Electric Wheelchair or Scooter?

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It’s sometimes difficult to see the difference between an Electric Wheelchair or Scooter, especially with Mobility Scooters getting smaller to enable them to access more locations than ever before.  It’s important for users to understand both the opportunities and limitations between the two.  Here is our (as ever, impartial) guide to understanding the differences.

Driving a…

Mobility Scooter

Mobility Scooter

Mobility Scooter

A Scooter is driven by an accelerator, which powers the wheels to move forward or backwards as the user desires.  This means that upon release of the accelerator, the scooter will lose all drive power and stop.

A Scooter is steered manually by using handles and a steering column, allowing either a single or dual front wheels to take the scooter in the direction required.

There is no known “dual controls” available on the market as far as we are aware.

Driving an Electric Wheelchair

Electric Wheelchair

Electric Wheelchair

An Electric Wheelchair (or Power Chair) is driven by a joystick accelerator, which powers two wheels separately to drive the wheelchair in the direction indicated by the joystick.  This means that if the directional joystick is pointed to the right, the wheelchair controller will supply varying amounts of power to either drive motor (sometimes in opposite directions of drive, too) to enable the wheelchair to be directed where the user (or users companion, as appropriate) desires.

The casters are free to move in all directions.

An Electric Wheelchair can be driven by a secondary controller where required.

Electric Wheelchair or Scooter In law

An Electric Wheelchair or Scooter can be classified in two key areas – Class 2 or Class 3.  This means that the mobility equipment might have a speed limit applied to enable it to meet one class or another.

Class 2

Speed limit: 4MPH
Lights required: No
Can be used on the road: No (unless there is no pavement available)

Class 3

Speed limit: 4MPH off road, 8MPH on road
Lights required: Yes, for on road use
Can be used on the road: Yes
Registration required: Yes – click here

What is right for me?

When you are choosing your mobility, you should always consider what you’ll be looking to achieve with your freedom.  A mobility scooter will enable you to access many public places, including shops, leisure centres, hospitals and libraries.  You should consider the maneuverability of the mobility scooter if your own walking ability is very limited.

An electric wheelchair, as well as being able to turn on the spot thanks to the drive differences, is also defined as a wheelchair in law, meaning it is illegal for them to be refused entry without (very) good reason – a mobility scooter does not enjoy the same levels of protection.

What ever you choose, you should make sure it is going to enable you to maintain or build your independence.  Test drive your options and make sure to read reviews!

Does this article help you? Let us know in the comments below

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A wheelchair user for 20 years, Dominic looks at how a wheelchair works for its user base, not the brochure. Dominic is our lead editor.

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