Resources Special Needs Related Articles Wheelchair Study Ramping Up for 2010 Start
Wheelchair Study Ramping Up for 2010 Start PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephane Babcock   
Sunday, 01 February 2009 00:00

A study aimed, among other things, at determining whether schools are following WC 19 standards when it comes to the use of wheelchairs in school buses, recently received its funding and is planned to begin next year.

“We anticipate doing this with two survey tools — one for state transportation directors and one for school bus managers and/or drivers,” said Mary Ellen Buning from the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute in Louisville, Ky., and a staff member of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety (RERC WTS), the group at University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute conducting the study. “We hope the data will uncover effective models that can be emulated, lead to changes in reimbursement for transportation brackets on children’s wheelchairs or possibly uncover the need for new technologies or training tools to aid program improvement.”

The researchers, who received funding for the project through a National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research grant obtained from the U.S. Department of Education, also intend to gather data on the number of wheelchair-seated students in the United States, the number or nature of incidents and injuries to wheelchair-seated student, the policies and approaches to wheelchair transportation across U.S. regions, and the impact of transport safety technologies on the safety of wheelchair-seated students.

“It is exciting to begin a research project,” said Buning. “There is the expectation that many interesting things will be learned.”

The group is also receiving help from within the school bus industry. In March, Buning and other RERC WTS staff members will meet with a number of NASDPTS members to finalize ideas about the kinds of data that state directors have access to. For example, whether state directors have data about the prevalence of WC19-compliant wheelchairs within their state or if bus incident reports capture comprehensive information about the type of wheelchair a student might have been using.

“Having insight into data available at the state-director level will help us develop our questionnaire. We also intend to get their ideas on how to best learn about the operational aspects of transporting students in wheelchairs at the local level,” added Buning, stating their responses will likely lead to a secondary focus group with individuals who are closer to the daily issues of school bus travel for wheelchair-seated riders.

“The new RERC WTS study is necessary to provide baseline, real-world data on the frequency, causes, and effects of these incidents in the school bus environment,” said NASDPTS President Charlie Hood, who has participated as an advisor to RERC WTS since 2007. “This information will enable the RERC WTS to develop countermeasures that will minimize such incidents and improve student safety.”

Buning and other RERC WTS members also intend to participate in the preparations for the May 2010 National Congress on School Transportation (NCST), volunteering to work on NCST committees. In addition, RERC WTS Director, Dr. Larry Schneider, has written articles on the subject.

“Working to make these connections and write these articles, we have begun to appreciate all of the dedicated people who are involved in school transportation,” said Buning.

NASDPTS’ Hood also encourages interested parties to follow the study’s progress, as similar data already gathered on safety incidents in the public transit and private motor vehicle industries have provided evidence of a gap between available safety technology, training, best practices and what goes on in the real world.

“While we don’t believe that gap is as wide in the school bus sector, we need real-world information to ensure that our most vulnerable passengers are as safe as they can be,” concluded Hood.

Reprinted from the February 2009 issue of School Transportation News magazine. All rights reserved.

Last Updated on Monday, 11 January 2010 09:05