Therefore, school transportation personnel should encourage parents to choose WC19- compliant wheelchairs whenever there is an opportunity to do so.
In other words, students in wheelchairs were not provided with the same level of crash protection as students seated on the forward-facing, closely spaced, high-back, padded seats required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 222.
In fact, at the time, FMVSS 222 excluded children in wheelchairs from the crashworthiness provisions of the standard, identifying them as students facing 45 degrees or more to the longitudinal axis of the vehicle.
A key feature of WC19- compliant wheelchairs is four accessible attachment points on the wheelchair frame to which tiedown straps can be easily and effectively attached.
While changes to FMVSS 222 and increased availability of WTORS and wheelchairs that comply with voluntary industry safety standards provide greater opportunities for wheelchair-seated students to travel more safely to and from school, it is important that school bus operations implement transportation policies and procedures based on basic principles and best practices of transportation safety.
Fortunately, the opportunities for safe transportation for students in wheelchairs have increased significantly over the past two decades.
In 1992, FMVSS 222 was modified to include wheelchair-seated students and now requires all wheelchair stations provided by school bus manufacturers to be installed for forward-facing travel and equipped with four-point, strap-type wheelchair tiedown and three-point pelvic/shoulder belt restraint systems that meet static strength requirements.After the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1976 became law, it was common practice to transport children in wheelchairs facing sideways in school buses, with the large wheels captured by mechanical rim-pin clamps, with bungee cords attached to the most-available wheelchair components, such as the armrests and footrests, or by other inadequate securement methods.Seat belts, if provided at all, were often placed around the student’s abdomen instead of low on the pelvis and over the shoulder.It is therefore critical that equipment from different manufacturers not be mixed.Doing so can result in improper use and reduced effectiveness of the equipment when needed in a collision or emergency vehicle maneuver.As noted earlier, WC19-compliant wheelchairs provide four easily accessible attachment points that greatly facilitate effective wheelchair securement using a four-point, strap-type tiedown.