Transporting a Scooter or Power Wheelchair
Jacqueline A. Hall, MS, OTR/L, MSCS
What is PMD?
A major consideration when obtaining a power mobility device (PMD) is the method of transportation from one place to another. Private transportation is the most frequent method of transporting a scooter or power wheelchair. Many people own a sedan or hatchback style passenger car, the majority of which do not have adequate trunk space to transport a power wheelchair or a scooter unless it is disassembled. There are several requirements to consider when wanting to transport scooters and power wheelchairs.
Scooters are easier to transport due to the ability to break them down into an average of 5 parts - the heaviest of which is 43 to 46 pounds. Typically, the person transporting the scooter needs to be able to:
Note: This requires lifting the scooter over the trunk edge and down 4 to 6 inches into the trunk.
If you cannot lift the scooter parts into the vehicle, there are motorized scooter lifts available. The lift is mounted inside the trunk of the car if it is large enough, and after the scooter seat is removed, the scooter can be stowed in the vehicle.
There are many styles of power wheelchairs and a variety of ways to transport them. The majority of power wheelchairs can be transported in most vehicles. However, to do this many power wheelchairs will need to be disassembled and then placed in the vehicle. Generally, these power wheelchair models are lighter weight and are intended for intermittent use for individuals under 250 pounds. Typically, the person loading and unloading the wheelchair needs to be able to:
A scooter or power wheelchair can also be loaded into a private vehicle using a portable ramp. The ramp must be of an adequate length to safely load and unload the device. To determine the appropriate ramp length for safely loading the scooter or power wheelchair you should:
The resulting number is the minimum length in feet, indicating how long the ramp should be to safely stow and unload a power mobility device. For example:
For this example, the loading ramp should be 7 feet long.
For safety reasons, the power mobility user should NOT ride or drive their scooter or wheelchair up a portable ramp into the vehicle. The user should set the gears into a freewheel mode and should push it up the ramp and into the vehicle.
If use of a private vehicle is not available, a second option is to use a wheelchair accessible transportation service. Many larger cities and counties have specially designated buses for individual wheelchair or scooter users to be transported to different locations within the community. These programs are usually designed following accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ADA Standards for Accessible Guidelines (ADAAG), as revised. Customers must meet specific eligibility criteria established by the city or county that may include: needing the assistance of another person to ride the bus, the inability to use steps to get on/off the bus, the inability to access a bus stop, or the inability to transfer out of a scooter or power wheelchair once on the bus. There are three primary disadvantages to accessible bus programs:
A third option for transporting a scooter or a power wheelchair is public transportation. Most cities now have buses available for use that are equipped with wheelchair lifts. In general, you will be expected to independently load and unload your wheelchair or scooter within a 2 to 3 minute time period - assistance is usually available for securing the mobility device within the bus. Be aware that buses cannot operate a wheelchair lift on a hill, so you should go to an accessible bus stop on level ground.
The VA requires that Veterans obtaining a power wheelchair or scooter take responsibility for transporting the mobility device. The decision to provide power mobility equipment is based on medical need, and this will also be considered in provision of equipment to assist with transporting a power wheelchair or scooter. Transportation of power mobility should be considered carefully, and discussed fully with the people whom you will be asking to do the hands-on work. Consider the following:
In summary, the use of power mobility frequently means a change in the type of transportation you are currently using. The Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) within the VA is a good resource for information about eligibility for lifts and vehicle modifications. A Veteran who would like to be evaluated for transportation options for their power mobility device should have their VA primary care provider send a consult to their facility’s PSAS. PSAS will forward the consult to the appropriate service provider that may be a physical therapist, occupational therapist, recreation therapist, or driver training specialist. The clinician will assist you in determining whether an existing vehicle will be suitable for transporting the power mobility device and will recommend the appropriate vehicle and needed modifications. If changing your existing vehicle is not an option at this time, then the clinician can recommend the appropriate private and public transportation options within your community.
Last Updated: October 2009