Potential Solutions to Improve the Safety of Wheelchair-Seated Drivers and Passengers in Private Vehicles

I. de Jongh and L. van Roosmalen (USA)


Wheelchair Transportation, Safety, Restraint, Vehicle, User Centered Design


The number of wheelchair-seated motor vehicle drivers and passengers is steadily increasing. Although much development is ongoing in adaptive driving equipment, few developments have been made to improve the usability and availability of safety systems to protect wheelchair-seated individuals during their ride. This paper summarizes problems that wheelchair-seated drivers and passengers encounter in vehicle environments. Observations and feedback from wheelchair-seated individuals in their private vehicle showed discrepancies between user perception versus researcher-observed safety levels and safety system usability. Key problem areas included lack of proper occupant protection due to non-use, misuse, or unavailability of seat belt restraints, and unavailability of head and back supports. A user centered design approach was used, and solution areas were suggested in response to the assessed user needs and the various observed problems that wheelchair-seated individuals in private vehicles encounter. Brainstorming on wheelchair occupant protection, yielded solutions that could roughly be divided in two categories: solutions that require wheelchair (re)design and solutions that require vehicle (re)design. The authors expect that solutions that have the most impact on improving safety of wheelchair seated occupants of private vehicles are those that focus on vehicle (re)design. Outcomes of this study can assist product designers in the development of innovative technologies to improve the safety of wheelchair-seated drivers and passengers of private vehicles.

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