b.h.t.a. guidelines for buying & using a mobility product
Safe Hands are proud members of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA)
The BHTA have almost 500 companies employing over 17,000 people – who make or sell healthcare and assistive technology products that help people live more independently.
What makes the BHTA special is there Code of Practice All members sign up to the Code, demonstrating their commitment to high levels of customer care that go above and beyond their legal obligations, giving customers confidence.
Wherever you see the BHTA logo, you know you’re dealing with a company you can trust. You’ll get clear information about your rights, receive a high standard of customer service and have access to an independent complaints process
The following our guidelines produced by the BHTA to assist in buying and using your mobility product.
A mobility vehicle can definitely improve your lifestyle. No longer will you be confined to your home, reliant on others and unable to fully control your own life.
Making the right decision
The best way to ensure you make the right decisions is to see, and try, a wide range of models from different manufacturers. You should first contact a local BHTA specialist, and visit their local showrooms. Here you can see a number of models, and make proper comparisons of size, comfort and handling. You will also meet and get to know their staff and your backup team. If you cannot visit, then book a home demonstration, and try the different products in and around your own home. Give yourself time and try to avoid rush decisions.
Making an informed choice
Today it is increasingly common to see a scooter or power chair being used by people of all ages and abilities. People have now found out that these mobility vehicles are popular because without them they would be housebound, or restricted to only very limited distances, and that they are easy to control, economical to keep, and actually pretty good fun!
However, deciding on which model to see and which company to buy from is very important, and can be difficult. You need to know that the product is suitable for all your needs, and that the company is a qualified and experienced supplier. You need to know that they will look after you and your vehicle, now and in the future.
This is why the BHTA has produced this guide to help you choose the best combination of product and supplier, helping you to make an informed choice and decision.
Points to ask:
Is the company a member of the BHTA?
Does the company offer a choice of manufacturers and models?
Is the company based near you with showrooms, servicing facilities, and on the road repair and service engineers?
Can the company provide servicing and finance plans and information about comprehensive insurance?
Do you know the cost of call outs and in-house servicing?
Does the company supply other independent living products to help you maintain your independence?
If you away on holiday you can find a list of BHTA members on our website should you need some help.
Always look for the BHTA and Trading Standards logo as a sign you are dealing with an approved member.
Scooters – How do I choose?
There are many variations of scooter, offering differing features to suit you, the environment you live in, and the terrain you wish to cover. Here are some questions to discuss with your local BHTA retailer when considering your options:
Is the scooter comfortable to ride?
Can I get on and off it easily?
Are the controls suitable and comfortable for me to use over a long period?
Is the scooter going to suit my needs for at least a few years?
Can the scooter carry me and my shopping?
Will the scooter be suitable for all types of terrain I anticipate wanting to use it over?
Do I need the scooter to be able to climb kerbs?
Can I dismantle the scooter to transport it in the car if needed?
Does the scooter give me the mileage range I need, not only when shopping locally, but also, for example, when I want to visit a National Trust stately home or gardens, participate in outdoor activities or when I go rambling?
Is the scooter stable and safe enough for my needs?
Do I have somewhere to store and charge up my scooter?
The models offered come in many styles: the smaller offering easy manoeuvrability, and portability, but often with smaller wheels which will not go up kerbs or over rough ground. Small batteries restrict range (possibly down as low as 10 miles), however, they may be better for indoor or short journeys. BHTA members are there to guide you through the process and make sure all your questions are covered and offer you reassurance.
Note that dismounting and mounting kerbs with any mobility vehicle can be very bouncy, and for some people can be uncomfortable, but with the increased availability of dropped kerbs and pedestrian areas you should find the need for kerb climbing less necessary.
Powerchairs – making the right choice
Powerchairs are usually more difficult to select than scooters. Most of the aspects you would consider when buying a scooter still apply, but generally a powerchair user has more limitations to their personal mobility, and will probably be using their vehicle more regularly, often all day, and may depend on it in their home and outside.
Comfort and support are essential and battery range is important if using all day.
