TRANSPORTATION SAFETY FOR WHEELCHAIR-SEATED TRAVELERS

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Please Read These Important Sections regarding
Transportation Safety for Wheelchair-Seated Travelers:

Section I – My Accident

Section II – State and Federal Law

Secton III – RERC WTS -Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety

Section IV - Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider, Director, University of Michigan, RERC WTS – Letter to my mom  Re: Transportation Safety for Wheelchair-Seated Travelers

Section V- 2008 New Jersey Legislation

Section VI – 2009 Massachusetts Legislation Filed

Section VII – Federal Government’s Role

Section VIII – Miscellaneous Notes of Importance

Section IX – How YOU can  Help

Section X – Summary and Thank You

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Section I- My Accident

kenny-in-er-5-18-08.jpgI love to travel and am out and about in my van all the time, but I never really gave much thought about how safe I was when traveling, until I was seriously injured in an auto accident on May 18, 2008. I was heading to the Kiss 108 Concert at the Tweeter Center when traffic suddenly stopped short and we hit the car in front of us. Our van was only traveling 30 mph. My friends weren’t injured because their seatbelts kept them safe.

van-seatbelt-023to-post-in-site.jpgAt the time of the crash, my  Quickie IRIS Tilt Wheelchair was secured in my van with tie downs. I had both my wheelchair seatbelt and my van’s lap/shoulder seatbelts on but none protected me.

First my vehicle seatbelt let go. It slipped right thru the latch-plate adjuster!

kennyseatbeltthatbrokeoffchair-left-side.jpgThen my wheelchair seatbelt ripped off the screw that attached it to my wheelchair. I went flying out of my chair and was injured.

My Aunt was in her car behind us and called 911 for help. I was taken by ambulance to a local area hospital and discharged after a head CT was negative. My mom and dad came and took my friends and me back home in their van.

bidmc-er.jpgTwo days later I was admitted to the Trauma Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center – Clinical Building -West Campus and spent five very long days there undergoing tests. I developed an abdominal hematoma, as a result of my accident and it was compressing my kidney.

Due to the wonderful care I received at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, I was discharged and on my way to recovery.

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Section II – State and Federal Law

kenny-bidmc.jpgAfter I recovered, my mom and I contacted my State Senator and State Representative to ask if there are any Massachusetts State Laws specifically regarding the safety of transporting persons in wheelchairs.

Surprisingly there are NONE !!

kenny1.jpgThen my mom and I contacted the Washington office of Congressman Barney Frank. She spoke with Markus Rose, Legislative Assistant and asked if there are any Laws regarding the safety of transporting persons in wheelchairs. Markus was very kind and concerned and he put my mom in touch with an inspector from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and asked him to investigate what laws are already on the books regarding safely transporting persons in wheelchairs and what laws may be needed.

UNBELIEVABLE as it may seem, NHTSA found there are NO Federal or State Legislation/Law specifically requiring wheelchair seated passengers to be safely restrained with approved wheelchair securement and proper occupant restraints while traveling in motor vehicles during transport.

Added note:

In May of 2010, John Seewer, Associated Press wrote the story ‘Bus seat belt laws mostly exclude wheelchairs’ By John Seewer / Associated Press / May 10, 2010. After a thorough review John found ONLY five states: Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin, that require both wheelchairs and their users be secured on paratransit buses that help people in wheelchairs to travel to work, doctor’s offices and shopping centers.

It must have been an OVERSIGHT !!

There are State Laws for all persons and even stricter laws for infants and children  requiring them to be properly restrained in passenger vehicles but none for persons traveling in a wheelchair. And the vehicle manufacturer of their lap and shoulder belt restraints are regulated by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. DOT. Wheelchair passenger lap and shoulder belt restraints are installed by conversion companies and not by the vehicle manufacturer so they are not regulated by FMVSS.

And you can’t depend on your wheelchair seatbelt for protection. Wheelchair manufacturers clearly state that their wheelchair seatbelts are used ONLY for posture positioning and support and are NOT designed or intended to protect wheelchair seated passengers in a vehicle during transport.

