This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)
International literature shows that the strength of a wheelchair (the impact test) is not the most important for safe transport. The correct use of seat belts and restraint systems in combination with the wheelchair and the (unique) occupant are at least equally important. Safety problems in wheelchair (taxi) transport require a joint approach all involved parties. Looking from the risk perspective of the wheelchair occupant and his / her transport environment.
Unfortunately, we see an increasing tendency among manufacturers of wheelchairs and restraint systems to consider their own product liability more important than seeking solutions to safety problems together. In its current form, the Code-VVR is under the motto “ transport safely or do not transport Mainly aimed at limiting any liability for taxi companies.
This is particularly noticeable when comparing the content of the VVR Code with, for example, the internationally widely used “Best Practice Guideline: opens in a new window Transportation of People Seated in Wheelchairs ”And / or short summaries such as the“ opens in a new window Ride Safe ” leaflet.
This arrangement make it more and more difficult finding necessary solutions in the form of a custom tailored wheelchair. Especially for people with such a disability (that they cannot use an ISO 7176-19 wheelchair). It makes the work of wheelchair advisers and adjustment technicians in this field difficult to nearly impossible.
As an example, I outline an unsafe situation and how liability problems stand in the way of a real solution. There was a fatal accident on the A58 in April 2011, in which the driver’s responsibility for the seat belt wearing requirement was at stake.
Instead of jointly analyzing the accident and looking for joint solutions, the Code VVR platform has now opted to limit liability by only accepting crash-tested wheelchairs in transport.
Taxi companies are now limiting their liability at the expense of it Unlimited Participation.
The accident on the A58 has not resulted in a solution. There is not yet a good alternative available for wheelchair passengers who are limited due to their height and where a standard three-point belt does not fit properly. Correct use of the seat belt is therefore not possible. An exemption can be requested from the seat belt wearing obligation at the CBR. However, not wearing a seat belt poses a much greater risk. This already starts with normal vehicle movements such as cornering, braking or making an emergency stop. This is a risk due to the exemption exclusively left with the wheelchair user.
The wheelchair passenger is unable to force a solution in the forest of liabilities.
A solution in the form of an approved (special) seat belt in the wheelchair did not get off the ground. Wheelchair manufacturers do not want to modify their wheelchair, restraint system manufacturers do not want to be responsible for seat belts other than their own. Ultimately, the wheelchair passenger is the victim and the safety problem is not resolved.
That asks for a change.
What is special is that in the US, the country popularly known for its claims and liability culture, there are opens in a new window a thriving research branch in the field of safe wheelchair transport. And that the seat belt in the wheelchair does lift off the ground there! This is due to a strong position of the Veterans Administration and a clear focus on accessibility for people with disabilities through the ADA (Americans with Disability Act). The RESNA pays a lot of attention to the training and accreditation of professionals in the provision of wheelchairs. Among other things in the field of safe wheelchair transport.
The opens in a new window Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) has a opens in a new window position paper written about wheelchairs used as seats in transport. In particular, the case studies (Beth and Dan) provide a clear picture of the correct use of a seat belt as part of the wheelchair. How a number of problems can be solved in this way. That works better than the instruction for the driver in the opens in a new windowCode VVR (SFM) ( Fat printed part highlighted by me):
“The belt is properly used when it follows the shortest path over the shoulder and around the hip and rests on the hip. Where possible this is under the armrests. The arms are kept clear and the seat belt should be attached to the restraint system, not the wheelchair. ”
This “where possible” poses a considerable safety risk in the event of a crash. You really don’t want to have a belt over your stomach because it is attached over the armrests.
What one of the solutions for a customized wheelchair could look like can be read in the opens in a new window guest blog on Troost Over Leven.