Points to ask:
Where do I want to use it? Indoors – size of doors? Outdoors – level or rough ground? Are dropped kerbs available?
How far do I want to go?
Do I need it to go in a car? Does it dismantle easily? Who will dismantle it? How often?
Where will my vehicle be stored and charged?
Will I be in the vehicle for long periods?
Can I use it easily and safely?
Do I need it to be adapted for my particular comfort and safety?
Do I need special seating, backs, armrests, footrests?
Is there clear indication of the amount of charge remaining?
Is it available in different colours of frame and upholstery?
Who will service my vehicle?
Do I want extended warranty, insurance and a service contract?
Does my supplier adhere to the BHTA Code of Practice?
Is it a good idea to buy second hand?
Buying a second hand scooter or wheelchair can be as difficult as buying a second hand car. But it is here that you will reduce the dangers if you buy from a BHTA specialist.
They will check that your second hand vehicle is safe and road worthy, and they offer a proper guarantee.
They will help you to assess its suitability.
They will offer all the services of training and backup that you would receive if you had bought new.
They will charge a fair price.
Training me to use my vehicle
All of your BHTA specialists are keen to provide you with proper training to help you be in proper control and at ease with your newly found independence.
So ask them to accompany you in and around your home, and out to your local shops and venues. Your BHTA specialist will want you to feel confident so that you get the most pleasure and use from your new product.
Looking after and regularly charging your vehicle will increase its reliability and reduce its running costs. You must always read your owner’s manual and take particular note about how to charge the batteries. Battery charging uses about the same electricity as a 100 watt light bulb, so it won’t eat you out of house and home.
For further information see the BHTA leaflet – ‘Get wise to getting more from your battery’.
Caring for my vehicle
Your BHTA mobility specialist will always discuss the long term needs of you and your vehicle. After years of extensive design and development these products have become more reliable and durable, and you should enjoy independence without worry. However, you must appreciate that with time, as with any mechanical product, components can go wrong.
It is at these times it is most important that you have taken your local BHTA mobility specialists’ advice on regular servicing plans, extended guarantees and policies. If you are unfortunate enough to break down, you will realise why it was so important that you have a BHTA mobility specialist supply your mobility vehicle supported by factory trained and qualified service engineers, they will get you back on the road quickly and efficiently.
For years to come
Looking after your mobility vehicle properly will help you ensure trouble free mobility. However, just like a car, you should expect to incur some running expenses for servicing and new batteries, for example. So we recommend putting a little aside each week to cover maintenance costs, or alternatively, investigating extended warranties, service contracts and insurance.
We hope you enjoy your newly found freedom.
Help is at hand
These are some of the organisations which provide useful information and advice
Driving Mobility is a network of 16 independent organisations covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which offer professional, high quality information, advice and assessment to people who need to gain or retain independence through mobility.
Independent research charity providing free practical and detailed guidance for older and disabled consumers. Rica has an guidance on choosing a mobility scooter and a powered wheelchair, a search of measurements, features and details of over 400 powered wheelchairs/mobility scooters.
Also Rica has information on rights and regulations for travelling on public transport including which mobility scooters can go on buses, trains and trams plus advice on car boot hoists and blog posts written by scooter users with practical tips and advice.
Remember to always look for the BHTA and Approved Code Trading Standards logo (below) to get the support and advice you need to make the right choice. Visit our website to find your nearest BHTA member to where you live.
As a wheelchair user, you will find that more and more public transport is becoming accessible to you. New regulations mean that in future trains, buses and taxis will all have to be designed so that most wheelchair users can travel in them.
Here are some basic facts that you might find it helpful to know, particularly if you do not use public transport but would like to do so.
The majority of wheelchair users will be able to use public transport. But you may find that you can’t if:
Your chair is very big (taking up a space – when you are in it – of more that 700mm wide or 1200mm long), or
Your chair is very heavy, or
You need to travel with your legs fully extended or the backrest reclined, or
You have a scooter (which will be difficult to manoeuvre and may be unstable in a vehicle).
