Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Controls - overview

How do mobility scooter controls work? What features to look out for? We asked a panel of mobility scooter users to give us their top pointers.

How do mobility scooter controls work?

Controls on mobility scooters are quite different from those on cars, motorbikes and bicycles, and they can take some getting used to at the beginning.

The number of controls as well as their position, design and function differs across:

Use our scooter search to help you choose which mobility scooters might suit you.

Trying out mobility scooter controls

When choosing a scooter it's important to try out as many different types of controls as possible to make sure that you can reach everything, and steer and drive easily, safely and confidently without pain or discomfort.

mobility scooter controls Class 3 scooters
Controls on the central panel and the steering

A good retailer can select a number of scooters for you to try out and advise you on the most suitable types of controls, including those used to adjust the seat and steering column.

Together think about your:

  • Upper body strength and range of movement
  • Co-ordination
  • Grip
  • Dexterity in hands and fingers
  • Vision

They can also arrange for adjustments to be made, such as changing the set-up of the accelerator lever if you prefer to use your left hand.

What to look for: the control panel

Things to check:

  • Can you see all of the controls?
  • Can you easily reach and use all of the controls with at least one hand?
  • Do you understand what all of the controls do?
  • Does colour help you to see the different controls more clearly?

Most scooters have a central control panel, which faces up at you so that you can easily see all of the controls.


Make sure you can reach everything

The number, position and layout of controls varies depending on the scooter's class and the type of steering it has.

For example, larger scooters with handlebars may have controls on their steering, to help you reach them more easily. Things to think about include:

  • If the handlebars are too wide, this may make it difficult for you to reach all of the controls with your fingers, especially if you have a small hand span.
  • The smaller the control panel, the closer the handgrips are likely to be, so you won't need to reach out so far to turn the scooter.

Some control panels have coloured buttons and lights, while other panels just have black and white buttons. Colours and lights can make the controls more noticeable and may help you remember what each button is for.

Class 2 scooters

Class 2 scooters have a very basic set of controls because they are only for use on pavements. Controls usually include:

  • A key or on/off switch
  • Dial for controlling speed
  • Horn

Some models may feature additional controls for safety such as:

  • Lights
  • Indicators
  • Hazard lights

Class 3 scooters

Class 3 scooters are designed for use on the road, making safety an even greater consideration. By law, these scooters need to have:

  • Lights
  • Indicators
  • Horn
  • Hazard lights
  • Reflectors
  • Mirrors

They may also include:

  • A speedometer
  • A hand brake
  • A digital information display
  • Additional speed controls

The more frequently used controls, such as the horn, are placed on both sides of the control panel. This lets you use either hand for them.

What to look for: the tiller (steering column)

Things to check:

  • Can you grip the handlebars?
  • Can you grip and steer with one or both hands?
  • Can you turn the scooter around without strain or pain in your arms, shoulder or neck?
  • Can you reach and use the controls while turning the scooter?
  • Do you feel comfortable, confident and safe when steering around obstacles?

Scooters can have a 'Delta' tiller, with wraparound, D-shaped steering handles, or T-shaped handlebars like a bike.

mobility scooter with d-shaped delta tiller
Delta tiller
mobility scooter with mobility scooter with T-shaped tiller
T-shaped tiller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On some scooters, the tiller can be adjusted for height, pulled closer to you or pushed further away.  This can be useful if you can't stretch your arms very far or need extra space to turn when getting on and off the scooter.

Things to think about:

  • Check that the tiller is easy for you to adjust and that it's as flexible as you need it to be.
  • On a delta tiller your hands will be positioned closer together, which can make it is easier to turn the scooter if you get pain and/or stiffness in your arms and shoulders.
  • T-shaped handlebars may feel more natural, but if the controls are on the handlebars you may find them difficult to use when turning the scooter on full lock.
This information is based on the findings of a Rica research project. 16 disabled and older people (half experienced scooter users, half novices) tested a sample of seven class 2 and class 3 mobility scooters.

Last updated: December 2015


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