Wheelchairs and mobility scooters offer a great way to get around for people with disabilities and those who struggle to walk because of age or other mobility impairment. They help provide a higher degree of independence by allowing the user to have access to work, community and social events and have been proven to improve quality of life significantly.
The use of mobile devices is rapidly increasing across Australia each year as they are safe and easy to use by people of all ages. They can even be an affordable substitute for cars and when combined with accessible public transport.
There is no doubt that motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters are useful for people with mobility impairment. However, that does not mean anyone with a mobility impairment can use a motorised wheelchair or mobility scooter. For example, some models require the user to have strong manual handling skills to operate the controls properly. They might also require the user to have very good balance.
Some skills you may need:
Strength You need a firm grip to hold the handlebars and to steer around tight corners.
Balance Right balance helps you to stay upright when riding over uneven ground or down a hill.
Coordination You need to be able to quickly and correctly swap between using the accelerator and brake while steering at the same time.
Good eyesight You must be able to see correctly to avoid crashing into obstacles, people and vehicles.
Perception The ability to know how fast you’re going and judge the distances of objects, people or vehicles can help you avoid a crash.
To be sure you can use your wheelchair or mobility scooter as planned, consider the following before you buy:
- You don’t need a drivers licence. However, a doctor’s certificate that clearly outlines mobility impairment and highlights one’s need for assisted travel is essential
- How far do you need to travel?
- Where will you be going?
- Will the mobility device fit on public transport?
- What surfaces will you be travelling on (for example, rocks or very uneven surfaces)?
- Do you need to register your mobility device?
Wheelchairs and scooters do not require registration unless you live in Queensland. If you want to use public transport with your wheelchair or mobility scooter, you should consider the requirements of the Transport Standards to ensure the device you purchase is suitable for use. Choose a product that has an effective braking system and is stable under the forces of vehicle acceleration and cornering.
When using your mobility scooter or electric Wheelchair always follow the same road rules that apply to pedestrians. While each state and territory has its own rules and regulations, there are some basic rules which apply right across the country.
What you can do
- Safety of others must be a priority at all times
- Ride on the footpath (2-3 kilometres per hour)
- The speed limit on level ground shouldn’t be more than 10 km per hour
- Give way to vehicles at roundabouts
- Cross the road at safe places (traffic lights with pedestrian signals and pedestrian crossings)
- Obey traffic instructions from a police officer
- Obey a ‘no pedestrian’ sign
- Unless it is necessary to overtake other pedestrians, users must comply with road rules as they apply to pedestrians and must not drive alongside more than one other pedestrian or vehicle whilst travelling in the same direction.
What you cannot do
- It’s illegal to ride a Scooter or Wheelchair when under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Get out of your moving Wheelchair or Scooter
- Cross the road if they are facing an amber or red traffic or pedestrian light
- Cause a traffic hazard by moving into the path of a driver
It’s great to see that they can be used almost anywhere, so all users must familiarise themselves with the road rules relating to their use to ensure the safety of both the user and others.
Here are some links provided by the government, which will help you to find the different regulations for road safety in your area:
If there are any concerns about your ability to safely use a motorised wheelchair or mobility scooter, seek an assessment by a health professional to decide whether a mobile device is safe for you.