You must ensure that your wheelchair is in a safe condition to travel. This means, for example, making sure that it is correctly maintained, that the tyres are properly inflated, that you have not overloaded the back of the chair with bags (this can cause the chair to tip over backwards on a ramp). If you have a powered chair, you must also ensure that the battery is secure. If your chair has adjustable kerb climbers you should check that they are set so that they do not catch on the ramp.
The transport operator has the right to refuse to let you travel if he believes that your wheelchair is not in a safe condition.
There will continue to be a need for door to door transport services for those who cannot be public transport users.
Getting on and off
There are different kinds of boarding aids to help you use public transport.
In future low floor buses will have a ramp. In towns most will be power operated by the driver from his seat. In rural areas, the driver may operate the ramp manually.
Higher floor buses and coaches are more likely to have lifts, which will be operated by the driver or another member of staff.
On most trains manual ramps are kept on the platform or on the train.
Taxis generally have manual ramps, which the driver will operate.
Modern trams and rapid transit systems have level boarding so you can move straight from platform to tram without a ramp or lift.
On mainline trains (intercity, suburban and cross-country) and in buses there is a space designed for you to travel in safety and comfort. You must always use this space.
In a low floor bus this will be facing the rear of the vehicle in a position that provides handholds and protection behind you. You may need to manoeuvre your wheelchair backwards and forwards in order to get into the space. The wheelchair will not be secured. If you use a powered wheelchair, you should also make sure that the power is switched off when the bus is in motion.
On trains there is generally more space to move into position. Your wheelchair will not be secured.
The reason the wheelchair doesn’t need to be secured in the conventional way on these types of vehicle is because of their design and movement characteristics. They are more stable than smaller or higher floor vehicles so there is less sway while the vehicle is travelling. But you should always apply your brakes when the vehicle is moving.
Most trams or light rapid transit systems also have a dedicated space for wheelchair users. On systems that don’t, it is important not to sit where you are blocking gangways or doors, particularly if the vehicle is crowded.
In a taxi or a high floor bus or coach you may find the wheelchair position is either forward or rear facing but in either case the wheelchair must be secured to the floor of the vehicle with a restraint system. There will also be a passenger seat belt or harness. This is to ensure that you are safe and that your wheelchair cannot move around inside the vehicle and injure you or other passengers. Again, your brakes should always be applied. You should never travel facing sideways. It is not safe.
If you have never used public transport before, don’t be put off. Many transport companies now offer disabled people the chance to see how the system works – perhaps by a visit to the bus or railway station – before you travel for the first time.
Don’t pick a busy rush hour for your first journey if you are uncertain how you will manage. Travelling in the middle of the day will give you more space and time to build up confidence.
Public transport companies have invested time and money in making their vehicles and services accessible. They want you as their customers!
Help is at hand
These are some of the organisations who provide useful information and advice.
Community Transport Association Telephone: 0161 351 1475
Independent research charity providing free practical guidance on public transport including air travel and ferry travel and rights and regulations when traveling plus which mobility scooters can go on buses, trains and tram. Telephone: 020 7427 2460.
Generally, for a wheelchair to remain stable, it must be upright on its wheels with the combined centre of mass of the wheelchair and user being within the wheelbase of the wheelchair. These guidelines should only be used in conjunction with the manufacturers owners’ manuals and instructions for safe use.
What affects stability?
Ramps and slopes can present a high risk to users if they try to climb, descend or travel across slopes that are steeper than the safe working limit of the wheelchair. Appropriate gradients and surfaces should not cause problems if they are within the capability of the wheelchair. Wheelchairs should only be used on ramps or slopes that are less than the maximum safe slope specified by the manufacturer.
Note: it is important to talk to your local BHTA retailer or supplier. They will give you good advice regarding capability and suitability of each wheelchair.
Wherever possible, wheelchairs should be tested on any slopes that will be used regularly.
Steps, kerbs and soft ground
When travelling up, down or across a slope, contact with relatively small obstacles can cause instability leading to tipping or sliding. Hitting obstacles can also cause the seated occupant to slide forwards or fall forwards out of the wheelchair. Use on soft ground can lead to similar problems, as small or narrow wheels tend to sink into the ground. Negotiating kerbs or steps should be undertaken following the manufacturers’ instructions, but always try to use dropped kerbs and ramps where possible.
