The safe transportation of all of the individuals who we support happens every day. But even if we succeed 99% of the time in providing safe transportation, we have not really succeeded at all. This is especially crucial in transporting people who use wheelchairs. They are especially vulnerable in accidents. With a bit of planning and preparation, we can make this process much safer.
Providers are encouraged to schedule regular inspections of the vehicles which are used to transport people who use wheelchairs. In addition to standard vehicle inspections which might include testing the brakes, the lights, and other components of the vehicle, the inspection should also include those features which are specific to accommodating wheelchairs. They would include the following:
- There are sufficient wheelchair tie downs to accommodate the maximum number of people who use wheelchairs who would be transported at one time
- All of the tie downs are in good working order
- The floor area of the vehicle where the tie downs are affixed is clean and clear of obstructions
- There are sufficient shoulder harnesses to accommodate all the people who are being transported
- All the shoulder harnesses are in good working order
- The wheelchair lift mechanism is in good working order
- The safety gate on the lift platform automatically deploys when the lift is engaged.
- The safety gate retracts when the lift is level to the ground
- The vehicle emits a warning sound when the lift is engaged
- The parking brake works
- The manual backup system for the lift is in good working order
It is important that the wheelchairs that people are using when being transported are in good repair. Parts to check:
- The brakes are in good working order
- For power chairs, the mechanism to power up and power down the chair works correctly
- The controls are adapted so that the individual and/or staff cannot be accidently power up the wheelchair
- Safety belts are in good working order.
Staff who is involved in transportation should all be trained in the correct procedures for transporting people who use wheelchairs. Here is a checklist you can use:
- Park the vehicle in a safe location for loading, unloading passengers. Avoid hills, ditches, uneven terrain. Be mindful of traffic. Insure that there is plenty of room to operate the lift and safely maneuver the wheelchairs on and off the lift. If the vehicle is a rear loading vehicle, be certain to allow a lot of room at the rear of the vehicle
- Engage the emergency brake on the vehicle
- Deploy and lower the lift until it is level to the ground
- Assist the person to maneuver the wheelchair onto the lift platform. If the vehicle is a side loading van, they should be facing away from the vehicle. If the vehicle is a rear loading van, they should be facing towards the vehicle
- Power down the wheelchair, and deploy the brakes on the wheelchair
- Use the lift platform safety strap
- Stand next to the lift and activate the lift mechanism
- Make certain that the safety gate on the lift platform engages to insure that the wheelchair cannot roll off the lift
- After the lift is fully elevated, go into the vehicle and assist the person to maneuver the wheelchair into the correct position in the van.
- Insert the four tie down mechanisms to the fixture on the van floor. Make certain that they are secured, and locked in
- The two front straps should be even with the front wheels, and to the outside of them.
- The two rear straps should be between the two rear wheels
- Secure each strap to the frame of the wheelchair. Most wheelchairs will have transportation
- Hooks built in. Do not affix the straps to the wheels, footrests, or any part of the chair which can come off
- Once all the straps are affixed, pull them tight
- Deploy the shoulder strap. Even if an individual has a seatbelt for the wheelchair, this is not designed to provide safety in a vehicle accident, you must use the vehicle shoulder strap