Wheelchair seatbelts can sometimes rip off your wheelchair depending on how your seatbelt is fastened to your wheelchair. To read more about the different kind of mounts, click on my review of Mounts for Wheelchair Seatbelt.

I guess someone forgot about safety for us wheelchair passengers!

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Secton III – RERC WTS -Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety

umichiganornament.jpg The inspector at NHTSA then asked my mom if it was alright if he shared the information of my accident with an expert at a department at the University of Michigan who is performing  research for NHTSA regarding wheelchair accidents. Of course my mom agreed.

umtribmpbmp.jpgMy mom was contacted by Lawrence W. Schneider, Ph.D, Research Professor, Head of Biosciences Division, The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Director, RERC WTS (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety).

Dr. Lawrence Schneider told my mom that he and other staff of the  RERC WTS have been working for more than two decades to improve transportation safety for wheelchair users.

wts_wc19art2.jpgThey have developed “WC19” standards, which is equipment that is crash tested.  Yet even today, most wheelchairs that are sold to, and used by, persons do not comply with WC19. You can read all about “WC19” standards at http://www.rercwts.org/WC19.html .

Dr. Lawrence Schneider also told my mom that “people with physical disabilities who must remain seated in their wheelchairs when traveling in motor vehicles are at high risk of injury in the event of a motor vehicle crash, and even in non-crash events such as sudden vehicle stopping or turning.” My mom discovered that there are many individual cases where a wheelchair occupant was seriously or fatally injured in a sudden stop or minor crash when they came out of their wheelchair because of no restraint or improper restraint.

Last summer there was an 81-year old woman in a wheelchair on a Detroit bus who died when she came out of her wheelchair in a sudden stop; most likely because she didn’t have any seat belt restraints on.

Recently in January of 2010 there was a Tragic Ohio Accident for Wheelchair Passengers (AP). John Seewer, Correspondent Associated Press, Ohio contacted me about the accident because of my efforts to increase Transportation Safety for people traveling in wheelchairs. Tragically one of the four people killed was seated in a wheelchair; the chair was tied down to the floor of the van, but an occupant restraint system on the back wall of the van was not used.

John wanted to help bring about public awareness of the need to Increase Transportation Safety for Wheelchair Passengers and in May of 2010 wrote this story you can read by clicking on  ‘Bus seat belt laws mostly exclude wheelchairs’ By John Seewer / Associated Press / May 10, 2010 .  It is a MUST READ for all Legislators, Disability Providers, Disability Advocates and Persons with Disabilities. I posted a 5 STAR review of John’s story which will help bring about public awareness of increase need for safety of wheelchair passengers! You can read my review by clicking on Bus seat belt laws mostly exclude wheelchairs – By John Seewer- The Associated Press.

rerc_wts2_logo.jpgThe mission of the RERC WTS, as stated on their website at http://www.rercwts.org/  reads; “The mission of the RERC WTS is to build on the accomplishments of the past RERC to make measurable improvements in transportation safety, usability, and independence for people who remain seated in their wheelchairs when traveling in public, school, and private motor vehicles”.

ridesafeatmcc-010.jpgThe RERC WTS website has a lot of important information on the topic of wheelchair transportation safety. They include a brochure called, ‘Ride Safe’. You can read it by just clicking on  RIDE SAFE.

ridesafebrochure.jpgRide Safe provides Critical Information to help you travel more safely in motor vehicles, while seated in your wheelchair. ‘Step by Step’ guidelines of proper placement and inspection and maintenance of the Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint System (WTORS) equipment is provided. Ride Safe is a MUST READ for those transporting wheelchair-seated travelers!!

For answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions on Wheelchair Transportation Safety , please click on http://www.rercwts.org/RERC_WTS2_FAQ/RERC_WTS_FAQ.html .

