Case Studies

Disabled Motoring UK

Traveling Safely in Your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)

Q'Straint has joined forces with Disabled Motoring UK(DMUK) and the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converters’ Association (WAVCA) to ensure disabled drivers are traveling safely in their wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV).

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Tragedy Averted Thanks to Q’Straint Retractors When Light Rail Train Collides with Paratransit Bus

In a collision with a Calgary, Canada, light rail train that severely damaged the paratransit bus on which he was riding, a mobility passenger whose scooter was secured by Q’Straint retractors suffered only a cut in his left forehead.

“He received three or four sutures and needed a little Band-Aid on his head, but other than that was apparently no worse for wear,” says Randy Patmore, supervisor of employee services and the lead collision investigator and reconstructionist for Calgary HandiBus Association.

“There didn’t appear to be any movement at all in the Q’Straint Slide ’N Click® connectors on the floor, or on any of the washers, nuts or bolts,” adds Fleet Services Manager Ken McCarron.

Patmore says the accident happened when the HandiBus driver — a 20-year industry veteran with a collision-free record — was momentarily distracted by the mobility passenger engaging him in conversation. With a green light ahead, the bus was approaching an at-grade crossing of the Calgary Transit C-Train.

A three-car train was stopped to the right of the crossing, waiting for its own green signal.

“The passenger is chatting away, the driver looks in the rear-view mirror and when he looks back, the light has changed and he has to make a split second decision to either lock the brakes and give the passenger a shaking or go for it. He went for it.”

As the driver entered the intersection on a red light, the C-Train engineer received his green light. The train entered the intersection, striking the bus at the right rear wheel. The bus spun out of control from the impact and hit a steel power pole head on.

The driver was not seriously injured, but McCarron says damage to bus was extensive. The collision “pushed the bumper and the front end components as far back as the grill and into the front of the engine, getting the water pump and the fan. And it also hit the steering the linkage in the middle and caused the wheels to bow in the middle. So the steering linkage was destroyed.”

“Fortunately, the passenger in the scooter was secured properly,” says Patmore. “But the impact flipped him around and he banged his head into the bottom of the ambulatory seat stowed beside him. He got a cut in his left forehead that took three or four sutures. And that’s it — which is pretty awesome because there were a bazillion other ways that could have gone horribly wrong.”

Both Patmore and McCarron agree that one thing they have never seen go wrong is performance of Q’Straint retractors.

“We trust the four retractor system and it hasn’t failed us,” says Patmore. “We have two seasons in Calgary: winter and construction. And with everything that could possibly happen in a city this size with over 100 buses, I literally have never seen the retractor fail.”

Training has a lot to do with the performance of Q’Straint retractors at Calgary HandiBus. All five of the paratransit operators funded through Calgary Transit’s Access Calgary have worked together to establish a common three-week training program for all of their drivers.

“I am one of very few in Calgary who had ever been to the Q’Straint training facility in Florida, and I told our funder and the other contractors that they really owed it to themselves to get in on that,” says Patmore. At his urging, Access Calgary sent other transit staff to Q’Straint’s National Training Seminar. “So when we were developing our own training, we just injected the Q’Straint training protocol right into the training mechanism that we all use.”

For Calgary HandiBus, the combination of reliable wheelchair securement and thorough operator training allowed a mobility passenger to survive a devastating accident virtually unharmed. “I was really, really impressed,” Patmore says. “Because it’s one thing to watch the training videos where they use crash test dummies and wheelchairs on sleds, but to see the retractors perform in actual practice, that’s pretty incredible.”

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FRITZ HAUETER - Switzerland

Independent Testing, Innovative Conversions Assure Safety of Swiss Wheelchair Users

Wheelchair-dependent drivers and passengers in Switzerland, with its population of just over 8 million people, have the support of some of the best accessibility resources in the world. These include volunteer-driven and non-profit taxi services in most cities, independent and trustworthy rating of safety equipment and innovative vehicle outfitters such as Fritz Haueter AG.

