Dr Mike Bruton MBE is the President of the Disabled Ramblers Association (registered charity 1103508) and ex Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. He lives with a slowly deteriorating mobility disorder. He has been using mobility scooters now for 19 years enabling him to visit countryside places and explore off-road tracks and trails - an activity he deeply loves. He now uses a Harley Davidson style black and chrome Supersport from TGA chosen to suit his changing needs and to continue countryside visits.
Back in 1997 Mike Bruton was one of the founding members of the 'Disabled Ramblers' as an independent registered charity, which grew out of an earlier group founded in 1993 as part of the Disabled Drivers Association. During 2000 the charity moved on to its present status, that of a not-for-profit charitable company. Mike, a retired British Airways computer consultant, and ex Mayor, was honoured by The Queen in 2005 for his work in promoting and enabling access to the countryside by disabled people. The 'Disabled Ramblers' actively supports many individuals so they can overcome a possible lack of confidence and experience many of the most beautiful parts of the UK, either alone or in the company of fellow scooter users.
In addition to the role of Chairman and subsequently President of the Charity, Mike has been, and still is, now on a smaller scale, involved with accessibility campaigning so that less able people can enjoy the British countryside, away from cars and roads. His first scooter was a 'Sportster', which was the direct pre-cursor of the current TGA Supersport. In 1998 he helped organise and take part in a 62-mile trek on his adapted machine from Oxford to Maidenhead to highlight the poor access around the UK countryside for disabled people. With the help of friends and a custom-built portable bridge for scaling stiles and kissing gates, Mike reached the finish to be greeted by a group of people which included Richard Simmons, then Chairman of the Countryside Commission, and Teresa May MP! This resulted in the beginning of a process of change that has improved outdoor accessibility across the country, leading to the current national guidelines to accessibility published and promoted by Natural England, (successor to the Countryside Commission, and now the Government body on Countryside issues). These guidelines are titled 'By All Reasonable Means' and are available directly from Natural England. Working with colleagues through the 'Disabled Ramblers' Mike has provided advice to the National Parks Authorities, Natural England itself and has helped in the long drawn out process of changing local authorities perception of disabled people's needs towards outdoor pursuits.
From 1991 until 1999, Mike relied upon his 'Sportster' scooter, which allowed him to co-ordinate and first manage one disabled ramble each year in some of the most picturesque parts of England and Wales including the Ridgeway and Thames Path National Trails, and in the New Forest. The initial expeditions were often very difficult and lengthy (up to 20 miles each day). However, as the years progressed, a policy decision was made reducing distances to an average walker's seven or eight miles each day. The 'Disabled Ramblers', under Mike's Chairmanship, instigated pre-route surveys and a categorisation system so ramblers could assess the difficulty of the route before embarking on the journey. Robin Helby, the Disabled Ramblers Vice-chairman, devised a trailer which incorporated a mobile toilet and up to four heavy-duty scooters for loan to members as required.
Mike explained, "My previous scooter provided me with my first means to campaign for disabled access rights and enjoy countless memorable rambles. Its manouvrability and stability allowed me to negotiate all manner of rough terrain and would comfortably complete a 20 mile round trip on one battery charge. With advancing age, my needs have changed, and I decided to go back, after a further nine years, in a sense to my first scooter: however now greatly upgraded. It is now marketed by TGA as their 'Supersport'. I look forward to many more expeditions over the coming years on my new Supersport."
Today, the Disabled Ramblers enjoy a high profile in the disabled community and even attracted interest recently from BBC Radio 4. The first in a series of programmes hosted by Claire Balding focused on countryside walks and featured the Disabled Ramblers as they tackled the South Downs coastal path. The association organises over 30, 8-mile rambles a year, which have attracted over 400 disabled people over the last few years, with an average attendance of 15 to 20 disabled participants per ramble. Members still often find a need to campaign for improved countryside access by encouraging those responsible to remove inaccessible man-made barriers whilst preserving the character of the natural environment. The Disabled Ramblers have covered over 1,400 miles of off-road trails so far and always welcome new members, whilst sharing their knowledge and experience with everyone.