Isha: Edward, welcome back to the Health and Wellbeing Show. How are you?
Edward: I am very well, thank you. Thank you very much inviting us back again.
Isha: No problem at all. We’re delighted to have you part of the show. How was your open day last week?
Edward: Oh, it was fantastic. You know, it started off with Holly Day coming in and actually feeding us Pirate FM cakes, which was brilliant. It really got us all going in the morning, and we had a great day - really really great day. The main point about it was for our president, who is Lord St. Levan, to actually launched the website - which he did at a sort of formal, big-do in the evening. So we launched this new website.
Isha: Just tell us what the web address of the new website is.
Edward: Well, the web address is cornwallmobility.co.uk and it is a brand new website. It’s been produced by a company in Hayle called Nixon who produces wonderful modern website - it’s really contemporary, very relevant to what we do. It’s got fantastically easy navigation, and I’m very appreciative that everybody says this about their websites, but it really does. So I would encourage anybody with an interest in disability or mobility to go to our website, have a look at it because you never know when you might need this type of assistance. There is an element about what we do that is about public awareness of disability issues, and so if people would like to have a look at a wonderful new website in this area, it’s cornwallmobility - all joined together - cornwallmobility.co.uk. You can also find us on Facebook on Twitter.
Isha: Well, we’ll all have a look I’m sure. I’ll definitely have a look after we finish with this piece. But today, you’ve brought along a colleague with you. Would you mind just introducing your colleague?
Edward: I have indeed. I have brought Mel Brown. Mel is head of our Independent Living Activity, which I think listeners may remember from our previous broadcasts, is one-half of what we do. Last time we talked about driving and vehicles, this time we’re going to talk about some issues related to independent living, and Mel is head of our Independent Living department.
Isha: Welcome, Mel. Thanks for joining us.
Mel: Thank you.
Isha: Can you describe in your own words what you do on a day-to-day basis at Cornwall Mobility?
Mel: I can. I run the showrooms at the Center, where we assess for independent living equipment. We occasionally sell independent living equipment, and generally give advice on all manner of things to do with independent living.
Isha: Is it in particular mobility scooters and power chairs that you deal with?
Mel: That’s one of the areas we deal with. Obviously, we cover all sorts of equipment from very small items that people can take off the shelf, up to the more complicated and very high-specification items like power chairs, large scooters, small scooters, specialist seating - all manner of things.
Isha: Tomorrow is quite an interesting day - 1st of October - as people will no longer be issued a paper version of their tax disc.
Mel: That’s right.
Isha: Now I believe that raises some issues for the mobility scooters.
Mel: It raises a question I think. Some people might be wondering whether they will still have to actually register a class 3 vehicle. If I can explain the classification of vehicles in the regulations, in the Road Traffic Act of 1988, there is an explanation of what the classifications are, and a class 1 vehicle, for instance, is a manual wheelchair; class 2 is a powered wheelchair or scooter which goes up to 4 miles per hour; and class 3 which is the one which currently has to display a tax disc, which is the 8 mile per hour road-going scooters. This is free, and at the moment, people fill in a registration form when they purchase one of these. They then are sent a tax disc just as they are when you purchase a vehicle. I actually contacted the DVLA this morning to find out whether we still have to do that when we sell someone a class 3 vehicle - will they still need to fill in this form because there are no tax discs issued anymore? Class 3 scooters - in fact any scooters - do not have to display a registration number. They are allocated one, but they don’t actually have to display it. So how is it going to be policed is my question to the DVLA. They have said that the form still has to be filled in, the registration still goes ahead and they are allocated a registration number, but that’s it. They don’t have to display any paper disc the same way a vehicle doesn’t, so it all seems a bit odd.
Isha: So if I understand this, you won’t be able to differentiate one power scooter from the other.
Mel: No, no. So if someone had an accident for instance, on the highway on a large scooter, and the police came along, they wouldn’t necessarily straight away be able to identify that scooter because there is no registration number on it. Or if someone was lurking along the road and maybe a police car drove by, you know, they can identify a car by its registration number but they can’t identify a scooter because there is no displaying of a registration number.
Isha: What do you think needs to happen now if these tax discs no longer need to be displayed?
Mel: Well, I’m not sure. My question really was the DVLA are trying to save money. It seemed a little ridiculous that people are still having to still fill in a registration form when they’re not having to display a number. It seems a little odd, but there you go, that’s the law for you! One of the things about the classification, though, that maybe people aren’t aware of - one of the things that we’re trying to raise awareness of - is that when people buy second hand vehicles, they may not know that they should be registering it with the DVLA. So that’s something that people need to consider. And when they’re purchasing off the internet, they may not be informed that that’s what they should be doing.