Founded in 1964 as a reseller of cranes for light commercial vehicles, Fritz Haueter transitioned out of that business by the end of the 20th century and since 2003 has focused on a full range of mobility solutions, including vehicle conversions and pre-owned vehicle sales. “Today we offer a complete range of possibilities for self-drivers or passengers who use wheelchairs. And it’s really gratifying to see how people react when they get their new car equipped so that they have their freedom again,” says company owner Hans Haueter.

And what securement equipment does Haueter choose to assure the safety of his wheelchair customers? “Q’Straint,” he says. “We are convinced that with Q’Straint, we are giving our customers the best the market has to offer. We have installed thousands of Q’Straint retractors since becoming an importer in 1996. At exhibitions where we show people how the QRT Max works and how it functions, we always get positive feedback and response. And for me, it’s easy to demonstrate because it’s such a good product.”

But end-users don’t have to take just Haueter’s word for that. As he explains, “Here in Switzerland we have different customers who conduct thorough product tests with all of the restraint systems available on the market.” One such organization is the Foyer-Handicap Foundation, that provides residential, employment and transportation support and services in and around Geneva to people with disabilities. “Some years ago they did a three-month test with different cars equipped with different restraint systems and had all the drivers report their experiences: what they thought about the device, how quick it was to use, and how reliable it was. Q’Straint was at the top of the list.”

Another Swiss transportation provider that depends on Q’Straint is TIXI Zurich, a non-profit, donation-funded association that operates a volunteer-staffed car service for mobility-challenged passengers. “TIXI has about 35 cars that are all compact vehicles, with room for a single wheelchair,” explains Haueter. “They are rear-entry ramp accessible conversions and we have installed QRT Max restraints inside all of those.”

TIXI Zurich’s environmental initiative required Haueter to devise an innovative accessibility solution for its first electric car conversion. “That was quite a challenge,” says Haueter, “because to get the height for the person in the wheelchair, we had to cut out the floor and put in a lower floor. The electrical cars have a huge battery underneath the body – but we solved that and TIXI is thrilled to a fully green fleet.”

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MAX Transit - Holland

MAX Transit Maximizes Value, Efficiency and Safety with the Q’UBE

With monthly wheelchair ridership increasing by about 40 percent in the past two years, Macatawa Area Express (MAX Transit) needed a way to speed securement and reduce the overall 6- to 8-minute load time for mobility challenged passengers. The West Michigan public transit system found a solution in the Q’UBE, the complete bolt-in securement station from Q’Straint.

“We transport almost 1,000 people a day,” says MAX Transit Operations Manager K.D. Reisenga. “Between 390 and 425 of those are demand-response riders. So if we have a wheelchair, we have to expand the time on that particular manifest to give the driver more time to get to their destination.”

She says the Q’UBE began returning “major value” as soon as the first ones were installed. “We’re saving time. Drivers used to have to make sure they could get the belt or the retractor in the slot. And then they always had to make sure they were tight enough. Sometimes, the belts would twist and get caught, and it was a mess. We haven’t had that with the Q’UBE.”

Driver acceptance is another immediate benefit of the new system, says Reisenga. “They were ecstatic. The Q’UBE is so much easier to use, so much easier to work with. There’s less stress and wear and tear on drivers’ backs, because they’re not down there on the floor trying to figure out how it works.”

“On the old system, it was hard for the driver to get back behind those chairs, whereas, with the Q’UBE you can actually have the chair up farther so they can get down in there, and then tighten that up last. It works out really well.”

MAX Transit has found the Q’UBE’s self-contained design provides for a cleaner installation and less obtrusive operation. “I like that the restraints are out of the way until the seat is flipped up to allow access to the securement,” says Reisenga. “And other ones are kept in a little pouch and they’re out of the way. Before, once the passenger got off, drivers had to make sure to pick up the belts so they’re not a tripping hazard for walk-ons.”

With straps tucked away when not in use, they need servicing less often, says Reisenga. “We’re in the shop much less with them, because they’re not filling up with mud. Our winter months here in Michigan are rough. So mud and sand and anything that’s on the floor could be a problem with other systems.”

