There are a number of things to think about when choosing a motorised mobility aid such as a mobility scooter or electric wheelchair. This guide will address some of the questions that arise.
When should I get a motorised mobility aid?
This is a very personal decision. There is a common stereotype that people who use wheelchairs (electric or otherwise) or mobility scooters are completely unable to walk and there are often stigmatised representations of using wheelchairs or mobility scooters. A wheelchair or mobility scooter is simply a tool to enable you to live a more independent life. Nina Tame is a disabled influencer on Instagram who puts it very simply and clearly. She says “If you think you need a mobility aid then you need a mobility aid”. You may be assessed by your local wheelchair services or occupational services or you may simply find that your ability to get out and about is far more limited than you would like. It is important to continue to exercise to your best ability if have some walking ability but you can make more choices about where you exercise if you are more mobile.
What are the factors in considering what I need?
Where do I want to use it?
Will I use it indoors, outdoors or both? How far do I want to travel on it? Electric wheelchairs or powerchairs can usually be used indoors and outdoors where mobility scooters tend to be for the outdoors and the larger mobility scooters are actually road vehicles.
What are my personal physical requirements?
These include things like
- Your weight.
- Your manual dexterity. Physical considerations in control of the chair/scooter such as if you are able to use only one hand then you need to factor that into your choice of design. Or for a portable scooter/chair – does it fold easily or can I easily take it to pieces?
- Will I need to lift or move the chair or scooter myself? Does the design and weight of the chair or scooter allow me to do that?
- How much strength or balance do I need? Generally you will need more core strength, balance and manual dexterity for a mobility scooter than a powerchair or electric wheelchair.
- Do I want to walk sometimes like you might do using a scooter to go to shops or will I stay on it all the time? Do I need to carry a stick/s or crutches?
- What do I need to be comfortable? Do I need a fully ergonomic seat with arm rests or am I ok with something more basic?
Characteristics of the scooter or chair
- Portable or not? If portable is it to put it in a car or to take on public transport?
- Storage space? How much space is needed to store it?
- Charging? What space is needed to charge your scooter or wheelchair? Can you remove the battery and charge it out of the scooter or chair? This is an important consideration as some places have begun to stop people charging mobility scooters in shared spaces so if you have a removable battery then you can still charge it indoors if rules change where you are.
- Will you be transporting it independently and can you manage every part of that process?
Mobility scooters only – will you using it as a road vehicle or only on pavements?
More information on mobility scooters.
Mobility scooters come in two classes. Legally they are called Class 2 and Class 3. Class 2 mobility scooters can go at speeds up to 4 miles per hour in the UK and are legal for travel on pavements only except where there is no pavement and you can use them on the road. Class 3 mobility scooters can legally travel on the road and on the pavement. It is only legal to travel up to 4 miles per hour on pavement but these scooters can go up to 8 miles per hour on the road.
Class 2 mobility scooters do not need to be registered but Class 3 mobility scooter do. You can read more about the rules and registration here:
I know what my requirements are. What do I do now?
If you have access to the internet then a good look around to see what models may fit your requirements can be really helpful. If you don’t have access yourself but a friend, relative or carer can help then do ask them. Ideally you want to know what each machine weighs if you will need to lift it, where you can find one to try and also what the reviews say about it. Read both positive and negative reviews if you can and check on any reviews of the company supplying it. You can find reviews of companies and their customer service here:
Do see if you can find a mobility store near you or that you can access to try out the models of scooters you are interested in. It is only by test driving your mobility scooter or wheelchair that you can truly know if it will meet your needs. Even if you are buying a second-hand wheelchair or scooter then do try out the same model in a shop if you can.
If you are in receipt of a disability benefit with a mobility component then you may be able to use this to rent a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair from Motability. The scheme allows eligible people to lease either a car or a mobility scooter. You can find out more here:
If your mobility is severely impaired you may be eligible for an electric wheelchair through NHS wheelchair services. You can find out about the kind of criteria they use for eligibility by reading this patient guide produced by Southeast Scotland Wheelchair Services:
You will not need to do the same research if you are being assessed for one by the NHS as they will determine your requirements and choose the model for you.
Information last updated on 11 April 2022. Please note that information may be subject to change. All information is provided in good faith but Disability Information Scotland does not endorse any product or service referred to within this resource.
If you would like this information guide in another version then please contact us and we will post or email you a copy.
Aids, Equipment & Adaptations, Equipment & Adaptations, Mobility, Travel & Transport:Frequently Asked Questions
Through our helpline we receive enquiries spanning a wide range of different topics. Here is a selection of those most asked:
How can I get an adaptation made to my house?
Housing adaptations can reduce the risk of accidents at home and promote independence.
If you are disabled, or someone in your home is disabled, you may get help with a wide range of adaptations to your home. Examples of adaptations include:
- Replacing a bath with a level access shower.
- Making it easier to get into and out of the house by widening doors or making a ramp.
- Fitting lower worktops in a kitchen.
Smaller adaptions can also be made, such as:
- Fitting a grab rail
- Provision of a shower chair
In most cases, as a starting point you should contact your local Social Work Department and ask for an Assessment of Needs, which is usually done by an Occupational Therapist (O.T.).
For further information see our Disabled Home Adaptations Information Guide.
How will PIP affect my ability to use the Motability Scheme?
The Motability Scheme enables disabled people to lease a car, powered wheelchair or scooter. Eligibility to use the Motability Scheme is based on receiving one of the following benefits.
