Possability People's Communication volunteer, Martin Shelley looks at our Shopmobility Service.
With the prospect of Christmas shopping fast approaching, hopping on a mobility scooter to ease the burden should be an easy choice for a disabled person or anyone with a health issue. But with machines costing anywhere between £500 and £5000 it’s no surprise they’re not a more common sight in and around Brighton and Hove.
Thankfully there’s a solution to this particular problem, and one that reflects the current consumer shift away from ownership and towards a rental-first, on-demand economy. Step forward the Shopmobility service.
Operated locally (as part of a national scheme) by Brighton and Hove charity Possability People, this service rents out a range of electric three and four wheeled mobility scooters (and wheelchairs too) for just £5 a day, between 10am and 4pm.
But while some customers might be day trippers seeing the sights, visiting family or attending conferences, most are locals coming into the city centre to shop and socialise, and it’s these latter customers who seem especially taken with the benefits of Shopmobility, if the sentiments left in the service’s comments book are anything to go by.
“It’s been an absolute godsend… [the scooter] has certainly coped with the hills, the long days and the shopping bags!” said one user.
“Awesome. Would and could not go shopping without this,” enthused another, while a third explained,
“As a recent wheelchair user with a young family, I found the service invaluable. Shopping is now so much easier, and enjoyable again.”
All the scooters come with a handy basket, and have the capacity to carry additional bags. Some models can be accommodated on the city’s buses too, so users can shop wherever they want to in the wider Brighton and Hove area, not just the fashionable parts of the Lanes or Kemptown.
This bus-friendly aspect helpfully renders the machines accessible to people living further afield as well, as the volunteers who sometimes deliver the scooters can also use a little assistance from public transport to reach their destination. Coldean and Whitehawk, for example, have both featured on recent itineraries, alongside the more usual suspects like Brighton and Hove’s hotels and railway stations.
Customers don’t need a licence to use a mobility scooter – that’s a common misconception. Just a short demonstration on how to control it will suffice, given by one of the friendly team who staff the Shopmobility office in Churchill Square’s car park. For anyone who wants more of a training session, that can also be provided.
Volunteers Mick, Richard, Steve and Lewis – all of whom enjoy a bit of friendly banter with customers – are nearly always on hand to help, working hard looking after their fleet of ‘green’ machines and helping first-time users, and can often be seen around the city collecting as well as delivering the scooters.
And remember – you can still use a mobility scooter even though your health issue might be relatively minor. So if you’re recuperating after an operation, a little help getting around could make all the difference on your road to recovery. In the comments book mentioned earlier, one customer wrote, “This is a most valuable and appreciated service, giving my friend who has just come out of hospital an opportunity to go shopping safely.”
Many of Shopmobility’s customers are mobile but struggle with Brighton’s hills, and a scooter often turns their time from a quick dash around Churchill Square to a more leisurely day spent gliding around.
Christine, a regular scooter user who often visits Brighton and Hove with her husband, admits her vanity kept her from using a mobility scooter for a long time, but once she got used to it she’s now a firm fan.
“I can’t go down slopes because of my knee, so the scooter gives me freedom in town,” she says. “We would still come in to Brighton but without the scooter it’d be for a maximum of an hour. With it I can stay here until Shopmobility closes, and I can have a whole day out.”
So if you hadn’t thought about hiring a mobility scooter to help you out for a day, give Possability People a ring and get scooting now!
If you’d like to use the Shopmobility service, call 01273 323239 or email firstname.lastname@example.org