Vehicles right off the line that have no accessible or adaptive equipment are designed with a safety bubble comprised of firmly anchored seats, seat belts and a belt restraint system to protect the upper and lower torso, and air bags to pillow you in the event of a crash. This “cone of protection” does not exist for those with disabilities riding in wheelchairs.
To get such protection in an accessible vehicle it has to be modified by a mobility equipment dealer. Mobility equipment dealers know that transferring to the vehicle seat offers the highest level of protection. Second best is a WC19 compliant wheelchair, which is designed for use as a seat in motor vehicles. (Regular wheelchair frames and seats are just not strong enough to withstand crash conditions.)
Below are some reasons to let the professionals handle the installation.
On a vehicle with no modifications:
- It is difficult to find suitable places on the wheelchair frame to attach wheelchair tiedowns. Or it is likely that the places you find are not strong enough to hold up under a crash.
- Tiedown straps may be attached to the most accessible places on the wheelchair, which are often the weakest. (Attaching to detachable footrests or armrests is a really bad idea.)
- Belt restraints should fit over the pelvis and shoulders. However, most wheelchair designs make positioning vehicle-anchored restraints difficult.
- Many times, wheelchair occupants are placed facing sideways in the vehicle, since this is easiest for getting a wheelchair in and out of the vehicle. But then occupants are in the least-safe orientation for a frontal crash. All occupied wheelchairs should face forward during transit.
- The experts will tell you trays and tray-mounted accessories are rarely fixed to wheelchairs with safety in mind. They should be stowed elsewhere during transit or attached securely.
An accredited mobility dealer knows all this – and more – and works to make your ride the safest and most comfortable possible.
Source: Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Wheelchair Transportation Safety (www.rercwts.org)
This mobility safety update has been brought to you by NMEDA – the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. Need some information on how to make your vehicle wheelchair accessible or upgraded with the latest and most convenient features? Contact a NMEDA dealer in your local area. Your local NMEDA member is a mobility equipment and accessibility expert!