- Higher Rate Mobility Component of DLA
- Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of PIP
- War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
Awarded the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of PIP
For existing Scheme customers, their eligibility to remain on the Motability Scheme will depend on the outcome of their assessment for PIP. If you are awarded the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of PIP you should not experience any disruption to your lease as you move from one benefit to the other.
NOT awarded the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of PIP
If you are not awarded the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of PIP you will not be eligible to use the Motability Scheme. Being forced to leave the Scheme will be a difficult transition for you and your family.
The Motability Scheme has put in place a one-off package of transitional support to those customers who can no longer use the Scheme as a result of their initial DLA to PIP reassessment. This transitional package will include guidance on your mobility options and next steps, financial support if eligible, advice on buying a second hand car, information on insurance, maintenance and other mobility solutions, as well as the purchase price of your vehicle. You will be able to keep the car for eight weeks after the DLA payments stop.
In addition, if you first joined the Scheme before the end of 2013 you will have the option to keep the car for 26 weeks after the last DLA payment. If you choose to keep the car for this extended period your transitional support payment will be reduced.
For further details of the transitional support process please visit the Motability website. Their website has a useful section with more detailed information on the transitional support package. You can also phone the Motability Scheme helpline on 0300 456 4566.
Am I eligible for a reduction on Vehicle tax?
You might be eligible for a reduction or exemption on vehicle tax if you are disabled and meet the eligibility criteria. The vehicle must be registered in the disabled person’s name or nominated driver’s name and must only be used for the disabled person’s personal needs.
You can apply for exemption from paying vehicle tax if you get the:
- higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
You can get a 50% reduction in vehicle tax if you get the PIP standard rate mobility component.
For more information contact our helpline on 0300 323 9962.
Can I use my Blue Badge in Europe?
The Blue Badge scheme is for drivers or passengers with severe mobility problems. The scheme provides a range of on-street parking concessions enabling Blue Badge holders to park closer to where they need to go. The scheme operates throughout the UK and is managed by local authorities who deal with applications and issue badge. The Blue Badge is recognised across Europe, so you benefit from the same parking rights as anyone else with a disability in whichever country you’re in.
Parking concessions for holders of a disabled parking card differ from country to country, so it’s important to check the rules in the country you’re visiting
For further information check out the worldwide guide to parking abroad by The International Automobile Federation.
How do I get a concessionary bus pass?
Concessionary travel gives free or discounted trips on public transport to eligible disabled people and older people living in Scotland. This information guide outlines the main travel concessions available, eligibility and how to apply. Concessions apply to buses, trains, ferries and some coach services.
Contact your Local Authority or Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to apply for your National Entitlement Card. Find your local concessionary contact at the Transport Scotland Website.
You will need:
- a recent completed application form
- a recent photograph
- proof of age or disability
- proof of your current address
For further information see our Travel concessions for disabled people information guide or contact our helpline on 0300 323 9961.
How can I get a disabled parking space outside my house?
To get a disabled parking space outside of your house, you should contact your local council to apply for a disabled parking space. They will conduct an assessment which may incur a cost.
To apply, you must meet the following conditions:
- have a valid and current blue badge
- either be the driver of the vehicle or be assisted by a carer who is the driver, provided that the carer lives at the address stated
- the vehicle must be kept at the address stated in the application form
- there is normally difficulty in obtaining a parking space on the public road.
Bear in mind that the space can be used by anyone with a disabled parking blue badge and cannot be reserved for the sole use of the applicant.
For further information or help searching for your local council’s contact number then please contact our helpline on 0300 323 9961.
For more information on getting a blue badge, check out our Blue Badges Information Guide.
Am I eligible for VAT relief on disability equipment?
In general, disabled people do not have to pay VAT on goods and services that are designed/ or adapted solely for use by disabled people. These goods and services are often called ‘zero-rated’ or ‘eligible for VAT relief’.
The majority of suppliers will know if their product has been specifically designed to help disabled people. They will offer their products free of VAT at the point of sale.
You’ll need to confirm in writing that you meet these conditions. Your supplier may give you a form for this.
Most suppliers will use the Notice 701/7 VAT relief for disabled people form.
For further information see our VAT Exemption for Disabled Goods Information Guide or call our helpline on 0300 323 9961.
I would like to apply for a blue parking badge, where do I start?
The quickest and easiest way to apply for a blue badge is on-line. You will be asked a few questions to see if you may be eligible before applying.
The second option is to make an application through your local council. Many local authorities have applications available to down load online. If you do not have access to the internet then you can phone your local authority and request a paper copy be sent out.
I am going on holiday, how do I hire a mobility scooter or wheel chair when I am there?
If you are staying within the UK you can search for a Shop Mobility local to where you are going. Another option would be to search for local mobility equipment providers.
The Mobility Equipment Hire Direct is a one stop shop to hire a wide range of mobility equipment in a variety of destinations from anywhere in the world using your chosen currency and in your chosen language.
Helpline: 0300 323 9961
For further information on hiring equipment away from home check out our Accessible Holidays Information Guide
I’m struggling getting in and out of my bath, is there any support that I can get?
Often we get individuals phoning because they are struggling with getting in and out of their bath. The first step would be to contact your local social work department to arrange an Assessment of Needs. You might be eligible to get an adaptation, such as a walk in shower, made to your bathroom. For more information see our Assessment of Needs Information Guide.
Aids, Equipment & Adaptations, Equipment & Adaptations, Mobility, Travel & Transport:Search for Local Organisations
Our quick search tool can connect you to over 3000 service providers, suppliers and organisations supporting people across Scotland. To find support near you, simply enter your search term and select your local authority.