As baby boomers are now in or reaching their mature years, a record number of people are driving around in mobility scooters, whether it be on vacation, in a supermarket, at a convention, etc. While those driving scooters deserve the respect of others in order to smoothly operate their equipment, driving a scooter is a two-way street. If scooter drivers are conscious and courteous of those around them, they make it safer and more pleasurable for pedestrians and others.
Surprisingly, even with the large number of individuals using scooters today, there isn’t much guidance about how to courteously operate the equipment. Here are a few tips and etiquette suggestions from Special Needs Group for scooter drivers to ensure that their trips are safe and enjoyable for themselves and those around them:
- Operate your mobility scooter or power chair in a careful and considerate manner.
- Use a footpath or sidewalk when one is accessible. In most jurisdictions, you are considered a pedestrian and should avoid driving on the road.
- Move off a shared path if you have stopped so others can pass.
- Travel at a speed that doesn’t endanger others.
- Similar to how you drive a car, keep right, and pass on the left.
- Warn others when you approach them from behind, around a hidden turn or on a covered driveway. If you have a horn, use it. Some scooters are silent and might not be heard by the hearing impaired.
- Always look behind you, including before you overtake someone who is slower than you (you may hit someone on the side.)
- If you get a call on your cell phone, pull over. Your driving ability becomes five times worse when your attention is on a phone call, and when you’re using one hand instead of two to steer.
- When you are in a dining room or restaurant, if you are physically able to get out of your scooter, park it to the side in the dining area.
- It is illegal for you to ride, or let any person ride, in a way that may cause you or the other person injury.
- When planning your vacation, know the policy and procedures for bringing equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to cruise ships. Check on the access to public rooms, restaurants, bars, toilets, swimming pools, hot tubs, beach areas and other amenities.
- Check ahead to make sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates.
- While U.S. regulations mandate that U.S. air carriers cannot refuse transportation on the basis of disability (except in extreme cases), these rules may not cover foreign air carriers serving the U.S. Check with all airlines you will be connecting with.
- On a plane, if you are not able to transfer yourself to your seat, in a lavatory, etc., it is recommended to travel with an attendant.
Hauling personal special needs equipment across the ocean or around the world is inconvenient and not always trouble-free. It can be easily damaged or even lost in transit, and it’s extremely difficult to repair your equipment abroad. A better option is to lease the equipment for travel from a specialty firm dedicated to providing special needs equipment for travelers.
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has created significant changes within the travel industry, and there has been deepening respect and higher level of acceptance for all forms of ability differences, there are still more improvements that can be implemented. By practicing proper etiquette and being courteous, scooter drivers can make life safer and more enjoyable for themselves and those around them.
February 17, 2011