You can read articles, regarding transportation safety for wheelchair-seated travelers, written by Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider by clicking on http://www.umtri.umich.edu/people.php?personID=6.

You can read the most current RERC WTS news about Wheelchair Transportation Safety @ http://www.rercwts.org/RERC_WTS_News/RERC_WTS2_News.html.

WANTED: NOTIFICATION OF CRASHES INVOLVING WHEELCHAIR-SEATED OCCUPANTS

  • If you know about a crash involving a driver or passenger who was seated in a wheelchair or about a wheelchair tipping over in a van or bus, PLEASE REPORT IT TO  THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH INSTITUTE (UMTRI): by contacting  Jamie Moore at 734-647-2940 or jlmoore@umich.edu. For more information, click on http://www.travelsafer.org/files/wheelchairaccident.pdf

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Section IV - Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider, Director, University of Michigan, RERC WTS – Letter to my mom  Re: Transportation Safety for Wheelchair-Seated Travelers

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October 28, 2008

Paula Cieplik

Re: Transportation Safety for Wheelchair-Seated Travelers

Dear Ms. Cieplik:

As you have experienced first hand with your son Kenny, people with physical disabilities who must remain seated in their wheelchairs when traveling in motor vehicles are at high risk of injury in the event of a motor vehicle crash, and even in non-crash events such as sudden vehicle stopping or turning. The mission of the RERC on Wheelchair Transportation Safety, which has been funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the Department of Education for the past seven years, is to make measurable improvements in transportation safety for wheelchair-seated occupants. Toward this goal, I and other staff of the RERC WTS have been working for more than two decades to improve transportation safety for wheelchair users by developing national and international standards for wheelchair tiedown and occupant restraint systems (WTORS) and for wheelchairs that are used as seats in motor vehicles. Today there are many tiedown/restraint systems that comply with these standards and many wheelchair manufacturers now acknowledge that their products are often used for motor-vehicle seating, and have worked to design and test their products to the ANSI/RESNA transportation wheelchair standard, commonly known as “WC19.” Yet today, most wheelchairs that are sold to, and used by, people with disabilities do not comply with WC19.

Because the thousands of people who travel in motor vehicles every day while seated in wheelchairs are such a small proportion of the motor-vehicle occupant population, and because police accident reports don’t indicate whether an occupant of a vehicle involved in a crash was seated in a wheelchair, it’s impossible to estimate the number of wheelchair seated travelers who are injured or killed in motor vehicle collisions each year. However, a few studies have been conducted, and anecdotal case data are being collected, that confirm what we have suspected for many years — that people seated in wheelchairs are traveling at a much higher risk of serious to fatal injuries than people who use the manufacturer’s vehicle seats and restraint systems that are regulated by the federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. DOT.

For example, as part of the RERC on Wheelchair Transportation Safety, we have collected data on 39 crash and non-crash events involving wheelchair-seated occupants. The results of these cases are summarized in the pie charts that I provided to you. While these cases are not a representative sample of the involvement of injury causation to wheelchair-seated occupants traveling in motor vehicles, they are telling a very clear and important story about the problem of restraint usage and restraint effectiveness for occupants seated in wheelchairs. This problem is complicated by the difficulty of people sitting in different types of wheelchairs properly using seatbelts properly due to wheelchair design features and components that interfere with proper seatbelt placement. For this reason, we are working on modifications to WC19 that will more effectively address wheelchair accommodation of proper belt restraint use. However, even with these changes, it will be many years before the majority of wheelchairs being used are designed to these new requirements. In the meantime, there’s a need to address the problem through improved training of vehicle drivers as well as through legislation that requires both wheelchair securement and occupant restraint by wheelchair seated travelers.

