Dates: July 2021 to June 2022
Researchers: Kathleen D. Klinich, Jingwen Hu, Miriam Manary, Kyle Boyle, Nichole Orton
Transportation for people with mobility impairments who use wheelchairs depends on vehicle environments that accommodate their needs for safe and easy-to-use vehicle spaces. This project developed design guidelines on how to make passenger vehicles, and particularly autonomous vehicles, accessible for people in wheelchairs. The vehicle aspects addressed include doorways, ramps, lifts, handholds, interior access routes, wheelchair spaces, wheelchair securement, occupant protection for people in wheelchairs, floor surfaces, and operable parts. The recommendations were derived from the literature and precedents set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), where applicable. In the areas of ramp strength and wheelchair positioning, where no clear precedents exist, the project team developed relevant procedures that are documented in the Appendices. This document can be used to evaluate vehicle accessibility using the “good/better/best” categories established for each topic. These guidelines promote vehicle designs that can allow more people in wheelchairs to travel more independently, more safely, and more easily.
The volunteer study described in a separate report was conducted to assess whether the better and best recommendations provided improved accessibility and comfort compared to the good recommendations. Testing results generally did not show significant differences between conditions, which may be due to small sample size and limitations from the combinations of factor available on the test vehicles. However, participant feedback and data on belt fit provide useful information for accessible vehicle design.