If you’re an older adult with mobility issues, the thought of being able to use a wheelchair or scooter to finally get out of the house, if it’s just to shop or enjoy the outdoors, is something you probably look forward to. But getting around safely, be it in a supermarket or crowded downtown area, comes with new challenges. It is not as easy as when you jumped on your bike as a kid and took off. Now, it may take a little bit of practice and some advance scouting to make sure things go smoothly.
So, how can you or the people that accompany you on these journeys, make sure you’re safe? These tips may help you and them plan a great outing.
Consider Your Physical Health
Age brings gradual losses in hearing, vision, reflexes, and flexibility. You need to consider your limitations when it comes to crossing streets or get through parking lots. The idea that you can enter a crosswalk at any time and still make the light may be a thing of the past. So, observe one traffic light cycle before entering a crosswalk to know how much time you have.
Best Times to Go
Shopping during busy times is stressful enough. But navigating crowded aisles in a wheelchair or scooter can be worse. Consider visiting stores at off-peak hours when there might be more staff available to help you.
Taking your time while shopping can make it easier to move through the store without bumping into shelves, displays and people. As frustrating as it may feel, don’t be in a hurry to get out of the way so someone else can get by you.
Wheelchairs in Crowds
When maneuvering a manual or power wheelchair in crowds, you are likely situated lower than everyone else. That can make it hard to spot hazards and have people spot you. Consider navigating through or around a crowd it instead of trying to join it. The chances of someone knocking into or tripping over you increase the longer you remain in a crowd. Power wheelchairs used to be very big and bulky. There are a lot of great sporty looking options now! If you are wheelchair bound but do not want a power option, an ergonomic wheelchair is a great option. Built for comfort!
Mobility scooters usually cover a wider range of terrain at higher speeds than manual or power wheelchairs. They’re also sometimes more maneuverable in public. But their top speeds pose safety hazards that users need to consider to avoid accidents. Remember, you’re still a pedestrian despite having motorized wheels, and you need to obey the same rules at crosswalks and traffic lights as other pedestrians.
When first using a scooter, it takes time to master it. Practice driving it in a safe environment, like in a park. That will give you an idea of what it’s like to navigate different types of terrain and best ways to avoid stationery objects or people. You’ll need to get used to reducing your speed before braking, making turns, or navigating crowds.
Plan Ahead: Research Your Scooter, Research Your Route
Scooters can navigate a wide range of terrain, but some landscapes remain inaccessible without ramps. Check out maps or online reviews for accessibility. Also, rough terrain can damage a scooter, if it was not built for it, so consider one that can handle unpaved surfaces, hills, or steeper inclines.
Considerations for Dining Out
Many restaurants have accommodations for people with disabilities, but it can still be difficult to navigate them in wheelchairs or scooters. The hope is that you could reach any bathroom faucet with ease, navigate through dining rooms easily, and be seated at tables with comfortable heights.
Research the restaurant before you go. Online restaurant reviews and info can help you determine whether the space and facilities meet your needs. Look for customer reviews on the dining experience and call ahead. Ask whether the entrance is scooter or wheelchair-accessible. Is there a handicapped stall in the bathroom? Can tables fit wheelchairs comfortably? How spacious is the dining room? How far is parking from the restaurant entrance?
If you have questions about the best wheelchairs or scooters to fit the needs of you or a loved one, be sure to contact your Mobility Concierge at Angelion Mobility. Our team will listen to your concerns and ideas before you purchase or rent any of the models available and educate you on all the little details that are most important to take into consideration.