The safety of individuals who must remain seated in their wheelchairs during transit remains an important consideration for therapists prescribing wheelchairs. I have previously written articles on RESNA standards, including WC19 Wheelchairs Used as Seats in Motor Vehicles; WC18 Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint Systems (WTORS) for Use in Motor Vehicles; and WC20 Wheelchair Seating Systems for Use in Motor Vehicles. These articles provide information that is helpful in understanding these related standards.
This month, let’s think about safety, wheelchairs, and transit. Individuals who remain seated in wheelchairs while travelling in vehicles are “45 times more likely to be injured in a crash than the typical passenger”1 (p. 2). The “typical” passenger in a vehicle transfers into the vehicle manufacturer’s seat, which is secured to the vehicle, and uses the occupant restraint system; that is, the seat belt system that also is secured to the vehicle. Individuals who must remain seated in wheelchairs while travelling in vehicles also are at risk of injury in “non-collision events”, such as sudden braking or sharp turning, resulting in the wheelchair tipping, securement failure, or the occupant falling out of the wheelchair1 (p. 4). Many individuals who must remain seated in the wheelchair during transit do not have postural control or the ability to stabilize themselves or their wheelchairs during these non-collision events, which can result in serious injuries.
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