Wheelchair and Passenger Securement

Related to inertial and centrifugal forces, and induced by either insufficient time on the schedule with even none of these individuals on board, or by falling behind schedule, wheelchair tipovers may be the most common public transportation incident. Unlike wheelchair users using other modes, transit drivers never know when they are about to encounter one, and when they do, their smidgeon of “recovery” or “layover” time (if they have any at all, much less under ideal circumstances) is about to vanish, and they are doomed with hours of driving during which they must catch their breath only at long traffic lights, have remote opportunity for a meal, and either run off-line or miss a run (for which they can be penalized) or practice for the Guinness Book of Records in the area of bowel control. So it is not hard to understand why drivers do not secure wheelchairs, much less spend even more time securing them into their chairs. Usually taught nothing about inertial or centrifugal forces, most drivers are not cognizant of the risks involved, and many whose recovery time is obliterated every time one of these individuals boards is likely to dislike them (to put it mildly), and on occasion, refused to secure their wheelchair as a form of punishment. It should not come as a surprise, that many of these facts emerge rather easily from depositions (especially when plaintiff’s counsel’s expert has had a chance to ride the bus during ideal circumstances to find the schedule too tight even without the wheelchair occupant). Thus wheelchair cases tend to settle for large amounts, or on those few occasions when I’ve accompanied two of them to court, for more than $2M each.  Read more>>>

A Mile in Their Wheelchairs (School Bus Fleet, July 2008)

Drivers who transport people with disabilities should be aware of their passengers’ needs and challenges. But can they be taught to truly understand? An extreme example of “sensitivity” training proves insight.

In 1982, when I began my paratransit operating company, PTS Transportation, in Los Angeles County, I had just completed directing a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funded study of 30 systems in 18 U.S. cities, and I had just written a three-volume manual on the subject published by the DOT in 1980.

As far as the state-of-the-art, three cities (Portland, Maine; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla; and especially Tulsa, Okla.) knew what they were doing. The others were beyond clueless, and it would not be unfair to describe their operations as laughingstocks of ignorance.

But from the three communities that knew what they were doing, I managed to derive the principles of demand-responsive operations that literally governed system efficiency. These same principles apply to special-education transportation and, to a lesser degree, fixed-route service.

Among the activities I observed during my DOT study was driver training. Because it was in its formative stages (almost a decade before the ADA’s promulgation), sensitivity training was included in some form or another and was rife with innovation.

So when I finally began my own operation in 1982, we integrated everything of value that I had seen and learned into a unique program that effectively made our drivers “live the life” for at least one long day. Read more>>>