For wheelchair-using bus passengers, feeling safe and secure on a journey is essential for peace of mind but being safe and securely anchored is even more important. Disability Now’s transport writer Helen Dolphin has been trying out a new system which aims to deliver that safety and security.
Since 1 January this year it’s been a requirement that all full-size single deck buses over 7.5 tonnes must be fully accessible. This is in order to meet Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) 2000. This means that the bus must have space for a wheelchair and there must be suitable safety provisions depending on whether the wheelchair is carried facing forwards or backwards.
For most buses in the UK the safety provision is usually an anti-tipping pole for the wheelchair user to hold on to. Considering I have no hands this is of no use to me whatsoever. Although my wheelchair has brakes these were not designed to hold me in place on the bus, therefore to stop my wheelchair moving about and tipping over I either get the person I’m travelling with, or a fellow passenger, to put their foot on my footrest to hold me in place.
I hadn’t really considered how dangerous this was both for me and for other passengers who I might unintentionally bash into and injure when going round a corner until I had the opportunity to try out a far more superior wheelchair restraint system on the bus in Hull. Here one of the buses belonging to the East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS) has a new piece of equipment installed called Quantum. Quantum designed by the company Q’Straint is already being used in the US to safely secure wheelchair users on the bus but EYMS was the first company in the UK to install it.
As on most buses I had to travel backwards in the wheelchair space but instead of just relying on a pole and another person to hold me steady here I was safely secured by Quantum. Quantum is basically two mechanical arms which lock the wheelchair wheels into place preventing the wheelchair user tipping over or moving should the bus driver brake a bit sharply. What is also good about this system is it is user-controlled so I could lock myself in place by just pushing a button. It also works very quickly and you are completely secured in less than 25 seconds. When you arrive at your stop you simply press the button again to release the arms and off you go. It is such a simple system and I really did feel safe.
This system also had a couple of added bonuses as far as I was concerned. I’m sure other wheelchair users will identify with the issue of travel sickness when travelling backwards. However, when I was on the bus in Hull I just didn’t experience it. I think it was because I was held so snugly by the Quantum that the additional motion which usually makes me feel ill was eliminated.
The second added bonus which I believe buses with Quantum benefit from is that it so clearly marks the wheelchair space out as for wheelchair users that it would be much more difficult for parents with pushchairs to refuse to move. This would help design out the conflict that can be a real issue for wheelchair users.
The good news is that Quantum is no longer just on the bus in Hull. It has recently been installed on the tourist bus in Edinburgh and I’m sure as more operators realise how much safer this makes travel for disabled people hopefully they’ll want to install it too.