The addition of some seat cushions can raise the centre of gravity of the wheelchair and reduce the stability of the wheelchair in all directions. The addition of a backrest cushion will move the centre of gravity forward, improving rearward stability but decreasing forward stability.
Seating units fitted into wheelchairs, tilting seating units or reclining backrests can have similar effects on stability to the addition of cushions, by moving the user upwards and possibly forwards or rearwards within the wheelchair compared to the original seating position. This will affect stability in all directions.
The attachment of accessories or other items such as shopping bags, ventilators or oxygen cylinders hung or positioned on the rear of the wheelchair will move the combined centre of gravity of the user and wheelchair rearward. This may not cause problems on level ground, but it can make the wheelchair unstable when climbing a slope or ramp. Never carry passengers.
User body movement
The stability forwards, rearwards and sideways can be reduced by the user moving their upper body or by leaning out to operate switches or pick something up. However, rearward stability can be improved when climbing slopes if the user can lean forward.
In some cases the wheelchair will slide down a slope with its brakes applied or tip if it is nearing its limit of stability. Users and carers should be fully aware of the correct method of operation of all the brakes on their wheelchair, and that the effectiveness of brakes can be reduced when the wheelchair approaches its stability limits. Keep tyres inflated to the manufacturers recommended pressures.
Can be added to the front or rear of some wheelchairs to give physical restriction to the amount of tipping that can occur. It is essential that any anti-tip device will have sufficient strength to function correctly when the wheelchair is carrying its maximum user mass on the steepest intended slope.
Rear wheel positions
To improve rearward stability, some wheelchairs have the option of moving the rear axle mount backwards. This could be part of an adjustable mounting or a fixed position further rearward than standard. Rear axle mounts can also be moved forward to improve the manoeuvrability and allow easier tipping to climb kerbs, but it is critical to strike the appropriate compromise between instability and ease of propulsion.
Propulsion by motor
The majority of powered wheelchairs now have the ability to programme the response of the control unit. Users should be aware that any sudden movement of the input device on a wheelchair programmed for fast acceleration can cause instability particularly on slopes or uneven ground. If this is a problem for a user, then the control unit should be re-programmed to lower acceleration settings.
Propulsion by hand
The position of the axles is critical to the safe operation of the wheelchair and any sudden or violent movement can cause the wheelchair to become unstable when climbing, descending or traversing slopes.
Care should be taken in wet or icy weather, particularly on sloping pavements or vehicle run-ups, as wheelchairs tend to slide to the lowest point.
Lack of maintenance or poor maintenance can lead to the wear or failure of components that may cause the wheelchair or the user to change position unexpectedly. This could lead to the user falling from the wheelchair or tipping over with the wheelchair. Manufacturer maintenance instructions should be adhered to. Always use a qualified technician to service or repair the wheelchair. See also BHTA leaflet ‘Get wise to getting more from your battery’.
If the wheelchair is approved by the manufacturer for transportation by a seated person, make sure that you use the wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint system approved by the manufacturer. If you are using large public buses or trains, use the dedicated wheelchair space and any restraint systems provided.
Help is at hand
There is a range of Get Wise leaflets on our website and you will also be able to find your nearest BHTA retailer for advice and assistance. Visit the Find a Member section at www.bhta.com.
Why should we have a Highway Code for electric scooters and wheelchairs
Mobility products are divided in Class 2 and Class 3 vehicles. Class 2 are limited to up to 4 mph and in general are designed for pavement use. Class 2 mobility products have a maximum speed of up to 8 mph for road use, but have a switch to reduce the maximum speed to 4 mph so they can also be used on a pavement. Where pavements does not exist you may have to use the road until you can return to a pavement at the first opportunity.
Driven safely mobility products can give people freedom and independence, in the wrong hands they can do considerable damage to property an other pedestrians.
Which Highway Code category do wheelchair/scooter drivers come into?