Isha: So do you, when people purchase these scooters from you, do you fill out all the details?
Mel: We don’t fill it out for the individual. We give them the form, we give them a how-to leaflet that explains how they should fill it out. Obviously, if they’re going to struggle, we will help them, but generally we empower the individual to do it for themselves.
Isha: So at the moment, there are still a few question marks over how this is going to be placed?
Mel: There are. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future. I mean, the same with the cars I suppose. We’re all waiting to see how it’s going to be policed, and if it does actually save them money. But we will wait and see.
Edward: The other thing with the police is that they are now going to be recording accidents involving mobility scooters on the highway, and that’s a new thing only announced about six months ago. You’ve got this picture of the police coming along to a road traffic accident, finding that one of the vehicles involved is a mobility scooter, and desperately looking for some means of identifying whose it is, if the person say has got off and gone, or been taken away or is incapacitated in some way. You can see that actually, if you’ve bought one off the internet not registered, you could be the subject of police wondering who you are and why you’ve got one in the first place. And those are all the sorts of questions that Melanie seeks to address.
Mel: That’s right.
Isha: So Mel, what other legal requirements are there for these scooters?
Mel: Well, if we look at the two classifications, class 2 and class 3, the class 2 vehicle is one that does a maximum speed limit of 4 miles per hour - usually classed as a pavement vehicle. The class 3 vehicle can travel up to 8 miles per hour, which is quite a scary speed actually, and there are certain requirements - legal requirements - for that vehicle. It has a maximum unladen weight of 150 kilograms. It has a maximum width of 2 foot 9 - sorry that’s old money - 0.85 meters. It has to have a device which limits the speed to 4 miles per hour if that individual has to come off the road and onto the pavement, or into a pedestrian area. It has to have an efficient braking system - it goes without saying. It has to have lights and indicators for obvious reasons, because you have the same rules of the road as for anything else. One thing that sometimes is forgotten about and again is the legal requirement is that it has to have rear view mirrors, which I’ve seen scooters on the road that don’t have this. It has to have an audible warning instrument, in other words, a horn. There’s some interesting ones around! And if you are wanting to use it on a dual carriage way, it has to have an amber flashing light if it’s a four-wheel vehicle. It doesn’t say what you do if it’s a three-wheel vehicle, but it does say you have to have an amber flashing light if it’s a four-wheel vehicle. And again, that’s something that’s not common knowledge. Once again, the concern for us, and why we encourage people to come in and talk to us or give us a ring and have a chat with us, is if you purchase second-hand, we appreciate that not everyone can afford new and they will go and buy one second hand, but they need to be informed about what the regulations are.
Isha: So do you think that this information isn’t that accessible for people?
Mel: Not generally, no. Or assumptions are made, I think. People just think - oh it’s not a car - they don’t have to worry. But it’s a very dangerous beast, really. It’s not just about the regulations either, it’s about their awareness on the road. I mean they may have been car drivers in the past, which is fine, but there are also some people out there that were never car drivers and suddenly they are on a scooter on the road. We’ve all seen people that we don’t feel are handling a scooter correctly, or doing the right thing, and that’s something else that we’re able to offer. We can offer scooter awareness sessions, where if you belong to maybe a group or you live in sheltered housing or something and there’s a few people that own a scooter, we can come along and do a session. It’s a free session where we can go through the rules and regulations and actually physically show people what they should be doing on the road in a safe manner.
Isha: Fantastic. Well Mel, thank you very much, and thank you for your advice there as well. Edward, if people do want to find out more information about yourselves, I know at the start of this interview, we mentioned your brand new website, but could you just remind us of the web address and how they can get hold of you.
Edward: Yes, I think as Mel has mentioned, we’re very happy for people to ring us up or come and see us. People sometimes refer to us as the best kept secret in Cornwall. We are right next to the Royal Cornwall Hospital on the Treliske site. You go past the hospital towards North buildings, just by the helipad. We’re on the right hand side. But if you want to check that out or look at our new website, it is cornwallmobility.co.uk. And we’re also on Facebook and Twitter so we’re very easy to find on the internet. So yeah, check out our new website - that would be great.
Isha: So you’re both going to be back on the show in two weeks time. What are we going to be talking about?
Edward: Well, we’re going to be talking about what to expect when you come and see us. Some people are slightly nervous about coming to some institution, and wonder what it’s going to be like. So we’re going to talk in some depth about what we do, from the moment that you arrive at our front door and how that all works - just to give people reassurance that it’s a really good place to come to.
Isha: Well, Edward and Mel, thank you very much for your time.
Mel: Thank you Isha.
Edward: Thank you so much.