7 Things You Need to Know About Traveling with Your Mobility Scooter

Travel Scooter

My town fixed all the sidewalks to be wheelchair friendly. I think there are two wheelchair users here, but it wouldn’t matter if there were none. The Americans with Disabilities Act applies whether or not you have disabled customers. Airline, bus and train companies are also supposed to comply. Mostly they do, but some are not 100% wheelchair and scooter friendly.

You can travel with your mobility scooter on planes, trains, and buses. Planes disallow certain batteries. All carriers can restrict length, width and weight. Yes you can travel with your scooter, but  there are gotchas you need to know.

Most carriers have length, width and height restrictions on mobility scooters
Most carriers have length, width and height restrictions on mobility scooters

The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards includes “mobility scooters” as a medically necessary covered entity. This makes it a medical device, known in tax terms as Durable Medical Equipment (DME).

This means the ADA applies to mobility scooters. Trains, planes and buses are required to help you travel with a your scooter.

Just researching mobility scooters? Go to WHAT YOU OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT MOBILITY SCOOTERS BEFORE BUYING.

How to Take a Mobility Scooter onto a Train

Any ADA rule affecting wheelchairs also affects mobility scooters
Any ADA rule affecting wheelchairs also affects mobility scooters (pic. source)

American trains accept mobility scooters.

The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to train transportation.

Here’s the problem: Not all train transportation is in compliance with these laws.

The actual accommodations depend on the specific station and train. Here are some examples and phone numbers for you to research the details.

Amtrak®

Large or bulky scooters might be too large for some transports
Large or bulky scooters might be too large for some transports

Amtrak® accepts “wheeled mobility devices” that meet specific criteria found on their Amtrak® Vacations website here.

  • The mobility scooter must be
  • no larger than 30 in. wide
  • no longer than 48 in. long
  • have a minimum 2 in. ground clearance
  • be no heavier than 600 lb.
  • be manual or battery-operated, but not motorized

To get Amtrak® help:

  • Call Amtrak® customer service at (800) 872-7245
  • Visit Amtrak® Contact Us page
  • Tweet @Amtrack using this link to Twitter
  • View Amtrak’s Accessibility Needs page on their website

Metrarail

Metrarail (or “Metra”)  is a large train provider in the Chicago region.

They use the same scooter storage rules as Amtrak®.

Scooters may be as large as 30 in. wide, 48 in. long, and 600 lb.

For help traveling with your scooter on Metrarail:

  • Call Metrarail’s customer service at (312) 322-6777
  • Visit Metrarail’s Accessibility page on their website
  • Use Metrarail’s website Contact Us page
  • Tweet @Metra using this link to Twitter
  • Write to Metra at 547 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1400, Chicago, Illinois 60661

BNSF Rail

BNSF Rail does not publish their ADA compliance policies online.

Because they are a part of the Metrarail Chicago line, they should follow Metrarail’s policies (above).

For more information, call Metrarail at (312) 322-6777.

Via Rail (Canada)

Scooter rules are constantly changing.
Scooter rules are constantly changing. (pic. source)

In 2017, the Canadian Transportation Agency ordered Via Rail to accept wheelchairs and electric scooters on its trains.

The policy allows riders to use their wheeled mobility devices as their train seats, as long as there is room.

The alternative is to store the scooter in the baggage department.

The rules are a bit slippery right now, so it’s best to call Via for information on exactly how you can use your scooter as your train seat.

Call Via Rail customer service at (888) 842-7245 for more information.

Canadian National Railway

Canadian National Railway does not publish their disability rights policies online.

Call CNR customer service at (800) 361-0198.

LIRR and MTA

The LIRR is behind ADA requirements
The LIRR is behind ADA requirements (pic. source)

New York’s LIRR and MTA Metro North are still updating their stations to comply with the ADA.

165 of 209 stations are wheelchair-friendly.

The MTA is updating 11 more stations in 2019 and 2020.

View their accessible stations list here.

MTA allows wheelchairs and scooters on its trains, but does not give maximum dimensions or weights on its website.

On the bright side, the MTA has a dedicated disability transportation service.

Learn more about the MTA’s paratransit service under the Bus section, below.

  • In New York, contact the MTA at 511
  • Outside of New York, call (877) 690-5116

How to Take a Mobility Scooter on an Airplane

US law requires airlines to accommodate mobility scooters.

Airlines have the right to reject scooters they deem unsafe.

There are Major Restrictions on Scooter Batteries

Airlines have strict rules for scooters like the Go Go Folding with a lithium battery
Airlines have strict rules for scooters like the Go Go Folding with a lithium battery

The battery type is especially important on airplanes.

Regulations define the battery types allowed and disallowed when flying.

United Airlines does a good job explaining the battery requirements, which you can read on the United Airlines site here.

1800WheelChair.com has some good info about scooters and airline flights here.