Perhaps most important, says Reisenga, passengers are more secure. “Straps are tighter, so the chair isn’t moving around,” she says. “With the older system, the belt tended to slip a little bit. Once you finished the trip, you could tell when you went back there that the chair had moved a little. I think the Q’UBE makes the passenger feel safer, because they can hear that click and can feel the straps tightening up.”

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Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)

DART Assures that Wheelchair Securements are Always Available, Yet Never in the Way

Few things are as frustrating to a bus operator or wheelchair passenger as discovering that securement equipment they both assumed was on the bus is instead missing. Perhaps tie-downs were taken to another bus, taken out for repair or simply taken. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) found a simple and cost-effective way to put an end to this unacceptable inconvenience. The agency is well underway with the outfitting of 400 buses with the Q’UBE integrated securement solution from Q’Straint.

“One of the great benefits of the Q’UBE for us is that it is self-contained and can be bolted directly to the floor or out of the way between seat legs” said Chester Hall, DART’s Assistant Manager for Training and Development.

Besides the increased assurance that important equipment once installed is going to stay installed, Hall says that DART is realizing other important improvements with the first Q’UBE stations installed on their buses: “Easy access, a quick tie-down and schedule adherence. We’re talking about saving a good minute to two minutes per stop.”

As Hall explains, securement with Q’UBE is virtually automatic and error-free. “All the operator has to do is latch the passenger in and tell them to roll back, and the Q’UBE automatically locks in,” says Hall. “The operator doesn’t have to crawl down to get back behind the chair to make sure the straps are tightening down. It automatically locks itself.” This single-lever mechanical delay system, “makes securement more convenient for the operators, making it more likely that they’ll do it right rather than not doing it at all.”

Hall says making this important task easier for operators pays off in other ways as well. “We figured that securement issues cause a lot of operator frustration and frustration leads to unsatisfied customers and leads, at some point, to accidents,” he says. “If you can make a schedule that an operator could easily adhere to, then you’re going to have a much calmer operator. He’s going to be your best representative because you’ve made his job much easier. He’s less frustrated, better able to deal with the traffic, better able to deal with customers on a more professional level.”

Adds Hall: “With the Q’UBE, the tie-down procedure makes the operator more confident that he can avoid delays and maintain a schedule. Therefore he’s going to be a better employee.”

Passengers, in turn, respond favorably to consistent quality of service, says Hall. “It gives the customer confidence that they can safely and reliably get to their appointments on time.”

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Custom Solutions and Focus on Safety Drive Success of Basque Region Mobility Solutions Provider

Mobility-challenged drivers and passengers know better than anyone that no single vehicle accessibility solution works for everyone. Customization is the key to removing the obstacles that would otherwise stand between a disabled person and a safe and comfortable ride.

Autos Elizasu SL — an adaptive driving outfitter in San Sebastián, Spain — has built a thriving family business and a dedicated following precisely by focusing on tailor-made mobility solutions. Founded by Alejandro Mondelo in 1980 as a Volkswagen-Audi dealer and service center, Autos Elizasu in 1985 expanded into providing ISO 10542 and EN 26494 compliant accessibility modifications for all brands of vehicles, in both private use and public service. Since then, the company has continued to incorporate improvements and innovations to offer its customers solutions customized to their exact needs.

“Our philosophy is to provide whatever is needed in each vehicle so the disabled can use it in safety and comfort,” says Inigo Mondelo, who today is a co-owner of the business, together with his father. “We always try to be different and everyday to be the best. It is possible that we will never achieve it but at least we try.” For Autos Elizasu, being the best means putting customer safety above all else and choosing the best accessibility products and devices for each requirement. And that means Q’Straint QRT wheelchair securement systems.

“We always use QRT retractors, because we believe they are the best,” says Inigo. “And customers find QRT easy to use.”

Still, the team at Autos Elizasu never stops looking for ways to do things even better. For example, the company has developed an innovative installation technique that mounts QRT retractors on a track fixed to the sidewall of the vehicle. This keeps the retractors conveniently out of the way when they’re not being used.

