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Wheelchair and Tiedown/Restraint Testing

UMTRI has been involved in wheelchair-occupant safety research for more than thirty years and Biosciences researchers and test engineers have been active in leading the development of wheelchair transportation safety (WTS) standards worldwide since 1985. UMTRI’s Biosciences Group conducts sled-impact tests of wheelchairs, wheelchair seating systems, and wheelchair tiedowns and occupant-restraint systems (WTORS) to evaluate their frontal-impact performance relative to crashworthiness criteria in the latest U.S. and international industry standards.

Frontal-impact testing of wheelchairs is according to "WC19" (RESNA Wheelchair Standards, Volume 4: Wheelchairs and Transportation: Wheelchairs Used as Seats in Motor Vehicles,Section 19, Annex A RESNA WC-4:2012). Published in December 2012, it updates the original WC19 published in May 2000. Other WC19 wheelchair performance tests are conducted according to methods of Annexes B, C, and E. They allow evaluation of the design and performance of wheelchairs with regard to tiedown clear paths from wheelchair securement points (i.e., attachment points) to vehicle anchor points, the lateral stability of wheelchairs during travel when secured by a four-point, strap-type tiedown, and wheelchair accommodation of properly positioning vehicle-anchored belt restraints on passengers seated in wheelchairs. Wheelchairs can also be tested using international standard ISO 7176-19 (2008), Wheeled mobility devices for use as seats in motor vehicles.

WTORS are dynamically tested on the UMTRI impact sled using the methods of "WC18" ( RESNA Wheelchair Standards, Section 18, Annex A ,RESNA WC-4:2012). This document is an updated version of Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Recommended Practice J2249: Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint Systems for Use in Motor Vehicles. For WTORS intended for general use, tests are conducted using an 85-kg (187-lb) surrogate wheelchair (SWC) to dynamically load the wheelchair tiedown/securement system in a 30-mph, 20-g frontal-impact test. A midsize or large adult-male anthropomorphic test device (ATD), or crash-test dummy, is used to load the occupant belt-restraint system. The WC18 test methods and performance criteria are very similar to those of ISO 10542-1: Wheelchair tiedown and occupant restraint systems for use with forward-facing wheelchair-seated occupants – Part A: Requirements and test methods – Frontal impact. However, this will change in December 2015, three years after publication of WC18. An additional test of tiedown/securement systems in WC18 will then require an ATD to be restrained by a surrogate pelvic (lap) belt anchored to the SWC, thereby increasing the frontal-impact loads on the rear tiedown straps of four-point, strap-type tiedown, or on other types of securement devices.

Crashworthiness performance and seatbelt-accommodation testing of wheelchair seating systems are evaluated according to "WC20" (RESNA Wheelchair Standards: Wheelchair Seating Systems for Use in Motor Vehicles, Section 20, RESNA WC-4:2012) or with ISO 16840: Wheelchair seating – Part 4: Seating systems for use in motor vehicles. These standards specify methods to evaluate a complete seating system, consisting of a back support, a seat, and attachment hardware, independent of production wheelchair frames by installing the seating system on an adjustable-size surrogate wheelchair frame (SWCF). Wheelchair seating systems are tested and evaluated using the same 30-mph, 20-g frontal-impact conditions used in WC18 and WC19, and testing for accommodation of the proper use and positioning of vehicle-anchored belt restraints on passengers uses test methods and criteria that are very similar to those used for wheelchairs in WC19.

Additional Resources

  • UMTRI's Wheelchair Transportation Safety site is a resource with information regarding wheelchair transportation safety and related industry standards, as well as a list of successfully crash tested wheelchairs, securement systems and seating systems. 
  • The UMTRI Wheelchair Testing brochure describes wheelchair testing services at UMTRI. 
  • Request a quote for testing by filling out this form.



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