Assessing the Impact of WC19 Wheelchairs on the Transportation Safety of Wheelchair-Seated Students
Task Leader: Mary Ellen Buning, PhD, OTR, ATP
Co-investigator: Patricia Karg, MS
Other Participants: Joseph Ruffing (project staff: communications specialist); Pete Baxter (industry: Chair, National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) and Director of School Transportation in Indiana); graduate student; epidemiologist/statistics consultant
This project addresses the key output of obtaining accurate and objective information regarding the real-world experience of transporting wheelchair-seated students in school buses, and thereby contributes to the RERC WTS intermediate outcome to effect changes in attitudes, policies, and procedures of key stakeholders involved in the transportation of wheelchair-seated students. The primary objective of this research project is to determine the impact of WC19-compliant wheelchairs on the transportation of students using wheelchairs as motor-vehicle seats in school districts throughout the United States.
WC19-compliant wheelchairs are designed to increase safety and reduce error and time in wheelchair securement. Transportation professionals desire evidence of the impact of WC19-compliant wheelchairs on school transportation safety outcomes. In May 2005, the National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) adopted a resolution (appended below) to survey state directors of student transportation on the extent of WC19 wheelchair use in school districts across the US. The congress wants to determine if injury and liability related to WTORS decrease when WC19 compliant wheelchairs are used. Further, where incidents involving lift-equipped buses transporting students riding in wheelchairs have occurred, they seek data about the performance of WC19-complaint wheelchairs relative to other wheelchairs. This information will inform decisions and may guide pupil transit policy in school transportation districts around the US. Knowledge about unmet needs in transporting students seated in wheelchairs will help to define areas for future product and standards development, and needed changes in policies and regulations.
The project includes two phases of data collection. The first phase, taking place in years 3 and 4, will develop and distribute a questionnaire to state directors of pupil transportation. The second phase, occurring in years 4 and 5, will target local school districts and survey a geographically representative sample of school-bus drivers.
This project will produce two wheelchair transportation survey tools - one for state transportation directors and one for school-bus drivers. The data collected will be analyzed and results published in peer-reviewed journals and school transportation publications. The results will also be presented at the 2010 National Congress on School Transportation meeting and other appropriate venues. It will also produce advances in knowledge that can be used to inform the consortium of school transportation organizations and drive the development of transportation policy, training, and public awareness materials. The data collected will provide evidence of the performance of WC19-compliant wheelchairs, thereby increasing awareness of the importance of these products and any need for modifications to the WC19 standard.
This project will begin in year three (2009) of the RERC. Project leaders will begin Phase 1 by interviewing NCST personnel to clarify the types and specificity of data reported to state transportation directors, as well as collect samples of available data. This knowledge is essential for developing a questionnaire that state level transportation directors will support and to which they can respond. After reaching consensus on the breadth of the survey, the project research team will develop the survey tool with the oversight of an epidemiologist. The survey tool will be beta-tested with the leadership team from the NCST before it is distributed to each of the fifty state pupil transportation directors.
Since data desired by the state transportation directors will probably not include the level of detail needed to understand some of the underlying issues, the RERC research team plans to extend the scope of the data collection to obtain data at the level of the local school transportation district specifically, the bus driver. For example, the RERC is interested in knowing about WTORS usage, driver training, implementation of safety practices within local transportation districts, time required for securement of WC19 versus non-WC19 mobility devices, lift operation, and practices on transporting lap trays, communication devices and oxygen tanks.
After reviewing the preliminary data from the survey of state directors, Phase 2 will begin to develop a second survey tool for completion by local district bus drivers. This second phase of the study will provide information about actual practices in transporting students riding in wheelchairs. It is anticipated that this phase will provide more information about day-to-day practices and about driver's issues and concerns. The results should help identify training needs, improvements in equipment usability, and WTORS issues in need of clarification.
In partnership with the NCST, a strategy will be developed to identify a subset of local transportation districts representative of the range of district sizes, school district vs. contract provider approaches, rural vs. urban locations, and six geographic regions of the country. Collecting data from bus drivers who are broadly disbursed might best occur via a website designed for data collection. This site will offer both an online survey and a printable PDF survey that could be mailed or faxed back to the research team.