“Small details like this are appreciated by our customers,” says Inigo.

Being the best also means competing on quality instead of price.

“Of course, it is extremely important to keep costs under control,” says Inigo. “Price is becoming a more important factor to clients, both because of their economic needs and because of the growing number of competitors that quote lower prices just to get the business.”

Even though some customers may go elsewhere, Autos Elizasu has proved that by understanding customers’ needs, providing individualized solutions and never compromising customer safety, it can succeed without being the lowest price provider.

“We may not satisfy everyone,” says Inigo, “but the positive comments we receive are always more numerous than the negatives.”

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Brampton Transit Increases Accessibility while Simplifying Operation and Maintenance, with Q’POD

Brampton (Ontario) Transit and the city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee take well-deserved pride in their commitment to assuring that Brampton’s disabled population can enjoy and participate in all that the “Flower City” has to offer. To that end, the transit service has installed 120 Q’POD wheelchair securement stations in 60 of its 327 buses since 2011, says Brampton Transit’s Manager of Maintenance Alan Grocott.

Q’POD has been well-received by operators, passengers and maintenance staff alike.

“With previous systems, the grime that collected on belts could compromise the safe working of the system. This is not the case with Q’POD,” Grocott says. “In terms of repair, maintenance staff has reported no issues with Q’POD. To date, it has proven to be very reliable.”

Grocott also says the Q’POD stations are faster and easier to clean than the systems they replaced. “Seats are easily vacuumed and washed down while the chair belts remain salt and grime-free. With previous systems, salt, mud and dirt were often an issue because the belts rested on the floor.”

Operators say Q’POD is easy to use and enables them to quickly secure a passenger without having to intrude in a rider’s personal space. “Drivers don’t need to crouch on the floor or lean over the rider,” says Peter Alder, Senior Manager of Operations at Brampton Transit. “The securement process is clean, since the belts are neatly tucked away until use. And once secured, the passenger is positioned in a way that allows them to get off easily when they reach their stop.” Q’POD’s ease of use also reduces the impact of wheelchair securement on bus schedules and other riders, Alder adds.

Accessibility is about removing barriers, and in Brampton, that’s what two Q’POD stations per bus are accomplishing.

“When a rider gets on the bus, the chairs fold up, allowing for a greater turning radius for the wheelchair or scooter. And once secured, the rider can easily access the stop-request button,” says Alder. “Passengers in wheelchairs and scooters ride in comfort. They face the front of the bus and use of the chair belts is their option.”

Passengers confirm that Q’POD makes a difference. “It gives me and other mobility device users more freedom and the opportunity to become independent in society,” one wheelchair passenger told Brampton Transit. “My wheelchair easily fits in the wheelchair spot. It’s much better than earlier systems as I had a hard time turning around inside the bus. So I didn’t use the service as much. Now I don’t have any problem and I use it often.”

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Seeing is Believing: Demo Convinces Eau Claire Transit of the Time Savings and Better Securement with Q’POD

One demonstration was all it took to convince Mike Branco, Transit Manager for the City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, that the Q’POD wheelchair securement system could help operators save time, improve passenger safety and minimize driver injuries.

“We’re always looking for ways to speed things up and do them more efficiently,” says Branco. “When I saw the Q’POD in action at the 2010 Wisconsin Public Transportation Conference, I had to show my manager, because I think securement of a typical wheelchair took only 15 to 20 seconds at the most.”

Just to be sure, Branco’s team did their own side-by-side comparison of Q’POD and their current securement system. “It literally took two-and-a-half to three times longer to do the traditional wheelchair securement with our system versus the Q’POD.”

After installing Q’POD in its five newest buses, Eau Claire Transit conducted training sessions to familiarize drivers with the new devices. “The drivers loved it and a majority of them saw the value right away,” says Branco of the widespread employee support for this management decision.

