Longer days and better weather mean footpath users will be on the increase and that includes mobility scooter and power chair users.
But while the scooters and chairs provide independence for some users, others are operating them unsafely and are potentially in danger.
Mobility Centre sales and development manager Todd Stephenson says mobility scooter awareness training sessions are a great opportunity for people to try a mobility scooter before they buy it or gain some confidence so they can use their existing mobility scooters safely.
Mobility Centre, operated by Life Unlimited Charitable Trust, has partnered with Hamilton City Council, Age Concern, Life Unlimited Charitable Trust, The Peak Recreation Centre Rototuna, Hilda Ross Retirement Village and Glenview Community Centre, to run mobility scooter courses from October 1, 2019.
The training, also undertaken in Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, Hastings and Wellington, gives people the opportunity to chat with experts about using a mobility scooter safely, choosing the right scooter for them, how to look after it so it doesn’t let people down and to have a go on an obstacle course to test their skills.
A Mobility Centre service technician usually attends to provide free mobility scooter checks.
“Mobility scooters are simple to operate and manoeuvre if you’ve had the right training and are riding one which suits your weight and build,” says Stephenson.
“We’re particularly interested and focused on the skill of the operator for their own safety and for other users of footpaths and public spaces.
“We see the positive change in so many people’s lives through the increased independence that a mobility scooter can provide and feel it is very important to give people a chance to see how easy they are to operate and how safe they can be.
“You don’t need a driver’s licence to operate a mobility scooter and they’re not required to have a warrant of fitness or registration, but there are rules around their use,” says Stephenson.
For example, a mobility scooter should not be on the road if a footpath is available.
“People on mobility scooters can be quite vulnerable and that’s why we recommend accessories like flags and high-vis clothing.”
Mobility Centre offers health and disability services, advice and equipment from its 24/7 online store and six stores in Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, Hastings and Lower Hutt selling a range of mobility scooters including the New Zealand exclusive Neo scooters.
“Neo mobility scooters have been on the New Zealand market for 20 years, but we now import them directly and we are the exclusive New Zealand retailer.
“We did a lot of research and we believe the model offers the best value for money, reliability and safety for the New Zealand environment,” says Stephenson.
“Mobility problems can lead to social isolation so it’s important to get some help at an early stage.
“It’s amazing the difference getting a mobility scooter, becoming confident using it and understanding how to look after it can make in people’s lives. Our trained staff at Mobility Centre provide independent advice to find the best solution for each person,” said Stephenson.
“Deciding which mobility scooter or mobility aid is right for you is challenging and we understand that.”
Stephenson said a 2015 literature review completed by the Research and Guidelines Steering Group of the Road Controlling Authorities Forum found significant health and safety issues attached to mobility scooters and that a coordinated and consistent approach to ensure provision of safer infrastructure, safer mobility devices and safer device operators appeared to be justified.
Life Unlimited celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year as a charitable trust which provides health and disability information, advice and equipment to enable people to live the life they choose.
“We feel it is important organisations like Life Unlimited step up and take an active advocacy role around mobility scooter safety,” said Stephenson.