Personal mobility aids (PMA) typically come in two types: mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs. As devices whose sole purpose is to provide more freedom of movement for the elderly and the disabled, it is only natural to ask if this includes getting the chance to travel once more. Thankfully, the answer to that question is a definite 'Yes. Nowadays, virtually all public transport methods can accommodate passengers dependent on PMAs. Therefore, the only thing that needs to be taken care of is the travel plans and how to get there. If you or your elderly parents are due for a relaxing getaway, here are some tips and preparation advice on travelling with their motorised PMA.
A few things to consider beforehand
Before heading out, come up with a detailed plan for the intended travel destination and how to get there, no matter if it is only a few hour's drives away or somewhere much farther. Moreover, consider securing the kind of help you may need to get around for the sake of preparedness, even if it may not be required.
If you are travelling to an event or for a similar reason, always call ahead and ask for the necessities, such as available access points and storage space for motorised PMAs, especially the bigger mobility scooters. Likewise, do your own research on publicly available accessibility features on the way to and within the destination, as well as potential obstacles like hills and difficult terrain. Regarding these dangers, make sure to remind your elderly parents or other PMA users in your travel group about the common hazards to avoid when riding their PMA.
Lastly, try asking the common public transport providers about their size limits on motorised PMAs. Following their rules ensures that PMA users can safely board and disembark their vehicles.
Travelling by taxi
For destinations that are relatively nearby, accessible taxis or those of bigger sizes, such as SUV types, are a great option. Major cities typically have a fleet of them readily available, and there is also the option of hiring them on-demand using popular transport apps like Grab. Getting the motorised PMA loaded in the trunk is relatively simple with some physical assistance from the driver or your own specialised accessories like portable ramps and mobility scooter hoist.
Riding the train
Virtually all trains and their respective platforms now come equipped with accessibility features for PMA users: barrier-free routes, wheelchair-accessible toilets, ramps and lifts, and wider fare gates. Moreover, they also come with wheelchair-accessible carriages, marked by signs and stickers on the platform's screen doors and floors. When boarding, make sure the PMA is locked in its parking position to avoid accidents or injury while the train is moving.
Going by bus
Modern buses will usually have a ramp system that extends a platform that passengers with special needs can use to board the vehicle. Check with the local bus companies if they have such newer models, and preferably give them a 24 hours notice of your request to ensure that the appropriate bus will be assigned to your route.
Catching a plane
It is common knowledge that airlines are rather stringent on the items they allow onboard their planes, particularly batteries and other hazardous materials. Thankfully, they usually make exceptions for motorised PMAs. To make sure your airline of choice has these exceptions, contacting them is the first step.
Inquire about their specific restrictions on the acceptable size of motorised PMAs, and if there will be a need to dismantle those that go over the limits. Do not forget to bring up batteries and the necessary precautions required for their safe transport. More often than not, you will have to check the motorised PMA into cargo and use a temporary PMA provided to you to get from the check-in area to the gate. Upon reaching your destination, your motorised PMA can be easily retrieved at the baggage claim.
Travelling with a motorised PMA is certainly doable, with many transport methods now prioritising accessibility for disabled individuals. With just a bit of extra planning, going on a trip with your elderly relatives will be no different than before.