The bending and kneeling required with the transit system’s other securement devices have resulted in driver complaints and back injuries. That’s changed on the buses with Q’POD. “We haven’t had a worker’s compensation claim about anything back-oriented because of Q’POD,” says Branco. “That’s huge because we’re always trying to minimize driver risk.”

The Q’POD equipment itself has proven less prone to injury than Eau Claire’s other securement systems. With those, Branco says, “the belts would always be in the water, or in the mud. And they’d get frayed, or start deteriorating from salts. We were constantly replacing belts.” That, too, has changed with Q’POD. “People talk about the tie-downs on Q’POD and how great they’re engineered. But in my opinion, the seatbelt goes unsung,” he says. “They’re self-contained, so you have less option for wear and tear because they’re not hanging out in the elements. I don’t think we’ve changed a belt yet on any Q’POD at all, and we’ve had these buses for two years now.”

Passengers have praised the availability of Q’POD as well. “It involves less touching, and passengers have commented how it’s less intrusive,” says Branco. “They’re happier about that. I think any of us can appreciate that.”

This level of empathy and concern is not surprising from a system that quite literally goes the extra mile for its wheelchair passengers. “Each one of our buses is handicapped accessible, but one thing we do that’s kind of neat is if we’re full with both wheelchair spots occupied, one of the supervisors will take out another bus so that we don’t have to leave a wheelchair passenger behind.”

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MITS Sees and Seizes Opportunity to Minimize Risk and Improve Performance with Q’POD

Sometimes you just know a good thing when you see it. Such was the case when Larry King, General Manager of the Muncie Indiana Transit System (MITS) looked into the features and benefits of the Q’POD wheelchair securement station.

“We had new buses already being manufactured – but after seeing the Q’POD we liked it and saw the advantages -- so we did a change order to get it placed into these vehicles.” King says. “We weighed the cost against potential worker’s comp injury, a chair tipping over in an accident or the risk of an improper securement. It was determined that the potential financial impact of just one of these claims would be more costly than the upgrade to the securement areas with the Q’POD’s.”

Though one of the nation’s smaller transit operations — with 45 vehicles carrying 2 million riders a year on 16 routes —MITS serves a high percentage of mobility passengers for a system its size, according to King. He says Ball State University accounts for a large portion of this special needs ridership. “Those students come here because it is a very accessible campus. And a lot of the students coming here because of that accessibility and then finding our system also very accessible have actually stayed here because of the transportation that’s available for them.”

Even before the Americans with Disabilities Act, accessibility has been a priority at MITS. But system managers are always striving to balance wider accessibility with quality of service.

Today, ramps allow wheelchair passengers to enter the front door, pay their fare and proceed to the securement area, where, says King, “with Q’POD, the securement process has improved one hundred percent. I can honestly say that since we started using them, I have zero complaints from my drivers. They love it. It is less intrusive on the passenger, it is easier for the operator in terms of interaction with the passenger. We used to have complaints about the stretching and positioning that they had to get into to secure chairs and scooters. I don’t hear that at all anymore.”

Equally important is wheelchair passengers’ increased satisfaction. “They’re on the bus because they like their independence, and they want the ability to move freely within the community, when and how they choose,” says King. “With ramps and the Q’POD system, our buses make it a lot easier and more efficient and effective for us to move them, and for them to maneuver themselves, without feeling embarrassed they’re causing delay.”

All of which helps MITS maintain the quality of service that made it the 2005 and 2008 American Public Transportation Association Outstanding System in North America.

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VTA Increases Operator Productivity and Wheelchair Passenger Comfort with Q’POD

Since specifying the Q’POD wheelchair securement station for the 70 newest buses in its 426-vehicle fleet in 2010, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in California has realized all of the operational and customer satisfaction benefits that it sought in making the switch.

“By speeding the securement process, easing the burden on operators and improving the initial comfort of wheelchair passengers, we enhance our service and make it more likely that occasional riders become frequent ones,” says Jim Wilhelm, VTA Senior Mechanical Engineer.

