U.K. train operator Northern has been roundly criticized for how it treats disabled passengers. A pensioner attempting to board was turned away because she uses a scooter. The customer was unable to get from Featherstone to Leeds because her mobility device didn’t fold, a requirement dictated by Northern’s traveler policies. The incident led to a local council meeting on the woman’s behalf. Northern confirmed its policy bans unfoldable scooters due to limited space. It is likely to reconsider the policy for future designs but no timeframe for a change has been provided.
According to the Yorkshire Post, Northern’s policy limits the type of scooter allowed to those that can be folded and carried like a piece of luggage. Since most trains were built long before the rise in popularity of mobility scooters, they weren’t designed to leave room for passengers riding them.
Who Uses Scooters?
Many of those who use scooters are recovering from an injury or surgery. Some seniors with permanent mobility challenges use scooters to get around at home and elsewhere. Medicaid in the U.S. does pay for some scooters when there is sufficient medical need.
Benefits of Medical Scooters
“The medical scooter is a high quality, multi-featured mobility equipment, offering even individuals with low mobility the freedom to and independence of getting around indoors and outdoors without the help of others. Power scooters are operated with the use of a tiller, and are equipped with swivel seats to make it easy to get on and off the mobility scooter,” according to Avacare Medical, an online retailer that sells scooters.
Steering a scoot requires hand and finger coordination to control the tiller and sufficient balance to stay seated. Scooter riders also need to have enough mobility to sit and stand independently. However, carrying a folding scooter, as required by Northern’s policy, may be beyond the capability of many users.
Medical scooters also offer fairly long distances on a single charge, so they’re ideal for longer outdoor trips, such as to a train station between cities. As more people turn to scooters to resolve mobility issues, public transportation agencies will be forced to make accommodations or face public scrutiny and potential lawsuits.
No statistics are available on similar incidences in the U.S., but more understanding is needed to accommodate those who require special assistance, such as scooter, due to health issues.