In this regard, your meeting with Barney Frank presents an important opportunity to make the Congressman aware of the high injury risks that wheelchair-seated travelers face, and the need for legislation that will reduce these risks. Passage of legislation in the state of Massachusetts that would require wheelchair-seated travelers in personal vehicles as well as small buses, full-size vans, and minivans, to have their wheelchairs secured and to use lap and shoulder belt restraints would be a very positive step toward improving transportation safety for wheelchair-seated travelers. However, there are many other issues that need to be addressed, including getting wheelchair manufacturers to become more proactive in designing and marketing products that comply with WC19, getting Medicaid, Medicare, and other third party payers to cover additional costs related designing and testing wheelchair to the requirements of WC19, and, perhaps most importantly, improving driver training programs that teach how to properly secure different types of wheelchairs and how to position the lap and shoulder belts on wheelchair-seated occupants.

Sincerely,

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Lawrence W. Schneider, Ph.D.
Research Professor
Head, Biosciences Division
Director, RERC on Wheelchair Transportation Safety
Chair, RESNA Committee on Wheelchairs and Transportation

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Section V- 2008 New Jersey Legislation

newjerseyflag.gifDr. Lawrence Schneider told my mom that Seatbelt Laws are State laws! And the ONLY state he is aware of that has a law regarding wheelchair seated passengers is the state of New Jersey. The state of New Jersey pre-filed 2008 Legislation (Bill A-839) reguiring wheelchair-seated travelers in passenger automobiles, as well as vans, pick-up trucks and utility vehicles, to have their wheelchairs secured and to use lap and shoulder belt restraints.

In May of 2010, John Seewer wrote the story ‘Bus seat belt laws mostly exclude wheelchairs’ By John Seewer / Associated Press / May 10, 2010 . After a thorough review John found ONLY five states: Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin, that require both wheelchairs and their users be secured on paratransit buses that help people in wheelchairs to travel to work, doctor’s offices and shopping centers.

New Jersey Assemblymen Upendra Chivukula and Eric Munoz were the primary sponsors of  Bill A839 which you can view at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A1000/839_I1.HTM .

They also filed Companion Bill, A837, which requires proper training for drivers transporting passengers in wheelchairs which you can view at  http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A1000/837_I1.HTM .

Bill A839 was signed by Governor Jon Corizine, New Jersey Governor in September of 2008; Companion Bill A837 has not yet passed.

You can read the newspaper articles written about this by clicking on the articles listed below:

Marge Griscti of North Brunswick advocated for the New Jersey legislation after her son Stephen suffered a broken leg after a group home employee transporting him did not secure his wheelchair. My mom and Marge keep in touch and are hoping to help bring about public awareness of the need of wheelchair passenger safety legislation  in all our states!

This NJ Legislation is a good start; yet the companion bill which requires Training is Critical to the Safety of transporting wheelchair seated passengers. Dr. Schneider also believes that Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint Systems (WTORS) used should be crash tested and compliant with  WC19 standards.

MY CONGRATULATIONS TO NEW JERSEY!

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Section VI – 2009 Massachusetts Legislation Filed

masseal.jpg Because there is NO specific Law in the State of Massachusetts, regarding the safety of wheelchair-seated passengers, State Representative Stephen Canessa and State Senator Marc Pacheco filed House Bill 1783  and Senate Bill 1948 : “An Act Relative to the Transportation of Individuals Seated in Wheelchairs” in January 2010.

Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider, Director, University of Michigan’s  RERC WTS (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety) provided his expert advice for this needed legislation.

The 2011 Massachusetts Senate is S01777 : ” An Act relative to the transportation of individuals seated in wheelchairs.”   The link is @ http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/187/Senate/S01777

The 2011 Massachusetts House  is HO1783: ”An Act Relative to the Transportation of Individuals Seated in Wheelchairs”. The link is @ http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/187/House/H01783

  • This Massachusetts Legislation requires wheelchair-seated passengers in any motor vehicle offering paratransit services transporting persons in wheelchairs to be forward-facing and secured with properly installed and maintained wheelchair tiedown and occupant restraint system (WTORS) that complies with Society of Automotive Engineers Recommended Practice J2249 .
  • It further requires any employee or volunteer who transports or aids in the transportation of a wheelchair-seated passenger will complete the training course offered by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and/or the Executive Office of Transportation prior to operation of, or assisting in, a paratransit vehicle transporting persons in wheelchairs.
  • Wheelchair tie downs are needed to secure the wheelchair in the vehicle which would “achieve equivalency with people traveling seated in the vehicle seats that are fastened to the vehicle floor” and the use of occupant restraint system (i.e. seat and shoulder safety belt) would provide EQUAL protection for passengers traveling in wheelchairs.