VTA prides itself on its longstanding leadership in assuring service accessibility for its reduced-mobility passengers. But by 2005, VTA was finding it challenging to assure adequate operator training and proficiency with the growing variety of OEM-supplied securement systems in the different models and model years of buses in its 426-vehicle fleet. According to Wilhelm, those challenges included selecting proper S-hook or tether attachment points, getting a wheelchair passenger to allow the operator to attach the mandatory securement device and encouraging the passenger to use the optional lap and shoulder belts. “Maintaining schedules was also a challenge, due to the time it takes to secure mobility devices, especially when there is an unusual spike in those types of boardings on any given line,” adds Wilhelm. And, as transit executives everywhere will understand, it could be difficult teaching operators — who are already dealing with the pressures of meeting schedules and assuring passenger safety — how to display sensitivity to a broad spectrum of passenger personalities.

After evaluating all available solutions, Wilhelm says VTA initially chose Q’Straint retractors to help meet its operational challenges and provide a standardized system. When Q’Straint introduced the Q’POD securement station, VTA specified the new system on its new buses beginning in 2010. “The potential benefits we had hoped for have proven to be real. Q’POD has helped to improve customer safety and eased the challenges of securing mobility devices.”

Chief among those challenges was the invasion of wheelchair passengers’ personal space and the time and effort required to secure a wheelchair. “The bus operator having to be in close proximity to attach the wheelchair securements creates a situation that is uncomfortable for both the operator and the transit customer. Another issue is getting down to floor level to access the front inboard belt. By eliminating that belt, Q’POD allows the operator to attach the remaining securements by leaning over instead of having to go down to one knee.”

Q’POD has also helped VTA to overcome what Wilhelm calls “the seemingly infinite number” of different wheelchairs and scooters on the market. “It is impossible for every operator to be an expert in securing every different mobility device that comes on board,” he says. “Because Q’POD secures mobility devices from tipping by cinching to the side stabilizing bumper, it effectively creates a much more forgiving securement process.” By making perfect placement of the belts less critical, Q’POD provides a nearly universal solution for every vehicle and mobility device in use today.

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Q’Straint Retractors Provide Florida Students a Safe Ride to School and Vocational Skills Development When they Arrive

Every day, some 60 wheelchair-dependent, special needs students arrive at the Bright Horizons School in Pompano Beach, Florida, their trip made safe by the use of Q’Straint wheelchair restraints. Then, as part of their vocational training program at the Broward County “center school,” many of the students participate in the manufacture of Q’Straint restraints, performing pre-assembly of bolts, washers and butterfly fasteners. For over a year, the students have been completing approximately 3,000 assemblies a month, packaging them in boxes of 100 and labeling the boxes for correct inventory and retrieval at Q’Straint’s manufacturing facility in Fort Lauderdale.

“Our kids are helping assemble and package a product that actually supports them in life,” says Stacy Wolfe, Bright Horizons’ Vocational Coordinator. “They are capable of working, they feel really good about working and they feel really good about working on materials that they actually see going back out.”

Bright Horizons is a participant in Broward County’s Post-Graduate Alternatives for Secondary Students (PASS) program, a partnership between employers — including Q’Straint — and Broward County Public Schools. PASS brings authentic work into its vocational lab, where young adults learn employable skills that enable them to reach their highest potential.

As Wolfe explains, Bright Horizons graduates transition into adult day training programs where they will be working on similar assembly jobs. “After visiting several of these ADT programs, I knew Q’Straint would be the perfect job to help our students acquire a skill that they will need for their future placement,” she says.

“Our students are so familiar with that job now, they have 100-percent mastery. So when they transition into one of the adult day programs, I can say to its director, ‘This student who is graduating and coming to your program can work on the Q’Straint job, independently’ which puts them in position to go right to work because they already have the necessary skills. And that’s when they start to get paid.”

Besides providing the opportunity to acquire useful skills at school, Q’Straint plays an important role in helping the students to get to school in the first place. “Close to 60 students in my school are non-ambulatory and use wheelchairs,” says Wolfe. “All of our school buses have wheelchair lifts, and use Q’Straint products to secure the chairs in the bus. The buses and those hookups are vital to us.”

