During the funding period of the RERC on Wheelchairs Transportation Safety, there were six research and/or development projects, or project areas. All but one of these projects is conducted over the five-year program and most had several parts or phases. The projects involved both research and development efforts in different project years. The term research in the projects of this RERC involved an investigation of real-world situations and/or product performance to better identify and define problem areas, rather than a hypothesis-driven experimental or analytical study. The term development as applied to these projects incorporated the concept of technology transfer and encompassed many different activities, including:
Two projects, P1 and P2, addressed transportation of wheelchair users in LATVs. Project P1 was primarily a development effort that was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and addressed the design, concept/prototype demonstration, and evaluation of forward-facing and rear-facing wheelchair passenger stations for this unique vehicle environment. Project P2 was largely a research effort that was conducted at the University of Louisville to assess, monitor, investigate and document wheelchair users’ experiences throughout the complete transportation process from entering to exiting the vehicle using in-vehicle video systems, interviews, and in-depth investigation.
Two separate projects, P3 and P4, were targeted to address the needs of the wheelchair-seated occupant in smaller private and paratransit vans and minivans where crashworthiness is a significant concern. P3 addressed WTORS solutions to crashworthiness for both front and rear impacts, with a particular emphasis on drivers seated in wheelchairs for whom anecdotal evidence suggests that passive belt restraints systems are rarely positioned on the occupant in a manner that will provide effective restraint.
While some aspects of P3 addressed wheelchair issues with regard to restraint system accommodation, the majority of wheelchair and seating system transportation issues were addressed in project P4. This project built upon wheelchair and seating crashworthiness efforts to date, and addressed their performance in rear impacts. This effort further expanded and validated the use of a surrogate wheelchair base for independent crash testing of a wider range of wheelchair seating systems, but also worked to develop and validate a surrogate seating system for independent crash testing of wheelchair bases.
Project P5 addressed the issues of school-bus transportation in Years 3 through 5. The primary objective was to assess the benefits and effects of using WC19 wheelchairs when transporting students to and from school. In the process, the project developed and implemented two survey tools for use by state school transportation directors and local school transportation groups. It also provided input to the GR2 Activity to disseminate this information in ways that increase awareness among school transportation groups of the benefits of using WC19 wheelchairs.
Project P6 continued the in-depth investigation of real-world crashes and other moving-vehicle adverse events in which one or more occupants is seated in a wheelchair. This project was initiated in RERC WTS-1 and, while identification of these events has proven more difficult than anticipated, the results have provided extremely valuable feedback on issues and priorities surrounding transportation for wheelchair issues.