The summaries below are ordered from most to least restricted.

Lithium ion batteries can explode are the most dangerous and the most restricted. Wet cell batteries can spill acid. Dry cel and gel batteries are relatively safe so long as they are intact.

Lithium Ion Batteries on Planes

Non-rechargeable lithium ion  “with more than two grams of lithium” are forbidden. For all other lithium ion batteries:

  • The battery must have a cut off switch to prevent it accidentally coming on
  • If it doesn’t have that, personnel might remove the battery’s wires
  • Lithium ion batteries used in collapsible (foldable) scooters must be removed and must not be more powerful than 300 watt hours
  • Spare lithium ion batteries must be separately packaged
  • Spares must be in stored in non-conductive material (a plastic bag)
  • Terminals must be covered with non-conductive caps
Spillable Scooter Batteries on Planes
  • Most Shoprider scooters use Sealed Lead Acid batteries
    Most Shoprider scooters use Sealed Lead Acid batteries

    Spillable batteries are “wet cell” battery types

  • Some carriers do not allow wet cell batteries on board at all
  • It must be free of defects
  • It must be disconnected
  • The terminals must be insulated
  • Loose batteries must be stored in an airline-approved box:
    • The box is leak tight
    • The box is impervious to battery fluid
    • The battery is stored upright in the box
    • The battery is insulated from short circuits
    • The box must contain enough absorbent material to absorb the entire liquid contents of the battery should the battery rupture
Non-Spillable Scooter Batteries on Planes
  • Non-spillable batteries are “dry cell” and “gel” battery types
  • Store the battery attached to the scooter so long as there’s a cut off switch to prevent the battery from engaging
  • If that doesn’t exist, airline personnel will remove the battery cables for the flight
  • The battery must be in a rigid housing within the scooter

Carrying a Scooter on an American Airlines Planes

When traveling on American Airlines you check your scooter at the ticket counter or departure gate.

This scooter breaks down into pieces for travel
This scooter breaks down into pieces for travel

Request special assistance when booking your flight. The airline asks scooter passengers to call ahead.

Give the airline as much notice as you can that you will travel with your scooter. Their Special Assistance department will tell you if the scooter battery is acceptable for flight.

Even if you know it is, it’s better to clear the concern ahead of the flight.

  • Contact American Airlines Special Assistance
  • In New York, dial 711
  • Outside New York, call Special Assistance at (800) 433-7300

Scooters United Airlines

United Airlines accepts any kind of scooter. Larger and overweight scooters might incur overage charges.

Smaller planes have different rules
Smaller planes have different rules

If the plane has fewer than 60 seats, you must call at least 48 hours in advance of takeoff. Smaller planes have limited storage room.

Check your scooter at the ticket counter or departure gate.

You can use one of their wheelchairs after checking your scooter.

To help the baggage personnel transport your scooter, fill out this Customer Wheelchair Information card at least 48 hours before the flight.

United only disassembles your scooter if it doesn’t fit through the cargo door.

Attach assembly/disassembly instructions to the scooter handlebars.

Southwest Airlines

eWheels E66 Four Wheel Heavy-Duty/Bariatric Mobility ScooterSouthwest Airlines doesn’t require you call ahead, but suggests that you do.

You should mention your scooter when you book your ticket.

Check your scooter at the check in counter. Personnel will store the scooter in the cargo area.

  • Call Southwest at (800) 435-9792
  • View Southwest Scooter info here

Delta Airlines

Shoprider Flagship blue mobility scooterTo transport your scooter on Delta Airlines, fill out the Wheelchair Handling Information form.

Print the filled out form, place it in a laminated sleeve, and attach it t other scooter.

Check the scooter when checking in or at the departure gate. You can use Delta’s wheelchairs after you check in your scooter.

Contact Delta:

  • Call (404) 209-3434 to reserve a Delta wheelchair
  • Call (800) 984-8935 to inform Delta you will need to store your scooter in the cargo area

How to Take a Mobility Scooter on a Bus

Wheelchair rider locking into bus interior
Wheelchair rider locking into bus interior

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires buses to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

The bus must have a lift or ramp so you can board the bus on your scooter.

You can either store your scooter in the bus cargo area, or take it into the seating area.

If you do go into the seating area, there has to be a secure spot for you to park.

Scooter user locking into bus seat area
Scooter user locking into bus seat area

Cities like New York offer a paratransit service dedicated to helping disabled people use public transportation. You can get specific information about the services on the MTA website here.

Read the ADA rules for mobility devices on buses here.

  • Call the MTA at 1 (877) 690-5116
  • Email the MTA at this link

More Scooter Travel Resources

Although the Wheelchair Travel website is about wheelchairs and not scooters, it’s still a very useful site. Much of the info on this site applies to mobility scooters too. Click to view Wheelchair Travel.