Q’Straint’s easy attachment and self-adjusting auto-retractors reduce securement time for drivers and aides, and help keep buses on schedule. The system’s proven reliability helps the Bright Horizons program remain accessible to students who need it so much. “We rarely have issues with securements,” says Wolfe. “If those systems are broken, that means there’s one less individual that can get on the bus that day, which is really challenging, because so many of our students live in group homes or they live with families who do not have wheelchair-accessible vehicles.”

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Combined Benefits of Standardization and Innovation Lead School Transportation Director to Sure-Lok and GO2

“I’m really into standardization,” says Brian Weisinger, the forward-thinking Director of Transportation for the Spring Independent School District, a 36,000-student pre-K–12 system 20 miles north of downtown Houston, Texas. “I try to standardize everywhere we can because of training and ease of operation.”

A key area in which Weisinger’s team has realized those benefits of standardization is in the systems for assuring the safety of special needs students, especially systems for securing wheelchairs and oxygen tanks. The solutions of choice: Sure-Lok retractors and the new GO2 adjustable cylinder holder.

Spring ISD’s move toward standardization began over a decade ago, when — during an operations review of the Special Needs division — Weisinger discovered the district was utilizing four completely different types of wheelchair tie down systems. Within a year, he had standardized the district on Sure-Lok retractors.

The advantages for Spring ISD were obvious: reduced parts inventory, less training time, fewer retraining sessions and, most importantly, less chance of an error that could risk the safety of the students. “When we have drivers or attendants go from one bus to another, they have the same product on every bus. So it doesn’t matter what bus you’re on, you know how to use it,” says Weisinger.

Because the transportation department is always looking for innovative ways to do things better, for new buses and system replacement Spring ISD now specifies the even more efficient and secure Sure-Lok Titan retractors. Instead of two-handed release and pull, the auto-locking Titan requires only one-handed operation, with an S-hook providing quick attachment to a welded frame member of the wheelchair. Says Weisinger, “If somebody should make a mistake not tightening it up enough it will self adjust. That’s comforting.”

Another area in which Spring ISD was looking for innovation was in proper securement of O2 bottles required by some student passengers. “There’s nothing good about transporting oxygen bottles on a special needs bus. That’s just a recipe for disaster,” says Weisinger. “I have heard of drivers strapping them into seat belts, wrapping them up in towels, wrapping them down with a regular seat belt. I’ve heard of them putting them in little plastic bins or overhead compartments.”

When Weisinger learned about the GO2 tank holder that attaches quickly and securely to standard floor tracks whenever needed, the Spring ISD became one of the first districts to adopt the new solution. “I saw so many benefits from it, and the fact that you can add different implements to it makes it a really versatile tool,” he says. “We use it day-to-day. In fact, I ordered another. So I have two in case we should get another student needing it.”

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QLK Docking Station Helps Disabled Veteran Enjoy Freedom of Mobility

After fighting to protect freedom around the world, a retired U.S. Army sergeant had no intention of letting the incomplete spinal cord injury he suffered parachuting into Grenada keep him from enjoying his own freedom back home. Thanks to a QLK wheelchair docking station and then auto-retractors in his minivan, Lawrence Blocher of South Florida says “I have a good life. And one of the reasons is being able to get out and about.”

“If I didn’t have the mobility equipment — whether it’s a wheelchair or the crutches or a wheelchair accessible van with Q’Straint products in it — my quality of life would be greatly diminished,” says Blocher. While ambulatory with the help of Canadian crutches, 61-year-old Blocher spends most of his time in his wheelchair. But he is far from confined.

“I get around pretty good,” says the competitive bowler and hand cyclist, whose wife is, herself, a nationally ranked seniors cyclist. “I bowl from my wheelchair, I trap shoot and do some archery. I still scuba dive. I still ride a motorcycle periodically. I prefer one that has hand controls. And I horseback ride and do as many sports as I possibly can.”

