About us

Contact Us

To learn more about the Committee on Wheelchairs and Transportation (COWHAT) or to inquire about membership, contact: 

Miriam Manary
University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI)
Phone: (734) 936-1108


UMTRI WTS Researchers

Lawrence W. Schneider holds BSE and MSE degrees in mechanical engineering and a Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Michigan.  Since completing his doctorate in 1973, he has been employed at UMTRI where he served as head of the Biosciences Group from 1986 until 2011. He is currently a Research Professor in Biosciences and Associate Director of UMTRI, and also has an appointment as Research Professor in the Bioengineering Department at the University of Michigan. 

Over the past forty-one years, Dr. Schneider has served as project director and principal investigator on more than one hundred research projects dealing with the biomechanics of injury and the biomechanics of occupant positioning and seating in the automotive environment.  From 1995 to 2008, he directed UMTRI’s in-depth crash investigation program, which was aimed at identifying the causes of injuries in different types of crashes and assessing the performance of the latest restraint-system and crashworthy technologies.  In this regard, Dr. Schneider was instrumental in developing a new method for documenting injury causation scenarios and injury mechanisms from data collected in real-world crash investigations that is being used by the Crash Injury Research Engineering Network (CIREN), a nation-wide trauma-based crash-investigation program funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Since 1978, Dr. Schneider has sought to apply basic principles of occupant protection and injury biomechanics to providing safer transportation for occupants of motor vehicles.  He was instrumental in the formation of the SAE Restraint Systems Task Force of the Adaptive Devices Subcommittee (ADSC) in the mid 1980s, and was the principal author of SAE J2249 Wheelchair Tiedowns and Occupant Restraint Systems (WTORS) for Use in Motor Vehicles and the comparable international standard, ISO 10542-1 and –2.  He was also the principal author of Section 19 of ANSI/RESNA WC/Volume 1, Wheelchairs for Use as Seats in Motor Vehicles and, as Chair of the RESNA Committee on Wheelchairs and Transportation (COWHAT) from 2001 through 2012, he oversaw the development and completion of the latest version of RESNA WTS standards contained in Volume 4 of RESNA wheelchair standards, Wheelchairs and Transportation.  Dr. Schneider is currently the Vice Chair of the RESNA COWHAT, member RESNA’s Assistive Technology Standards Board, and remains active in the development and updating of ISO WTS standards through participation in Working Group 6 of ISO TC173/SC1.

Email: lws@umich.edu      Website: http://www.umtri.umich.edu/who-we-are/staff-directory/lawrence-w-schneider


Miriam A. Manary, MSE is the current Chair of the RESNA COWHAT and is a Senior Research Associate in UMTRI’s Biosciences Division.  She received her BSE in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University and an MSE in Bioengineering from the University of Michigan.  At UMTRI, she has conducted biomechanics and human factors research for more than eighteen years, and has served as principal investigator on a number of research projects involving the collection and application of anthropometric and biomechanical data from volunteer subjects to determine the factors influencing occupant posture and position.  Ms. Manary is the leader of UMTRI’s Child Passenger Protection Research Program and is an instructor in NHTSA’s child passenger safety technician program.  Her expertise in this area covers both the engineering and human factors aspect of the design and use of effective child restraint systems. 

Ms. Manary has been involved in research and testing related to providing safer transportation of people in wheelchairs for over fifteen years and has served as the leader of the rear- and side-impact protection task in RERC WTS-1. She has also been an integral part of the development and improvement of the current voluntary standards for wheelchair transportation safety and participates in the related RESNA, SAE and ISO standards committees.  She has conducted and reported on over 1000 crash tests of wheelchairs and wheelchair tiedown systems and, in the process, works closely with manufacturers to help them understand, interpret, and comply with the standards.  She also works with clinicians who are seeking safer options for patient transportation, and was the key person behind the development of the Ridesafe brochure and website that provide clear guidance on how to more safely transport occupants seated in wheelchairs.

Email: mmanary@umich.edu    Website: http://www.umtri.umich.edu/who-we-are/staff-directory/miriam-manary


Nichole Ritchie Orton, MSE is a Research Associate who joined UMTRI in 2003 and the current Secretary of the COWHAT.  She has a BSE in Biosystems Engineering from Michigan State University and an MSE in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan.  Mrs. Orton's research interests focus on impact biomechanics and she is the engineer in charge of sled impact testing at UMTRI.  She specializes in performing sled tests of wheelchairs and child restraint systems according to current standards and has helped to develop test protocols for evaluating wheelchair performance in motor-vehicle crashes.  She has been involved in the research task of the former RERC WTS aiming to develop and evaluate improved occupant-protection systems for drivers seated in wheelchair when traveling in vans and minivans. The initial phase of this project involved testing and measurement of people with disabilities who drive while seated in a wheelchair in their personal van or minivan to quantify the geometry relationship of these drivers to their belt restraint systems and vehicle interior components, and thereby better define the problem of providing effective occupant crash protection to this population of vehicle drivers.  She has more recently been involved in the development of a DriveSafe brochure and website that provide clear guidance on how to more safely transport occupants seated in wheelchairs, as well as safety tip sheets for several key stakeholders involved in the process of enabling a person with disabilities to ride or drive from their wheelchair (including prescribers, CDRS, van-modifiers, and the consumer).

She is a certified child passenger safety technician, is trained in transporting children with special health care needs, and frequently performs child-seat inspections.  She has also analyzed crash data to investigate trends in knee, thigh and hip fractures in frontal impacts, and to evaluate rib fracture locations and patterns in motor-vehicle crashes.

Email: nritchie@umich.edu



Key Research Collaborators


Gina E Bertocci, PhD, PE, University of Louisville, Email: g.bertocci@louisville.edu

Patricia Karg, MS, University of Pittsburgh, Email: tkarg@pitt.edu

Mary Ellen Buning, PhD, OTR/L, ATP, University of Louisville, Email: maryellen.buning@louisville.edu

Douglas A. Hobson, PhD, retired University of Pittsburgh, Email: dhobson@pitt.edu

Linda van Roosmalen, PhD, Linc Design LLC, Email: lvanroos@pitt.edu

Karen Frost, PhD, MBA, University of Louisville, Email: klfrost@mac.com

Doug Cross, Douglas J. Cross Transportation Consulting, http://www.douglasjcross.com/