Posted by The Mobility Superstore:
The impact that mobility scooters have on the lives of disabled people simply cannot be underestimated.
These much-needed mobility aids allow people with mobility issues to live independent and dignified lives – as productive members of the local community. However, using public transport whilst on a mobility scooter is often a stressful and potentially dangerous task. So, are public transport operators doing enough to help disabled people get around more freely?
The Equality Act stipulates that all new single-deck buses must have low floors by 2016, and all double-deck buses must feature low floors by 2017. The main challenge facing a scooter-user is getting on and off a bus, but buses with low floors or those that sink at bus stops greatly help safe access.
In order to be compliant with the Equality Act, trains and buses must also have space for at least one wheelchair or scooter near the front of the vehicle. However, larger, class 3 mobility scooters are not usually suitable for transport on buses and trains. In most cases, the model may be no wider than 70cm and no longer than 120cm. A bus or train with a low floor facility, ramp access and special provisions for mobility aids will be signified by a pictogram of a blue wheelchair – located near the door of the vehicle.
Safe access to a bus or train requires the vehicle to be close to a kerb or platform. Many vehicles now come with electrically-operated ramps which allow for seamless boarding and disembarking; however, most ramps have a maximum weight allowance – around 300kg. Scooters must then be switched off for the duration of the journey, and the brakes must be applied at all times.
It is worth noting that transport operators reserve the right to refuse access to buses and trains where scooters are deemed to be in a state of disrepair. Boarding will also mean they are placed on an incline, so all excess weight and baggage should be removed from the back of the mobility aid before attempting to board. Handrails should be used where they are available, and the driver or company official should provide assistance when required to do so.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport and the UK government recently launched a Code of Conduct for the transportation of the mobility scooter, as there has been some confusion around how the Equality Act affects public transport operators. Although not compulsory, over 85 per cent of public transport operators have signed up to the code, which requires operators to make provisions for the carriage of the Class 2 scooter. Scooter users will be required to board and disembark in a controlled way, and they must remain in the designated areas for the duration of their journey. The user’s ability to safely control a mobility aid on public transport will be assessed by officials of local transport companies, and a photo-ID pass will be issued – giving permission for the passenger to operate a scooter on publicly accessed vehicles.
The main area of concern with the current provisions for scooter-users is that they are not enforceable by law. Transport operators can use their discretion to prohibit certain users from access to vehicles at any time, and that could mean disabled people are not able to travel in the same way as non-disabled transport-users can.