Multiple Sclerosis can cause mobility problems for some people. Unfortunately I am one of those people. I started having problems with my gait in 2004. My issues started off slow, but have progressed to the point where I can no longer walk long distances.
I started using a mobility scooter in 2011. I had been using a transport wheelchair in situations where a lot of walking was required (see The Wheelchair and Me). Although it allowed me to participate in activities I previously had to decline, I still felt limited. The transport wheelchair required a companion. I couldn’t go places by myself.
I had reached a breaking point. My limited mobility was impacting my quality of life. Something had to change. I headed to see my neurologist and obtained a prescription for a mobility scooter along with a referral to a medical supply company. After the company called to ask me a few questions about my condition, a rep arrived at my door with a scooter. It was compact and easy to navigate. I told him I’d take it and he said that was good because this scooter was mine.
I went to the library on my first trip out on my own with my scooter. Oddly, I didn’t have any anxiety about the excursion. I didn’t care how I looked gliding by on my new ride. Maybe it was the practice I’d had with my wheelchair. But I think what happened, why it was so easy to accept, was that it gave me back something I’d been living without: independence.
I’ve had to make some modifications to my home and my vehicle to accommodate my scooter. Although the particular scooter I use is designed for easy travel and can be disassembled into four parts, we had a lift installed in our minivan. I am not able to lift the separate parts on my own. Of course this was not cheap and my insurance wouldn’t cover modifications to our vehicle for accessibility. I purchased a used lift, which provided some significant savings. I was also able to get assistance from our van manufacturer. Most all vehicle companies provide assistance in the form of a rebate for accessibility modifications. Anyone interested in this assistance should check with their automaker to find out the eligibility criteria. Often cars must be new and there are time restrictions as to when the modifications must take place.
The other obstacle I had to address was how I would get the scooter in and out of the house. We have a single story home constructed at grade, so the main concern was doorway thresholds. I purchased two threshold ramps. One allows me to take my scooter in the backyard. The other allows me to go out into the attached garage. These ramps are inexpensive and easy to install. I purchased one at a medical supply store and the other online.
My scooter has changed everything for me. I can go anywhere on my own. With my scooter I can go shopping by myself, I don’t have to decline social activities that involve a lot of walking, and I even use it in the house when my legs just stop working. While I’d prefer to have the mobility that MS has taken from me, I don’t view using a scooter as a negative in my life. Missing out on activities and having limited independence was much worse. For me, the benefits of my scooter outweigh any hang-ups I ever had about using one.
Of course, there are downsides to using a scooter. I can’t always navigate everywhere I want with it, although I do pretty good in most situations. But the real bummer comes from the unwanted attention I receive from others. People are curious, I get it. I don’t mind a polite inquiry. Unfortunately, I encounter far too many people that say really stupid things. I’m still learning how to cope, but I don’t let it stop me. I’ve got places to go.