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Wheelchair Tiedowns, Seatbelts, Securement and Restraint Systems

What’s the difference?

When it comes to describing wheelchair restraint systems to the average able bodied person, words like wheelchair seat belts, tie downs, securement systems and restraints can easily get intermixed with each other. Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics, but there are subtle differences that can easily be explained. If you’re going to be transporting someone in a wheelchair or looking to purchase a wheelchair van for the first time, it’s a good idea to learn about restraint systems and how they are used to keep everyone safe.

Tiedowns (or Tie Downs)

Wheelchair tiedown illustration courtesy of BraunAbility.

Whether you use tiedowns as one word or two, wheelchair “tie downs” are the straps and hooks that connect wheelchairs to the floor of a vehicle. Some people also refer to these as wheelchair restraints. These are most often used as a 4-point tie down system. They are connected to strips of aluminum bolted to the floor of wheelchair vans known as “L-Track”. The L-Track has a grooved channel and machined holes about every two inches so that the tiedowns can quickly be attached to the floor in its desired position. As an alternative, some people use “floor anchors” with only one or a few holes for attaching each of the straps. Specially designed locking pins at the end of the straps are then moved from one hole to another to help with anchoring the wheelchair snuggly. For safety reasons, two tie downs in the front and two in the back are required. Metal “J- hooks” on the other end of the straps are used to attach the straps (or belts) to the wheelchair frame. The straps are then adjustable for a taught fit, keeping the wheelchair in place during the ride.

Retractable or Manually Adjusted Tie Downs Make a Big Difference

MobilityWorks recommends getting retractable tie downs in nearly all cases. They are much more user-friendly to work with and take much less time to secure the person in the chair. Unlike a manual strap, the mechanism inside of each retractor is self-tightening. While they do cost more, retractable tie downs are worth the investment and most people wish they had gotten them a lot earlier. The person in the chair can also be much more independent with retractables, as they are don’t require much effort to get the straps nice and tight – or to release them when reaching your destination.

Wheelchair Seatbelts (or Securement)

Not unlike automobile seatbelt systems, wheelchair seatbelts have a strap that goes across the chest area and one that goes across the waist. These are also referred to as occupant securement. The difference is that in many cases, the lap belt and shoulder belt are combined together with a single or dual-retractable device and L-Track connectors. This type of setup is designed specifically for wheelchair riders, who typically need longer straps if tied down in the middle of the vehicle. You should only purchase seatbelts from reputable manufacturers that meet federal safety guidelines and perform regular crash testing of their products.

Wheelchair Docking Systems

For people who don’t want to hassle of dealing with a 4-point tie down system, a docking device may be the answer. Docking systems are used by many people in wheelchairs who drive their own vehicle from their chair. Wheelchair passengers can also use a docking system. The system is basically a rectangular metal device that is mounted to the floor. It has a spring-loaded electronic hook that grabs on to a metal bolt (or pin) that is mounted to the bottom of the wheelchair. When the bolt is rolled into the docking device, the hook automatically closes around it, keeping the wheelchair in place. Wheelchair seatbelts are then used along with the docking system for additional securement. Docking systems generally include a push button electronic control module mounted on or near the dashboard notifying the driver and passengers when the wheelchair is locked down properly. The control module or quick release button on the docking device is then used to unlock the docking mechanism when reaching your destination.

Putting It All Together

With all of these securement options to choose from, the most important thing to remember is safety. Double check all of your connecting points and don’t be in a hurry. Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Whatever your method of wheelchair travel, an accessible minivan or full-sized handicap van with a lift, proper wheelchair securement is an absolute necessity – not only for the person in the wheelchair, but also for the safety of everyone else in the vehicle.

MobilityWorks, Marietta, & MS Walk

Marietta MS Walk

MobilityWorks of Marietta, Georgia was a proud sponsor of Walk MS held in downtown Marietta on Saturday April 20th.  In addition to sponsoring one of the break points along the walk, MobilityWorks provided two wheelchair accessible vans to assist participants who needed help finishing the route.  Scott Creel, a Certified Mobility Consultant in Marietta with 18 years of experience in the mobility industry, drove a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country with a conversion made by BraunAbility.

With over 1,200 walkers participating in the walk, Scott made multiple trips and made many new friends along the route.

MobilityWorks provides wheelchair accessible vehicles and modifications that help people who have physical challenges caused by multiple sclerosis and other conditions.  To read about all the products offered by MobilityWorks, vist www.mobilityworks.com.