Passage of this legislation in the state of Massachusetts would be a very positive step toward IMPROVING TRANSPORTATION  SAFETY for wheelchair-seated travelers.

Update: October 2009

kenny-testifies-about-legislation-for-wheelchair-travelers.jpgBoth bills were moved to The Joint Committee on Transportation. On October 6, 2009, I presented oral testimony to the Joint Committee on Transportation at the State House Hearing for H 3785 and S 1948 ‘An Act Relative to the Transportation of Individuals Seated in Wheelchairs.

Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider, Director of University of Michigan’s RERC WTS, Senators, Representatives and Advocates including The ARC of MassachusettsDisability Policy Consortium and MANHR – Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform  submitted written testimony in SUPPORT of this needed legislation.

You can read Dr. Schneider’s expert testimony of strong support submitted October 5, 2009 by clicking on Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider written testimony of support for S.1948 ad H.3785.

Update: February 2010

Representative Stephen Canessa and Senator Mark Pacheco recently told me some wonderful news. Both bills; House 3785 and Senate 1948 have been reported FAVORABLY out of the Transportation Committee and have been referred to the  Senate Committee on Ways and Means and the House Ways and Means  for further review. If either the Senate or the House Ways and Means Committee favorably move either bill forward, it will next move to either the full Senate or the full House for approval.

Update May 10, 2010:

John Seewer, Correspondent Associated Press wrote a story to help bring about public awareness of the need to Increase Transportation Safety for Wheelchair Passengers. Quoted is : “Larry Schneider, a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, he hopes legislation being considered in Massachusetts will become a model for other states. The proposal would require wheelchairs and users to be secured on all paratransit buses and vans and require training for caregivers.” You can read John’s story by clicking on ‘Bus seat belt laws mostly exclude wheelchairs’ By John Seewer / Associated Press / May 10, 2010.

Update: December 2010:

This MA Legislation was not voted on in 2010 and will be re-filed by Representative Stephen Canessa and Senator Marc Pacheco in January of 2011!

THANK YOU SENATOR PACHECO AND REPRESENTATIVE CANESSA!

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Section VII – Federal Government’s Role

bxp48329.jpgDr. Schneider also educated my mom on the Federal laws, such as ADA and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that give wheelchair users access to public transportation while seated in their wheelchairs; but ADA doesn’t really do much to provide them with “the opportunity” for a SAFE RIDE. ADA is vague and doesn’t really address the safety of the wheelchair passenger adequately since it: (1) allows for not securing wheelchairs and (2) is completely silent on the use of seat belts.

My mom also learned that ‘Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 222 for school bus seating and crash worthiness does require wheelchair stations installed by the bus manufacturer to provide four-point, strap tiedowns and three-point belts; but federal standards don’t address the use of this equipment by school districts and the regulation doesn’t apply to wheelchair stations installed by school districts after the bus has been purchased’.

barney-frank-kenny-and-karen.jpg Congressman Barney Frank kindly took the time from his busy schedule to meet with my mom, friends and me on October 30, 2008. We discuss the high injury risk that wheelchair passengers face and how our State and Federal Government can help to improve transportation safety for wheelchair-seated travelers. Congressman Barney Frank assured me that he will file legislation and do all he can to ensure the safety of all American wheelchair passengers. He also told me that he will support MA Legislation regarding wheelchair passenger safety.

