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UB awarded funding to test wheelchair securement systems for public buses

UB's IDeA Center received a $600,000 grant to test two new types of securement systems for public transportation riders who use a wheeled mobility device. Photo: Douglas Levere

By DAVID J. HILL

Published October 13, 2017

UB’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center) has received grant funding to test two new types of securement systems for public transportation riders who use a wheeled mobility device such as a wheelchair or motorized scooter.

Part of the three-year, $600,000 research project also will examine how the autonomous vehicle industry is — or isn’t — considering accessibility and universal design, including mobility-device securement, in current practices.

The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, which has funded previous IDeA Center studies related to accessible public transportation, is administering the award. The co-principal investigators on the project are Brittany Perez, research associate in the IDeA Center, and Jordana Maisel, the center’s director of research activities.

The grant also includes collaborators from UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

This research project will evaluate the strengths and limitations of two innovative wheelchair-securement systems in actual service: a three-point, fully integrated, forward-facing system — called the Q’Pod — and a fully automated, rear-facing securement system (Quantum).

Both systems have been evaluated previously in a laboratory setting and demonstrate significant benefits over the conventional four-point tie-down securement approach, which poses usability challenges and safety risks for wheeled mobility device users and bus drivers.

Collaborating with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) and Q’Straint, the industry leader in wheeled mobility device securement, IDeA Center researchers will verify the findings of the laboratory research in service conditions, quantify the usability benefits for riders and the performance improvements for operators, and identify the need for future design improvements to increase adoption of these systems.

Phase I of the project will evaluate the use of both securement systems in large NFTA buses in fixed-route service. The second phase will evaluate the Quantum in one of the NFTA’s smaller paratransit vehicles. The third part of the project will focus on accessibility in autonomous vehicles.

Researchers hope their findings will help guide transportation agencies across the country in their securement system purchasing decisions.