain that clients do not overstretch financially. If either their medical condition or benefits change, they may no longer be able to afford the scooter or manage it.

9. Is the client looking to travel on public roads?

Ensure the scooter is designed for road or pavement – this is usually based on the speed limit of the scooter.

10. Is the client looking to take the scooter onto public transport?

The key here is that the scooter folds up and is small enough to take on a bus or train.

11. Are there any kerbs or obstructions on usual journeys?

Larger scooters are best in this scenario, as well as purpose-built scooters that are designed to overcome kerbs and obstructions.

12. What surface will they usually be travelling on?

If the client is based in the country, a different tyre will be needed to an urban environment.

13. Are there steep hills or slopes nearby?

Scooter guidance states 1:12 is the maximum slope that should be considered by a scooter, and to be safe 1:15. Effectively, this means for every one metre of slope depth there should be a 12-metre ramp as a minimum.*

14. Will the client need to carry shopping or a pet on the scooter?

Specific accessories can be purchased to aid the client with both of these things.

15. Will the scooter be used around the home?

If so, the client may be eligible to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant to adapt the home for ramped access and widened doorways.

16. Does your client have a medical condition that means a modification of the scooter is required?

Modifications can be made and specialist assessment centres across the UK can assist with this. If a medical condition like epilepsy or a neurological disorder causes a deficit in capability it may mean that you should not have a scooter on a road, but can continue to use the scooter on the pavement.

Next steps

If you are seeking to purchase or rent a scooter, often the first point of call is the Motability Scheme, enabling disabled people to lease a new scooter, powered wheelchair or car by exchanging their mobility allowance.

Stuart Barrow of Promoting Independence is a member of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists and a recognised expert in the field of home adaptations. His experience is sought by manufacturers and service providers looking for an expert opinion. Stuart also runs the Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference (OTAC).

*This this is building regulation guidance for mobility access ramps. Far steeper slopes will be encountered when driving up and down hills, to that end the EN minimum requirement of Class B (indoor/outdoor) scooters is 1:10 and Class C (outdoor) scooters is 1:6