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Driving Mobility are hoping that a certified assessment and training scheme into the use of powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters will prove beneficial to retailers…

The mobility sector has over many years built a strong reputation for advice and assessment when helping consumers to make what are sometimes life changing decisions, to maintain independent living and mobility. Retailers have developed from the early days when “ministry-approved repairers” were the main access point to the industry for consumers, through to today’s, franchises and a large number of independent retailers.

As the industry has grown, training has usually been reserved for the engineers within a retail business. They have attended courses on service and maintenance of a manufacturer’s products and have been accredited. Many retailers will have their engineers’ certificates on their showrooms walls to provide reassurance to customers that they and their mobility product will be looked after for service and warranty.

But there isn’t the same recognition for the sales assessors and showroom staff within a retail business. These are respected staff members who also take pride in their daily roles to ensure their customers are properly assessed and helped to make difficult decisions, many at vulnerable times.

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Some staff who have been in the industry for a long time might see training and certifications as unnecessary, as they have learnt by experience, but neither that experience nor its value to your sales people and your business are officially recognised.

Certification through an accredited training programme should be seen as recognition of your value to the industry. It offers staff the opportunity to promote their knowledge and experience to consumers, offering reassurance.

Having fully accredited sales staff and engineers, puts out a positive message to consumers, healthcare professionals and local charities that yours is a business they should be visiting when considering mobility and independent living.

Pilot project

Driving Mobility, the umbrella charity responsible for regional driving centres around the UK has been awarded a Road Safety Research Grant to establish the feasibility of a nation-wide certificated assessment and training scheme for the use of Powered Wheelchairs & Mobility Scooters.

The key objective of the pilot project has been to develop and assess a certificated assessment and training scheme for the road use of Powered Wheelchairs & Mobility Scooters (class 2 and class 3 vehicles under the Road Traffic Act 1988 Regulations).

The ultimate aim is to ensure that anyone selling a vehicle of this type is certified to do so, and that they have been trained to carry out basic health checks and elementary training to ensure that the client is safe using the machine they are purchasing.

Certification could be achieved through the individual attending on-line and a “train the trainer” type short course that would be delivered through the Driving Mobility national network of mobility centres and transport hubs.

The key benefit of this project is to improve road safety by ensuring that vulnerable individuals with new and second hand (class 2 & 3) vehicles are properly assessed for their suitability for a particular machine type, and effectively trained in their use.

Currently there is no standard national protocol for the assessment and training of new users. As a result, people often obtain vehicles (both new and second-hand) that are unsuitable for them in terms of their ability to control the vehicle safely. This proposal is innovative in that it uses a train-the-trainer approach to enable a cascade, building on existing protocols, to move towards a national certificated regulatory environment.

The goal is to ensure that the network of retail/hire outlets across the country has suitable employees trained as assessors/trainers.

Encouraging feedback

Driving Mobility has run four pilot courses at which retailers could carry out the online training modules followed up by a face-toface half-day hands-on session, to be certificated. The pilot schemes that were ran at the Queen Elizabeth Foundation and William Merritt mobility centres in September helped bring together experienced mobility retailers, Shopmobility staff and NHS partners with a mix of delegates helping to give a wide variety of experience in the healthcare sector.

The scheme initially will train one staff member, who will then use the additional experience and training information to enhance the training and experience of other members of staff as mentors within their retail business.

The initial feedback from the pilot scheme events has been encouraging, with some delegates not aware of some of the relevant legislation in mobility. Some are eager to use the training modules they used, to add easy-to-learn information about mobility that will help staff be in a better position to inform and advise consumers in their day-to-day roles within their retail businesses.

The pilots have also offered a great opportunity for the delegates to exchange knowledge and experience at different levels and also use the training to the growth and development of the scheme so that it can adapt as new information and regulations change that effect the sector.

The pilots have also recognised that on-line training modules could be extended to cover other subjects within the sector so that in-house staff could extend their knowledge and experience and work towards certification in time.

Once the pilot trials have been completed Driving Mobility will be reporting back to the Department for Transport, but it is already clear that there is a gap in training in the sector and as retailers all seek to improve their showrooms and range of products, surely the next step will be to have professional, fully trained staff that are recognised by an accredited industry body.

If you are a mobility retailer and would like to be informed of future developments please email Driving Mobility at: info@drivingmobility.org.uk or visit the website at: www.drivingmobility.org.uk.
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