Travlin’ in Style with an RV Wheelchair Lift Addition

wheelchair lifts can be added to RVs for accessible transportation
This is a Braun Century wheelchair lift added to an RV.

For those who love to travel cross country, nothing beats the all-purpose, fully-loaded recreational vehicle or just “RV” as it is commonly called. These vehicles offer the modern conveniences of home and transportation for the whole family all in one. For some wheelchair users and their families, dreams of vacationing cross-country in an RV are becoming a reality. Today, a few RV manufacturers and secondary market providers can supply rear door kits that allow for the addition of a lift. This is most often achieved with a “cut-out” in the passenger side rear bedroom area.

Wheelchair Lifts :  Capacities and Specifications

It’s important to talk to a mobility dealer to discuss what options are available for your type of wheelchair and the total weight before making any commitments for either the RV cut-out door or the lift. Some lifts may require 40” or more of door opening space to be installed. If a heavier, commercial-style lift is necessary, a specially ordered door kit for wider applications may need to be built by the RV manufacturer.   

wheelchair lifts add convenience and transportation for road trips
Interior view of RV wheelchair lift.

If you have an RV and want to know about wheelchair lifts and styles, drop us a note with some details and we’ll provide you with additional information – or find a nearby mobility dealer that can. Talk to your RV dealer as well about cut-out door availability and whether they can install them for you. Now is the time to start planning that special cross-country vacation you’ve always wanted to make happen.

Performance Van Shop, Inc., of Woodbury, NJ, Is Now VCI Mobility

Performance Van Shop, Inc., of Woodbury, NJ, Is Now VCI MobilityWe are excited to announce that Performance Vans, Inc., of Woodbury, NJ, is now VCI Mobility. The acquisition will enable us to provide a full breadth of mobility products and services to the Southern New Jersey marketplace.

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to become a part of the Gloucester County (NJ) community. As a local resident, it is especially significant for me to be in a position to service this area. Adding the Woodbury location to our family of mobility locations powerfully enhances our ability to successfully service all of our clients,” notes Susan Locklear, General Manager of both the Woodbury and Cinnaminson VCI Mobility locations.

In order to enhance the existing Woodbury location, we plan to remodel the facility to include a new indoor showroom and waiting room. The Woodbury location will now also offer wheelchair accessible van rentals, as well routine vehicle maintenance services including oil changes, brake service, and more.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be sharing more information on the transformation and renovation of the Woodbury location. In the interim, the location is open, and ready to service you!

VCI Mobility – Woodbury Location
1549 Gateway Blvd
Woodbury, NJ 08096
Toll Free: 877-838-9446
Fax: 856-853-8341

OTs Are the Real Superheroes

Filmed in Cleveland Ohio, The Avengers movie will soon be hitting theaters throughout the country, but the real “Superheroes” recently descended on Indianapolis.

occupational thrapists are the real super heroes
Marvel Comic’s The Avengers

This past week, MobilityWorks attended the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) annual convention in Indiana. The event drew more than 5,000 attendees from all over the country and about 300 vendors. Occupational therapists are the heroes that work with our clients after suffering a debilitating event, such as a stroke or spinal cord injury, in order to regain the ability to do many of the physical tasks necessary to be independent. They transform lives for millions of Americans needing therapy services. Being an OT means having a lot of post-graduate training in many different medical areas – ranging from youth to elderly care. It also requires having a lot of patience and a strong desire to help people with physical needs at every stage of their recovery. Their goal is the same as ours, to allow people to live active lives again and to regain their independence as much as possible.

OT driver rehabilition

The AOTA convention vendors offered a wide array of different products and services to help clients with their rehabilitation process, such as improving motor skills, balance and hand-eye coordination. Academia was also well represented, as many colleges and universities were there to represent post-graduate curriculum. Many assisted living facilities were also there with displays looking to hire OT professionals. Even the Navy was on hand to recruit OTs. There were also driving simulators for training someone to drive again and wheelchair accessible vans made by BraunAbility.  

While our mission was to connect with leaders in the occupational therapy world, the event was inspirational in that many of the younger graduates showed exceptional interest in our products and the SureGrip hand controls demonstration that we brought to the exhibit hall. Working alongside other organizations such as the Adaptive Driving Alliance, the National Mobility Dealers Association (NMEDA) and The Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (ADED), our secondary mission was to educate new OTs attending on the importance of mobility products and the vast array of transportation options that are available. Soon they will be OT influencers guiding clients to our stores for adaptive quipment solutions.