The categories of road users in the Highway Code are pedestrians, cyclists, motor cyclists and motorists. As a wheelchair/scooter user you don’t really fit any of these categories. You may however partly fit any of them.
Road or footpath?
Some wheelchairs/scooters can only be driven safely on the road. This does not always make it safeto do so. To drive safely on the road it is advisable to have a Class 3 vehicle capable of doing 6/8 miles an hour, equipped with headlights, rear lights, flashing indicators and a horn. Even with all this you may not use dual carriageways unless you also have an additional flashing beacon light and you are not permitted to use bus lanes or cycle tracks.
Under NO circumstances is it permissible for scooters or wheelchairs to be driven on motorways.
General points to consider before buying your vehicle
Make sure you are able and fit to use it safely.
It is usually possible to get advice through your local Social Services or Occupational Health Service and your doctor. You need to be able to:
Seewell enough to be safe.
Adequately control your vehicle and do all the possible manoeuvres, such as reversing, climbing and descending kerbs and turning safely.
Cross busy roads. This is not as easy on a scooter/ wheelchair as on foot.
Know the rules of safety and consideration for yourself and other people.
It is important to talk through your requirements with BHTA specialist or talk to your therapist or healthcare professional if you need advice. This true even if you have driven a car previously, as it is very different from driving a scooter/wheelchair. If you would like advice from a BHTA specialist visit our website and look under our “Find a Member” section.
At present there is no overall legal obligation about insurance, though some finance companies insist on it. Nevertheless it is a very good idea to make sure you are covered for fire and theft, accidental and malicious damage, and Third Party Damages – just in case.
Comfort and Safety
Make sure your vehicle is the right one for you. Get advice when choosing and watch for things like seat and handle positions and height. It is important you are comfortable and in full control of your vehicle. The reasons for choosing three or four wheeled vehicles are varied and depend on many factors such as your weight, size and height, weight of chair for lifting and quality of your roads. You need to be extremely careful when ascending and descending kerbs and when turning, as if this is not done carefully and properly the scooter will tip.
The manufacturer’s literature and owners manual will tell you the range of your vehicle but remember this is a guide only. Generally they tell you the range if driven on the level on a smooth surface and when the batteries are new. Few people would want to drive round a smooth car park for 20-25 miles! Rough surfaces, hills, gradients, cold weather, kerbs and carrying a load of shopping will all reduce the distance you can do without charging your batteries. Recharge your batteries according to the manufacturers’ instructions.
Do not be too ambitious where distance is concerned. Build up your experience and range gradually.
Consider joining the AA or a similar organisation
The AA has a special membership package for wheelchair/scooter users. They will not try to do road side repairs, but will get you and your vehicle home. Many mobility insurance packages include a Get you Home Service within their polices so it is worth discussing with your local BHTA specialist for advice.
Consider investing in a mobile phone
Some service providers will provide a special low rate for occasional users who need the phone for possible emergencies. Move Consider investing in a mobile phone to top of right hand column.
On the footpath the limit is 4mph (6.4kph) whatever the capacity of your vehicle. On the road it is 8mph (12.6kph). If driving a Class 3 vehicle on the pavement it must be switched to 4mph mode.
Do not overload your mobility product. It may make the vehicle unstable and reduce its range. Place heavy loads inboard – in the middle – not behind the back wheel which can lighten the steering or can cause the front end to lift off the road on a bump, and not at the front which might make steering heavy.
Watch your brakes
Never try to drive, or even sit on your vehicle while it is in “free wheel”. The electronic brake will be out of action and the vehicle could run away with you.
Do get your vehicle serviced regularly according to manufacturers’ advice.
Keep tyres at the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. They will last longer and be safer. Replace when they become worn.
Check bulbs regularly and replace when needed, use your lights frequently, at dusk onwards, on a dull or rainy day.
These are normally provided with all new mobility products and can give you good advice on how to use and maintain your vehicle. If buying second hand it is always worth trying to obtain
Sensible guidelines for safety
When using the footpath –Just because you are on a footpath or pedestrian precinct does not make you a pedestrian. If you are on a motorised vehicle you are no longer a pedestrian.