My mom gave Congressman Barney Frank a copy of the letter that Dr. Schneider wrote to her which explained these other ways our Federal Government can help: (1) getting wheelchair manufacturers to become more proactive in designing and marketing products that comply with WC19; (2) getting Medicaid, Medicare, and other third party payers to cover additional costs related designing and testing wheelchair to the requirements of WC19 and (3) improving driver training programs that teach how to properly secure different types of wheelchairs and how to position the lap and shoulder belts on wheelchair-seated occupants.

THANK YOU CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK!!

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Section VIII – Miscellaneous Notes of Importance

After my accident in May of 2008, my friends and I discovered that it is Extremely Important to have your Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint System (WTORS) regularly Maintained, Inspected and Serviced.  It is equally important to receive Training on the Proper Securement of your Wheelchair in the van; and the Proper Placement of your Occupant Restraints. My friends and I now get my community home van regularly serviced at Quality Van Sales Service & Parts Department. In July of 2009, my parents bought our family conversion van at Ride-Away and are pleased with the services provided here.

Below is a list of Important tips for wheelchair transportation safety:

  • Replacement of Wheelchair that has been involved in an Auto Accident: The auto insurance company paid to REPLACE MY WHEELCHAIR THAT WAS INVOLVED IN THE AUTO ACCIDENT.  Quickie has a policy that states “Do not use any chair involved in motor vehicle accident.” Most wheelchair companies have a similar policy. If your wheelchair has been involved in an auto accident it is best to get it replaced. This policy is due to the possibility that parts may have been damaged. A similar policy is standard for child safety seats. Any child safety seat involved in an auto accident must be replaced.

 

  • The Wheelchair – It is best to use a  WC19 crash tested Wheelchair that has four, crash-tested securement points where tiedown straps and hooks can be easily attach. If not available, the next best choice is a Wheelchair with an accessible metal frame where tiedown straps and hooks can be attached at frame junctions.

 

  • The WTORS Equipment: Only use Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint Systems (WTORS) that have been crash tested and labeled as complying with SAEJ2249.

 

  • Proper Installation of Equipment: All Wheelchair Tie-Down Systems should be used in conjunction with the same Manufacturer’s Occupant Restraint Systems ,Track, Floor Plates or Anchoring Hardware. The primary issue is that the fixtures and attachment components from different manufacturers are not compatible with each other, and therefore the equipment cannot be configured and used properly. Different manufacturers equipment being used together have NOT been crash tested, therefore it does not comply with  SAEJ2249.

 

  • Proper Placement of Occupant Restraints on Wheelchair-Seated Passengers is Critical for Safety. Click on  RIDE SAFE  for a complete guide. Ride Safe provides critical information to help you travel more safely in motor vehicles, while seated in your wheelchair. ‘Step by Step’ guidelines of proper placement and maintenance of the Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint System (WTORS) is provided. It is a MUST READ for those transporting wheelchair-seated travelers!!

 

  • Proper Maintenance and Inspection of Occupant Restraints (seatbelt) is Critical for Safety. Always keep seatbelt off the floor. Clean dirty belts with mild soap and water. Inspect all belts regularly and DO NOT USE if hardware or webbing is damaged.

 

  • Proper Maintenance of Wheelchair Tiedowns is of Critical. It is important to (1) Inspect each retractor head before and after each use for proper operation. (2) Each retractor head to be fully tensioned after head is secured to track & “S” Hook is attached to Wheelchair FRAME ONLY. (3) Attain a whisk broom, keep in vehicle at all times and clean tracks before securing retractor heads BEFORE EACH USE. (4) Obtain a storage bag for retractor heads; keep it in the vehicle at all times and STORE RETRACTOR HEADS AT ALL TIMES WHEN NOT IN USE – “This is of major importance as leaving heads in the tracks can lead to other operators “assuming” that they are properly secured (primary danger) and also, leaving in the retractor heads on the floor can cause the straps to deteriorate due to continuing exposure to water, salt, sand & chemical runoff from the shoes of passengers. Unsecured retractor heads also represent a danger in the event of a collision; they become missiles quite capable of causing injury to vehicle occupants.”

