Safely choosing and using mobility aids

Incidents involving mobility scooters result in almost 1,000 Australians being admitted to hospital each year.

Most of these injuries occur to users, but wider community safety is also a concern due to the increasing use of these devices.

The VicRoads guide to choosing and using mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs is a resource for people with mobility issues, their family members and carers to help them select and use the best device for them effectively and safely. The guide includes comprehensive information, handy checklists and useful contacts for further information and services to support mobility and safety. 

Injuries to scooter users commonly result from the scooter tipping over, a collision with a stationary or moving object, or the user tripping or falling from the scooter. Pedestrians and other road users such as cyclists can also be injured. A collision with a heavy moving device, such as a mobility scooter, can cause serious injury and falls, even at relatively low speeds.

Jacob is an access consultant and advocate for access for people with disabilities. He lives with cerebral palsy and can walk for short distances, but uses an electric wheelchair to travel further afield and get out and about in the community independently.

He finds travelling up steep ramps and over uneven surfaces in his wheelchair challenging, requiring careful navigation.

Jacob thinks the VicRoads’ safety tips are comprehensive and provide good points for people to think about when choosing mobility aids.

His advice to people considering using a motorised mobility aid is to think about its width and turning circle, to make sure it aligns with current building and public transport access standards.

Health professionals, like occupational therapists, can help people to choose the right device for them, as well as assist with assessment, training and regular review to optimise safety.

Learning how to use the devices properly is one of the most important things users can do to protect their safety and that of others. This means getting thorough hands-on training on operating and managing the device in different circumstances and on different terrains. 

It takes practice to manoeuvre a scooter safely and confidently. Mobility aid users can practise getting on and off public transport and develop their skills and confidence in using their devices at events such as the Traveller’s Aid free scooter safety practice sessions.

Top 10 safety tips for mobility aid users

  1. Seek professional advice when choosing a device to ensure it caters for your individual needs and situations.
  2. Make sure a mobility aid is right for you – you need to be physically and mentally capable of using a device safely.
  3. Get hands-on training on how to use your device properly.
  4. Travel at speeds appropriate for the conditions (no more than 10km per hour), and at walking pace around pedestrians.
  5. Where possible, use pedestrian crossings or crossroads where there is good visibility of oncoming traffic. Approach driveways and ramps head-on, not at an angle, to avoid tipping.
  6. Slow down to make turns and reduce the risk of tipping.
  7. Make sure you are visible – wear light-coloured clothing and use a visibility flag.
  8. Travel on the footpath wherever possible and avoid hills.
  9. Check the suitability of the device for use on public transport.
  10. Take extra care and look out for hazards in areas such as train platforms and shopping centres.

The Victorian Government recognises the importance of motorised mobility aid safety and is committed to helping people who have difficulty walking to remain active members of our community.