Rememberpedestrians always have right of way!
Many people on foot will be kind and helpful to drivers of a wheelchair/scooter. But not everyone!
In a crowded precinct or market area, or footpath, it is your responsibility to ensure you do not run into anyone or do any harm with your vehicle. While many people will make way for you, you cannot expect everyone to do so. Some will appear to not even realise you are there. They will climb round and even over your vehicle rather than allow you room to move. Make sure you have your vehicle is set to 4 mph if it is a Class 3 (6/8mph) product.
Do not yield to the temptation to ram them!
When climbing or descending kerbs –Always approach at right angles, with your front wheels straight on the kerb. In some power chairs it is necessary to descend high kerbs backwards.
Do not try to climb or descend kerbs higher than the manufacturer recommends. Move carefully, to avoid traumatic bumps – to yourself or your vehicle.
Watch our for
Children –They may well run in front of you without warning. You may only be moving very slowly, but you could still injure a child.
Elderly People –They may be unable to quickly move aside to let you pass. Give way to them.
Disabled people on foot –Give them space and time.
Other motorised vehicle users–You may be doing all the right things. This does not guarantee they will do likewise.
When you need help
You may need to ask people to open doors for you. I have found that most people are willing to help, if asked politely. Don’t struggle to do the impossible or even the very difficult things when there are people around who would help if asked.
Driving inside shops and buildings this is where you have the advantage over car users! Not many supermarkets would welcome a car driving round their store. But bigger shops and even some quite small ones are accessible to wheelchairs and scooters.
Once inside the store it isyour responsibility
to drive safely and not damage the fittings, the stock, or hurt other shoppers or store workers. You may need to ask for help. Again in most cases people are willing if asked properly. Don’t risk pulling down a whole display to reach the top shelf. Ask for help.
Speed in shops and buildings – Reduce it!
It is a good idea to set the speed control to a lower level to avoid any accident. Be especially careful if you need to reverse, that your way is clear of shop fittings and people. Three wheeled scooters with their manoeuvrability and lightness of steering are more suited to shopping.
On the road
Remember you are not driving a car, but a very small and slow vehicle, which is therefore more vulnerable.
If it is possible, use the footpath. It is wise to avoid using roads, particularly busy ones.
When driving your vehicle on the road remember although this is legal for all vehicles it is not always safe or sensible to do so. You are responsible for your own safety and that of other road users. The normal rules of the road apply – but modified.
You must observe the law about:
Driving on the left side of the road. Never drive against the traffic.
One way streets – Never drive against the traffic.
Giving way where cars would give way (details in the Highway Code).
Obeying traffic lights and all other road signals and instructions.
Giving way to pedestrians on crossings.
But always remember your vehicle is not a car and is small and vulnerable.
If you need to turn right across traffic, try to get on to the footpath before the turn and then use a safe pedestrian crossing or traffic light control crossing. Only try to turn right if you are completely sure it is safe to do so. Do not rely on your mirror. It may give a false impression of distance. Always give clear indication of intention to turn left or right.
Remember –The car you can see when you look behind may appear a long way away, but it is almost certainly moving faster than you are – often deceptively so. It could well be upon you before you complete your manoeuvre. And it may not be able to stop in time.
When passing a parked vehicle –take great care you are not moving into the path of a faster moving vehicle coming behind you, or towards you.Always signalyour intention to pull out.
In the event of a difficult or dangerous situation –Use your hazard lights – But do not drive with them on unnecessarily.
We recommend you also read our‘Get Wise to buying a mobility vehicle’
at the same time if you are considering purchasing a mobility product.
Be visible to other pedestrians and road users.
When out and about on your mobility vehicle you can make your presence higher by wearing high visibility jackets or some other reflective wear. It is better to be seen and be safe.
Remember to always look for the BHTA and Approved Code Trading Standards logo (below) to get the support and advice you need to make the right choice. Visit our website to find your nearest BHTA member to where you live.
Visit one of our mobility centres today
You can visit either of our stores in Folkestone or Thanet to see the full range we have available. Benefit from free demonstrations, helpful advice or our convenient hire service.