For those of you unfamiliar with the term, wheelchair restraints (also known as tie-downs) are systems that are used to restrain both the chairs and their occupants whilst being transported in a vehicle. There are actually three different types of restraints – manual, automatic (also known as electronic) and occupant. In this article, we have taken a closer look at each of these types in the hopes of helping you to better understand them.
A manual wheelchair restraint system normally consists of 4 securement belts that attach to the vehicle and the chair. Once the chair has been positioned, another person attaches the belts to it and to the floor. When the occupant is ready to disembark the vehicle, another person must undo the belts. These systems are fairly universal and can be used on a large variety of vehicles and wheelchairs, which is why it’s a popular choice for taxis.
An automatic wheelchair restraint system generally consists of an interface bracket that is mounted to the chair and corresponds to a base unit received mounted on the floor of the vehicle. The chair is maneuvered towards the base unit until it meets the interface bracket, which in turn secures it. These systems are equipped with electronically activated release mechanisms, so no assistance is required. Not all wheelchairs can be used with such systems, however.
All electronic restraints feature a manual backup release in the case that the vehicle experiences a power failure (or in the case of an accident, when it would be too dangerous to operate the mechanism). In these situations, being able to safely release the wheelchair from the bracket is a top priority. This will mean that the occupant doesn’t have to be removed from the chair and that it will be able to be taken from the vehicle with them.
All individuals riding inside a vehicle are required to wear a lap and shoulder belt in order to keep them safe. In most cases, aftermarket seatbelts are used for wheelchair passengers due to the need for adjustment and disassembly. In other cases, the wheelchair itself can be fitted with an occupant restraint that only needs to be done up when riding in a vehicle. Aftermarket seatbelts and restraints should come with instructions for use.
With so many different options on the market, knowing which restraints will best meet your needs and those of your wheelchair passengers can be difficult. This is why it is recommended that you speak with an expert to ensure that you’re making the right decision.
We hope that the information provided in this article has given you a much better understanding of the different types of wheelchair restraints available. It is important that the chair and its occupant have been properly secured prior to being transported, as this will ensure their safety during standard travel and in the case of an accident. If you require assistance choosing restraints, ensure that you contact an expert for advice and suggestions.