 

  • ‘Operational Conversion Maintenance’ is recommended every six months; it consists of a full inspection of the conversion equipment in the van and repair if needed. It’s also important to have your Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraints inspected regularly.

 

  • TRAINING drivers on how to PROPERLY secure different types of wheelchairs in a vehicle and how to properly position the occupant restraints on wheelchair seated passengers is CRITICAL for SAFETY. ‘This problem is complicated by the difficulty of people sitting in different types of wheelchairs properly using seatbelts properly due to wheelchair design features and components that interfere with proper seatbelt placement’. Training Seminars are available through the Massachusetts Safety Council for van transportation operators. They even have a course to train residential house managers to become certified instructors in the course. MArtap is the acronym for Massachusetts (MA) Rural Transit Assistance Program (rtap). This program is a federally-funded, state-administered program that offers training, education and other benefits to public transportation providers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MArtap Phone: 877-627-8271; Link: http://www.martap.org/about_us.html .

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Section IX – How YOU can  Help

  • Call or write your State Senator and State Representative and ask them to file Legislation in your State similar to the 2009 Massachusetts legislation filed by Representative Steve Canessa and Senator Marc Pacheco;  House 3785  and  Senate 1948 : “An Act Relative to the Transportation of Individuals Seated in Wheelchairs”.
  • If your State Legislator has any questions, urge them to contact Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider, Director, University of Michigan’s  RERC WTS  (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety) for his expert advice.
  • Your State Legislators contact information can be found on your State’s Government website. All U.S. State Government websites can be found at http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/stategov/stategov.html.

 

  • If you are a resident of Massachusetts, PLEASE contact your State Senator and State Representative to ask for their support of Senate 1948 and House 3785 : “An Act Relative to the Transportation of Individuals Seated in Wheelchairs”. You can locate the contact information for your State Senator and State Representative at http://www.mass.gov/legis/.

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Section X – Summary and Thank You

After I was seriously injured in an auto accident in May of 2008 while traveling in my wheelchair, I discovered that currently there is no state or federal law which provide for the safety of transporting people seated in wheelchairs. The ONLY state in our country that we are aware of which has a law specifically requiring wheelchair seated passengers to be safely restrained with approved wheelchair securement and proper occupant restraints while traveling in motor vehicles during transport is the state of New Jersey.

In January of 2009, my Massachusetts State Representative Steve Canessa filed House 3785 and State Senator Marc Pacheco filed Senate 1948: “An Act Relative to the Transportation of Individuals Seated in Wheelchairs”. Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider, Director, University of Michigan’s  RERC WTS (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety) provided his expert advice for this needed legislation.

Passage of House 3785 and  Senate 1948 : “An Act Relative to the Transportation of Individuals Seated in Wheelchairs” in the state of Massachusetts and similar legislation in ALL other states in our country is desperately needed to ensure that wheelchair-seated travelers are as SAFE as all other citizens traveling in vehicles.

Passage of this legislation would help prevent a tragedy like the one that occurred in the Tragic Ohio Accident for Wheelchair Passengers (AP).

My Heartfelt Thanks to:

  • Representative Stephen Canessa, Senator Marc Pacheco, Senator Joan Menard and all the other Massachusetts State Legislators who support House 3785 and Senate 1948: “An Act Relative to the Transportation of Individuals Seated in Wheelchairs”.
  • Congressman Barney Frank for all the work he is doing to ensure the safety of all American wheelchair passengers.
  • Dr. Lawrence W. Schneider, Director,  RERC WTS and his dedicated staff for all their work to improve transportation safety for wheelchair users.
  • John Seewer, Correspondent with the Associated Press in Ohio for researching and writing a great story about Transportation Safety for Wheelchair Passengers which you can read by clicking on ‘Bus seat belt laws mostly exclude wheelchairs’ By John Seewer / Associated Press / May 10, 2010.

Sincerely,

Kenny & Company

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