The project leader and project staff have previously set up and conducted web surveys in two previous wheelchair and transportation studies. The webserver resources and staff's technical expertise allowed integration of participant responses with databases, and monitoring of survey responses during the data collection period.
The following is a resolution that was passed at the National Congress on School Transportation by delegates and is the foundation upon which this research project was based:
Data collection on this study was closed on July 11, 2011. A total of 391 surveys were received. A summer student working with Patricia Karg at the University of Pittsburgh completed data analysis and produced a 10-page report summarizing survey results. These results were presented at the National Association for Pupil Transportation's Annual Summit in Cincinnati on 10/25/2011, and published in an online article in School Bus Fleet titled "Wheelchair use study discussed at NAPT Summit" on 11/7/2011. These data were also shared with the Editor-in-Chief of School Transportation News (STN online), and published in an online article in this trade magazine. The article was titled Wheelchair Securement Study ‘First of Its Kind’, written by STN staff writer Michelle Fisher, and published online 12/7/2011.
Activities during the reporting period started off with our 2009 summer engineering intern presenting her web-based study on state school transportation policies at the 2010 RESNA conference. In this presentation she summarized the results of a web-based review of transportation policies. The results are published in the Proceedings of the Annual RESNA Conference, Las Vegas, NV, June 2010.
In October 2009 we began the work of converting our state-director survey into Survey Monkey format. The University of Pittsburgh has a license for full access to this tool so this became an optimal distribution method. The goal for survey distribution was early October 2009. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent out through the list serve of the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Directors for Pupil Transportation (NASDPTS). Despite best efforts and deadline extensions, only 30 surveys (out of the expected 50) were returned. The data were downloaded to Excel and then converted into a FileMaker Pro (FMP) database for study and analysis. Each record was analyzed for missing or ambiguous data. The research team determined essential follow-up questions for each state to capture the data that we found most state directors could provide. The goal is to focus on obtaining complete data on school-bus driver training, application of the National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures, inclusion of information in state policies affecting wheelchair-seated students, knowledge of WC19, and some very basic transportation demographics. Each investigator (Buning, Karg, and Frost) followed up with 10 state directors (total=30) to confirm data or identify another sources of data that were not provided - e.g. special ed mileage. Only a portion of the states completed the second brief, customized questionnaire. However, additional useful information was obtained. We sent the brief questionnaire to the states that had not responded and acquired three more responses for a total of 33.
We are now in the process of cross tabbing the web-based policy analysis completed by the University of Pittsburgh summer intern with the findings of our two efforts at data collection. The goal is to determine if these sources offer missing data or corroborate data provided. The FMP database is being updated to reflect the multiple data sources. The FMP database has shown itself to be an excellent tool for visual analysis of responses showing missing data and discrepancies in data reported.
The research team developed the State-of-the-Science (SoS) Workshop White Paper paper on School Transportation and distributed it to invitees. We have continued work on the referenced review paper and are planning to submit it for publication in a special issues on transportation of the Journal of Pediatric Rehabiliation Medicine (JPRM). This will involve adding the content and results of the SoS Workshop held at the Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers Conference.
We are now developing the Phase II survey, which is also a web-based survey but directed to school-bus drivers across the U,S. This survey will focus on key issues related to driver training, and the prevalence of WC19 compliant wheelchairs and their contribution to the ease of using WTORS and improving safety. Resources for contacting school-bus drivers were identified through a connection with Ted Finlayson-Schueler at the National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) in Warrensburg, MO. Ted, an industry consultant, has agreed to help up with contacts, blogs, websites, etc.
This project will now be in two phases.
Phase 1: (years 3 and 4) will develop and distribute a questionnaire to state directors of pupil transportation.
Phase 2: (years 4 and 5) will target local school districts and survey a geographically representative sample of school-bus drivers.
Last updated: 07.13.2012
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