As an electric scooter owner and user, I can personally attest to the fact they can open up a whole new world to people with limited mobility. They’re incredibly valuable to seniors, people who can’t walk long distances or have pain issues, or people like me with chronic illnesses who can no longer walk (but have upper body control). The travel industry has also realized their value, and electric scooters can be rented almost anywhere in the world – and even delivered straight to a hotel or cruise ship cabin. As simple as they are to use, electric scooters can be dangerous to both riders and people around them if not used properly. Their use is also restricted in some situations and places. This is why I have put together this guide for people new to using an electric scooter – whether as an owner or renter – for travel.
1. Read the manual. Okay, this may sound like a pain in the butt or obvious advice, but you really need to know exactly how your scooter works and where all the relevant parts are. You should pay particular attention to speed control, throttle control, how to put the scooter into freewheel (neutral) mode for when others need to transport it (like airport ground crews), and how to assemble/disassemble it (if applicable).
2. Know your scooter’s weight and dimensions. If you plan on traveling with your own scooter, you’ll need to provide airlines and some accessible taxi companies with the weight of your scooter and its measurements. All of this information should be available towards the back of your scooter’s manual under “Specifications.” It’s wise to know the weight and dimensions in both English and metric systems. It’s helpful to know these numbers off the top of your head so you know if you’ll fit in a vehicle, in an elevator, through a doorway, or on a stair lift.
3. Know your battery’s specifications. There are several different types of mobility device batteries, and you can learn much more about them here. It’s critical that you know as much as possible about your scooter battery because (a) the airlines will want to know, and (b) it could make the difference between you flying to your destination or staying home. There are several limits and restrictions with regards to lithium-ion batteries and air travel, so you need to know whether or not your battery’s capacity falls below those limits.
4. Practice riding your scooter at home or a wide-open area before using it around other people or in tight spaces. Every scooter is different, and the function and sensitivity varies even between different models of the same brand. If you don’t know how the scooter will react to your control because you haven’t practiced, you could lose your balance, run into someone and hurt them, or run into something valuable and break it. Please don’t give experienced scooter owners a bad name by driving like a maniac because you didn’t take some time to practice using one. It’s also important for your own safety that you know the capabilities and limits of your scooter so you don’t damage the scooter or hurt yourself.
5. Scooters are prohibited in many museums and on some forms of public transportation. I have been to several museums, palaces, and other buildings across Europe where power wheelchairs and manual wheelchairs are allowed, but electric scooters are not. They require that scooter users transfer to manual chairs before being admitted. While I have yet to hear the exact reasons why (ticket sellers don’t make the rules), I strongly suspect it has a lot to do with #4 above. Scooters are also not allowed on public buses in some cities (London only just started allowing them a few months go), and they are prohibited on subways in Japan. Please do your research for each city and museum you plan to visit so you can plan accordingly.
6. Be aware that 3-wheel and 4-wheel models offer different advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to take a loot at what your mobility needs are and where you’ll be using your scooter so you can make the best purchase or rental decision. For example, 3-wheel models have a much tighter turn radius and a smaller profile, but 4-wheel models offer more stability and space for your legs and feet. 3-wheel models are lighter, but many wheelchair ramps in other countries are in the form of two rails – meaning they will only accommodate 4-wheeled mobility devices.
7. If you use a scooter and can’t walk at all, many people will assume that you can. This sort of makes sense because so many scooter users have them only for long distances, and are often seen getting up from a scooter to sit somewhere more comfortable. However, for complete non-walkers, this assumption can be really annoying – especially when it’s clear that someone (usually an airport screener) doesn’t believe you. It doesn’t help me that I’m relatively young, thin, and look completely healthy (a.k.a. not the scooter user stereotype). Even fellow wheelchair users sometimes are confused as to why I travel with a scooter instead of my power wheelchair (it comes apart in case there are no wheelchair taxis). Just stick to your guns if anyone gives you a hard time about your limitations and mobility needs.
8. Keep contact information on you at all times for your rental company or a local repair shop. Scooters are really sturdy and can get you through some pretty rough places, but any piece of electric equipment can break down unexpectedly. Be prepared for things like dead batteries, malfunctions, or airline damage, and know who to call if you need repairs or a replacement.
Thanks to my awesome electric scooter, I’m able to safely roll around destinations all over the world. Find out if it’s a good fit for you, too! Pride Mobility Go-Go Ultra X 3-Wheel Travel Scooter
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