Just as enjoyable to Blocher as participating in all the activities of which he’s physically able is the freedom to drive himself to most of them. And for all the years he’s been driving from a wheelchair, he’s relied on Q’Straint securement systems to make it possible.

“When I was first injured, I was transferring to drive,” he explains. “I had a full-size van and I would roll in and lock into a QLK and then I would transfer. A number of years later, I found I didn’t need the full size vehicle anymore and went to a smaller van and started using the retractors. When I found that Q’Straint had the auto retractors, I switched to those because they were much, much easier for me to engage and disengage.”

As a self-described disability advocate, Blocher has many friends and acquaintances whose lives are also improved by Q’Straint products. Describing one close friend who suffers from MS but is still able to drive, Blocher says, “he rolls right in, docks into a QLK-150, drives, then unlocks himself and rolls right back out. It’s fantastic. The QLK not only provides the safety but it also provides the freedom for an individual, depending on their needs, to get in and get out on their own.”

For Blocher, that independence and freedom are what it’s all about. “Every day, I get up and I adapt, I adjust and I overcome whatever the situation is, and do the best that I can. Most of the time I have pretty good days, because I know I can get up and get going and I don’t have to wait for anybody.”

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QLK Helps Ministry Director Bring Joy and Community to Others who are Disabled

As co-founder and director of the Florida-based Access-Life ministry, Doug Goddard is committed to helping people who are living with disabilities, as he is himself, participate in otherwise inaccessible recreational activities while also connecting them with Christian communities. Because his personal freedom, independence, mobility and safety are important in carrying out this mission, Doug chose Q’Straint for all of his vehicle lock down and tie-down needs.

With a QLK-150 wheelchair docking station in his minivan, Goddard is able to drive or ride to daily activities, fishing, hunting or boating excursions, or — most importantly — to ministry-related business or events, such the six Access-Life Expos held every year in Florida, Tennessee and Texas. “The QLK means independence, freedom and safety; just being able to drive to go places by myself,” he says. “I’m not dependent on somebody else to strap me in. I just pull in, drive, push the button (to release) and I’m back out.”

Rather than consider himself limited after suffering a spinal cord injury as a teenager, Goddard found the motivation to accomplish all he could in life. He finished high school; graduated from college, where he met and married his wife, Leanne; earned a law degree, and enjoyed a successful ten-year career in marketing and product development. “I felt like God was calling me to do the most with what I had,” he says.

Since 2005, “doing the most” has meant working to improve the lives of other people with disabilities , first as a volunteer then as paid staff with the California-based Joni and Friends International Disability Center, and now through Access-Life, which he and Leanne founded in 2010.

According to Goddard, the disabled not only have difficulty participating in outdoor activities, but only one in ten of those affected by disability attends church. The free, four-hour Access-Life Expos provide a way to change that. Special boarding devices for kayaking, automatic casters and reels for fishing, pontoon boats for those in wheelchairs and a host of dry land games and activities allow participants with disabilities to enjoy experiences not often available to them. With QLK, Goddard has the freedom and confidence to be there. “Q’Straint’s innovations just make it more user friendly,” he says.

For example, Goddard says he encountered problems with the low ground clearance of his previous securement’s locking bolt. “I could rip up somebody’s lawn going through their yards. And getting over thresholds was difficult.”

“He would be out by himself and he’d be stranded because he got stuck on something,” adds Leanne. Q’Straint solved that problem by finding a way to increase ground clearance. “They redid ours and the bolt is about 2 inches off the ground now, which has been phenomenal,” says Doug.

Goddard also appreciates the QLK’s sleek control pad. “That’s probably the coolest thing that we love. They’re so thin. And the color blends with most interiors. You can’t even tell they’re there. They look like they’re from the manufacturer. And then they work great. You just touch them, so that’s been really cool.”

Plus, Goddard has helped mobility dealers appreciate the advantages of the QLK system. “We’re getting a new van and the shop had specified a different system,” he explains. “And we said, ‘No, no, no, we’re getting the QLK.’ And so they’ve been able to learn about those features and see that the QLK is a lot nicer.”

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