A Mobility Scooter comes to Stay - Part 1
Towards the end of May 2007 it became apparent to me that I would have to seriously consider mobility, not just as a physical issue to be overcome on a daily basis in the domestic round, but also as an issue to be faced if I was not to become a recluse. In my own case, immobility takes the form of a pair of wooden sticks. I christened them 'Crockett and Tubbs', from the TV series Miami Vice. One needs to rationalise the acquisition of such impedimenta somehow .. like your first pair of spectacles.
My occupational therapist assessed me and produced the inevitable report. After an initial flurry, the findings evidently went to committees. The flurry involved devices for the bath, new sticks (Crockett and Tubbs), additional banisters on the stairs .. and so on. The long-term prognosis was that increasing immobility would require lifts and other devices. To cut a long story short, this latter stage took some considerable time before it arrived at conclusion.
Mobility was steadily eroded, and left to my own efforts with the assistance of 'Crockett and Tubbs' it has become increasing clear that something would have to be done. I have not driven the car, voluntarily, for a number of years. This was not through coercion by the mostly petty and certainly-mendacious police, but rather as a matter of preservation .. of my life, and yours. Perhaps that is why a mobility scooter had not seriously occurred to me sooner. It has become increasingly apparent that more of our local walks, to which I have grown accustomed, were being avoided. . . by me. Eventually I had to admit that exercise to the north was no longer feasible, as by the time I got to where I wanted to be, I was too tired to make the return trip.
We live in a deceptively spacious old Cottage here on the headland. Built in 1823, it is actually situated some 100 yards from the North Sea. The yard area .. there is no garden .. used to contain some cupboards and the 'netty', or night-soil closet. The ground floor is some four or five feet above ground level so access is by steps to the back and front. As you might imagine, there is no possibility for stabling a mobility scooter indoors.
There are a plethora of considerations to ponder beyond the simple need or desire to acquire a mobility scooter, storage is merely one.
In my own case, size was a particular problem. A factor which does not seem to figure very highly on the manufacturer's agenda. Provided you fit the size that they evidently use for all scooter designs - average to small, then you have no problem. I'm six feet six inches tall, so I had a problem. The current 'fashion' in mobility scooter design is towards the four-wheel. The leg length that this provides is decidedly inadequate for someone like me.
I don't know about you, but when I am confronted with the need to make a major purchase like this then my first port of call is usually the Internet, and Google. Aside from the dozens of dealers thrown up in Google, there are also 'deals' on eBay. I found one such, from a dealer who was changing scooter supplier and had a showroom clearance model. Previous internet searches had turned up the name 'Cordoba' as a pretty welI-regarded model, ostensibly from a uk maker, so we appeared to be on to a winner with a final sale price below £1500 including delivery.
Arrangements were made. The date duly arrived. So did the dealer .. from darkest North London .. all the way here to the Headland. It was a nice sunny day and he had arrived early. We exchanged pleasantries and then he went off to get the scooter and bring it into our little yard. There it was - all flash captain's seat, gleaming red finish, and miniature 'mag' wheels. More like a sort of distorted beach buggy than an electric wheelchair .. obviously the intention .. to widen the appeal, and therefore the market .. perhaps beyond the confines of the of disabled ?
Having brought the scooter all the way up to us from the deep South of England, the dealer was as dismayed as we were to find that I could not set my long old legs aboard and resting comfortably. There is a footplate, between the two front wheels and the tiller assembly and the rear box. The seat is mounted on this rear box, and inside is the electric motor and the all-important batteries. The knee-bend necessary to put my feet on to this footplate was far too much for me to have endured for any length of time. The only alternative was resting my feet on the front wheel mudguards .. not a good idea. I was crushed.
The dealer tried various things to lengthen the seat travel before ultimately having to admit defeat and head home. Thinking about it later, his efforts at extending the travel on the seat would, in all probability, have been to no avail. Simple geometry dictates that putting the seat further back would also mean that the tiller stem would need extending to suit. Otherwise you would face the problem of sitting too far back to be able to reach the tiller properly.
Subsequent to this we learned that it is possible to have a scooter modified .. a bit .. but not very much. It seems quite ridiculous to equate a mobility scooter with a car, but this is precisely what the DVLA, police, and any other similar bureaucrat - who scents another empire-in-the-making - are attempting to do. Designs must be submitted for destructive testing (crashing) as with a car, thereby inhibiting modification to take into account problems such as a person's physical size.
The natural consequence of mass-production .. all made in china of course .. is that one size fits all .. and if it doesn't, 'well that's a pity but have you looked at our range of power chairs instead?'
The Sunday Mail have recently decided to crusade against mobility scooters and their riders too, and thereby help the hapless police to try to find at least one section of the population who will submit to their bullying and empire-building, and who will not be able .. by definition .. to fight back. We are to receive an oppressive and prescriptive bureaucracy all our own .. for our own good of course.
A mobility scooter is really a metal chassis, some pretty basic electronics, and a large-ish electric motor. The rest is mostly cosmetics. But I can confidently predict that this problem with size will increasingly affect sales and the disabled access to these scooters .. notwithstanding the Daily Mail, police, DVLA, and also recently Customs and Excise, putting their mainly inept and inexpert two-pennorth in.