For many individuals with mobility disabilities, a disabled scooter is an attractive alternative to a manual or powered wheelchair. Small sit-down motor scooters provide important advantages to people with mobility problems throughout the world. Also, swivelling the seat of an electric scooter is generally easier than moving the foot supports on most conventional wheelchairs. A mobility scooter is very helpful for persons with systemic or whole-body disabling conditions.
Electric wheelchairs and Mobility scooters all share a recognisable set of features. Each has a seat at the rear of a wheeled platform, with controls and sometimes handrest on a column in front of the seat, called the tiller. The wheeled platform is the base unit. It supports the feet and batteries and contains the drive system. Scooters can have either front- or rear-wheel drive, and most have either four wheels or three (two in back, one in front).
The base unit is the body of the scooter. Generally it consists of a steel, aluminium, or composite frame with a fibreglass or composite floor to support the feet and batteries. Some scooter bases include a shroud over the front wheel and drive head, giving the scooter a bullet-shaped appearance. The base also includes the wheels and the drive train. In some scooters, the seat post is part of the base. The scooter’s manoeuvrability and its suitability for indoor or outdoor use largely depend on the characteristics of the base unit such as its turning radius, the size of its wheelbase, its ground clearance, and its overall dimensions. The base unit also affects the comfort and safety of the rider. When evaluating a scooter, it is important to be certain that the base can accommodate the user's needs. The floor should provide enough space to comfortably support the feet at a natural angle, and the overall dimensions should permit the controls to be easily reached and manipulated.
The drive train is an integral part of the base unit and provides either front- or rear-wheel drive for the scooter. Front-wheel drive is usually found on smaller scooters designed primarily to be used indoors or outdoors on flat, paved surfaces. The motor of the front-wheel drive scooter is located over the front wheel and drives only that wheel. Because of the motor and wheel configuration, front-wheel drive scooters are usually direct-drive units, eliminating chains and belts.