Getting out into the community can be a necessity particularly if you live alone, and it also allows for social interaction that is critical to our overall well-being as an individual. Whether your goal is to be able to get out to see your physician, go grocery shopping or simply attend a religious service. It is imperative that you have the ability to safely secure your wheelchair during transit. When you are considering purchasing a wheelchair, it is important to inquire about different transporting options. Depending on your needs you may decide to choose a wheelchair with an occupied or unoccupied transit option.

Occupied Transit vs Unoccupied Transit

Unoccupied transit generally refers to a wheelchair that the individual will not be riding in during transit. Many of the manufacturers today offer vehicle tie downs as an option. When tie downs are installed there are generally 4 tie downs per chair. It is common for tie downs to be attached to the frame or base of the chair for stability. If you are going to transport your wheelchair on an exterior vehicle lift or in the back of a vehicle it is common to choose the unoccupied transit option.

Occupied Transit options are designed to allow the wheelchair rider to remain in the chair during transportation. There are very specific standards that must be met for the chair to qualify for occupied transit. If a wheelchair is designed for the rider to stay in during transit it is referred to as WC19 approved.

What is WC19?

The National Council on Disability notes that the need for occupied transit options is much greater for individuals who cannot independently transfer into an existing car seat.  WC19 was designed for people who don’t have the ability to transfer directly into a car seat. If the wheelchair seat is going to take the place of the vehicle seat it must meet a certain performance standards. The WC19 standards are guided by the automotive industry. It is the same basic testing standards used by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards FMVSS.

 What is the criteria to receive WC19 approval

  • Requiring that wheelchairs provide the wheelchair user with the option of using a dynamically tested wheelchair-anchored pelvic belt to which a vehicle-anchored shoulder belt can be readily connected, and
  • Requiring that wheelchairs achieve acceptable, good, or excellent ratings for both the ease of properly applying a vehicle-anchored belt restraint on the wheelchair occupant and the degree to which proper belt positioning is possible when the wheelchair is evaluated for its accommodation of
  • Have at least four permanently labeled securement points that can withstand the forces of a 30 mph, 20 g impact,
  • Have specific securement point geometry that can receive a securement end fitting hook of a specified maximum dimension,
  • Be equipped with anchor points for a wheelchair-anchored pelvic belt and recommendations for purchasing a belt if not provided, such that the wheelchair and pelvic belt will withstand a 30 mph, 20 g impact, and
  • Provide a standard interface on the pelvic belt to connect to a vehicle-anchored shoulder belt.

University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

It is much easier to figure out what type of transit option you need before you get a new wheelchair. Most wheelchairs cannot be retrofitted to meet WC19 standards. Being an educated consumer is always the best option.

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