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Which Mobility Equipment is Right for Me – Scooter, Wheelchair or Powerchair?

As 2009 closed, several new ships made a huge splash within the cruise industry, foreshadowing the future of cruising, including Disney Cruise Lines’ 4,000-passenger Dream and Royal Caribbean Cruises’ 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas, the largest passenger cruise ship ever floated. Within the next twelve months, several more behemoth vessels will enter the waters including Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, sister ship to the Oasis; and the largest ship ever for Norwegian Cruise Line, the 4,200-passenger Epic. With increased ship lengths—1,184 feet from bow to stern for Oasis and Allure—more and more cruisers are requiring rental wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and other mobility aides to navigate these newer ships.

For the customer who has never rented limited mobility aids before, the differences between renting an elderly scooter, wheelchair or powerchair can be quite confusing. Customers frequently ask us, “What is the best mobility equipment for my needs?” Below are simple differences and descriptions about elderly scooters, wheelchair options, and powerchairs.

Mobility scooters benefit the elderly or anyone who gets tired or has pain after walking. When renting through Special Needs Group, customers have an option of three types of rental scooters: standard, heavy duty, or bariatric. All elderly scooters have three wheels due to easier navigation although four wheel scooters are available upon request and on limited availability. Standard and heavy duty scooters can fit through most standard cruise staterooms and hotel rooms; the bariatric scooters can only fit in wheelchair accessible cabins. All scooters are steered using a bicycle-style handlebar (or tiller). Scooters may be used indoors or outdoors and can generally travel easily over different surfaces. The maximum weight capacity for scooters is as follows: standard scooters – 249 lbs.; heavy duty scooters – 349 lbs.; bariatric scooters – 500 lbs.

Manual wheelchair options require human power for movement. They are light, maneuverable and collapsible. If you are on one of the smaller ships or if you are traveling with a companion who is willing to push the wheelchair, manual wheelchair options may be the best choice. When cruising, there are times when a passenger must use the ship’s tenders (small boats) to visit ships’ ports of call. Because situations may occur where mobility scooters may not be carried off-board, such as sea conditions, we encourage guests to ask about ordering a manual wheelchair in addition to their rental mobility scooter. We generally recommend mobility scooters when you are on a larger ship, have not used a wheelchair before and when you want your independence.

Anyone who decides to rent a wheelchair through Special Needs Group has four wheelchair options: transport, standard, heavy duty or bariatric. The maximum weight capacity for the wheelchairs is as follows: transport wheelchairs – 450 lbs.; standard wheelchairs – 249 lbs.; heavy duty wheelchairs – 349 lbs.; bariatric wheelchairs – 500 lbs.

Powerchairs operate by using a joystick controller on the armrest. These limited mobility aids are often used by individuals who do not have the dexterity or mobility to use a rental mobility scooter. Due to the complicated nature of using the joystick, we do not recommend ordering a rental powerchair unless you have previously used one and feel comfortable as cruise ship hallways are more narrow and more difficult to use in that environment.

When renting limited mobility aids through Special Needs Group/Special Needs at Sea, customers have three choices of portable powerchairs for rent: standard, heavy duty or bariatric. The maximum weight capacity for powerchairs is as follows: standard powerchairs – 249 lbs.; heavy duty powerchairs – 349 lbs.; and bariatric powerchairs – 500 lbs. Powerchairs may be used indoors or outdoors.

Should you still have questions about the differences between the equipment, you may always talk to one of our customer service reps by calling 954 585-0575 or toll free 800 513-4515.


February 16, 2010

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