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In-Service Safety Series
In-Service Safety Series
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IV. Specialized Equipment

  1. Students with special needs may use a variety of specialized equipment requiring special care and use
    1. One of the most challenging to transport is the wheelchair
  2. In this section, we will be discussing
    1. The types of equipment you might have to work with on a school bus
    2. The storage of special assistive devices and equipment
    3. How to handle guide dogs
    4. The impact of adverse weather on special equipment's care and use
  3. Let's look at some of the equipment or assistive devices you might encounter as a school bus driver/attendant of students with special needs
    1. Group 1
      1. Braces or crutches
      2. Walker or a wheelchair
      3. Cane
    2. Group 2
      1. Tracheotomy tube
      2. IV or feeding tube
      3. Oxygen equipment
    3. Conventional or special child safety seat or safety vest
    4. A guide dog
    5. Lap tray
  4. Are there any other kinds of equipment that you have encountered?

    [Conduct discussion.]
  5. Some students have multiple disabilities and require several kinds of equipment
  6. Because they are the most complicated, the focus of our discussion will be on wheelchairs and how to load and secure them
  7. Wheelchair
    1. There are many kinds of wheelchairs
    2. They range widely in cost from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars
    3. They have a variety of extra features
    4. Here are some examples
      1. Lap trays
      2. Forearm positioning device
      3. Tilt and recline options
      4. Various harnesses
      5. Joysticks
      6. Different head and foot rests
    5. Wheelchairs characteristics
      1. Some mobile seating devices are manufactured for transportation purposes. When they are they will have a label stating they are manufactured for transportation.
      2. This doesn't mean that students can't use mobile seating devices that are not manufactured for transportation purposes.
      3. It is recommended they be transported in mobile seating devices manufactured for transportation or
        1. whenever possible be transferred to a regular seat in the school bus
      4. There is a standard for wheelchair crashworthiness
        1. It is not a Federal standard
          1. It is a voluntary standard
        2. It was established by individuals, organizations, and transporters concerned about the safety of persons being transported while seated in wheelchairs
        3. The purpose of the standard is to promote occupant safety and to reduce the risk of injury for motor vehicle occupants who remain seated in their wheelchairs during transit
        4. A wheelchair that complies with this standard can be considered to provide a reasonable measure of safe and suitable seating
          1. During loading and unloading
          2. During normal transportation
          3. In a frontal crash
        5. However, it is still safer to sit in the seats provided by the vehicle manufacturer, whenever possible
          1. This means transferring the student to a school bus seat
        6. This standard addresses
          1. Wheelchair performance in a worst-case frontal impact test (for crash protection)
          2. The size and turning radius of the wheelchair (for ease in loading and unloading and in maneuvering inside the school bus)
          3. The lateral stability of the wheelchair (for comfort and security of the wheelchair user during transport)
          4. The preferable type of securement system, namely the 4-point, strap-type tie-down (the most common and effective securement system for the widest range of wheelchairs)
          5. The time required to secure and release the wheelchair (for easier and more rapid securement)
          6. The need for a wheelchair-anchored pelvic belt to which a vehicle-anchored shoulder belt can be readily connected (to achieve good fit and performance)
    6. Review local policy on acceptable wheelchairs
    7. Are there any questions about wheelchairs?
  8. Storing and securing equipment
    1. Some equipment doesn't have to be stored during transport because it stays attached to the wheelchair
      1. For example
        1. IVs
        2. Respirators
        3. Other suctioning or feeding tubes
    2. However, you must be sure that these devices are appropriately secured
    3. What equipment might have to be stored?
      • Wheelchair (if the student is on a seat)
      • Walker
      • Lap trays
      • Crutches
      • Oxygen
      • Battery packs
      • Other medical equipment
      • Child safety seats
      • Guide dogs
    4. General rules for storage
      1. Do not secure unattached equipment in these places
        1. In aisles
        2. Where it would be a projectile
        3. In the evacuation path
        4. In a student's lap
        5. Between the seat and the window
      2. Lightweight items may be stored in cargo nets fixed to the side or back walls of the school bus
      3. Other items may be secured
        1. By seat belts in an unoccupied seat
        2. Under seats
        3. In latched compartments
        4. At the rear of the bus
      4. Remember that all objects can become projectiles in a crash
        1. ALL items must be stored properly
        2. This includes brooms and any other supplies or equipment you carry on the school bus
      5. Child safety seats must be secured or stored or go with the child
        1. Either secured to the seat with or without the child
        2. Or stored in a storage area
        3. Or taken off the school bus with the child
    5. Review local policy and procedures for storing equipment
  9. Guide dogs
    1. Guide dogs on board a school bus may raise some issues
      1. What do you do if another student is allergic to dogs
      2. What do you do if another student is fearful of dogs
      3. How do you secure the dog and keep it out of the way
      4. Is the dog properly inoculated and certified
      5. Will the dog respond to commands from the driver or attendant
      6. How has the dog been trained to respond in emergencies
      7. What training do transportation personnel and other students need
    2. Review local policy and procedures about guide dogs
  10. Equipment and weather
    1. Finally, we need to talk about equipment and weather
    2. What kinds of weather can affect the equipment needed to transport students with special needs?
      • Ice
      • Water (rain and snow)
      • Temperature
    3. Equipment for both the school bus and for students can be affected by weather
      1. Snow can make it difficult to lower the lift fully to the ground
      2. Ice and snow can impair traction for both those in wheelchairs and those who are walking
        1. Ice can make it difficult for wheelchairs with electric motor controls to get off the lift
      3. When it is very hot, buckles may become heated enough to burn the skin
      4. Water can
        1. Remove lubricating oil from parts
        2. Make seats wet
        3. Make school bus floor and steps slippery
      5. Snow with salt in it can dry on tie-down straps and make them stiff and difficult to use
    4. You need to have a plan for what you will do in situations where weather is affecting the safe transportation of students with special needs
      1. Delay departure
        1. Be sure to notify families if there will be a delay in pick up or drop off
      2. Load or unload in a different place than in the designated location
      3. Request assistance
    5. Review local policy and procedures for what to do in weather-related situations
  11. Are there any questions about how to handle the equipment needed to transport students with special needs?

IV.B - Display Slide #11

IV.C - Display Slide #12

IV.C.2 - Display Slide #13

IV.C.3 - Display Slide #14

IV.C.4 - Display Slide #15

IV.C.5 - Display Slide #16

IV.G.4 - Display Slide #17

IV.G.5.a - Display Slide #18

IV.G.5.d - Distribute Handout #4, Wheelchair Standard

IV.H.4.a - Display Slide #19

IV.H.4.b - Display Slide #20

IV.K - Distribute Handout #5, Equipment and Assistive Devices in a School Bus


IV.C.2.b. IV stands for intravenous. A feeding tube is also called a G-tube or gastrointestinal tube.

IV.D The school bus driver might encounter other specialized equipment or conditions. Two conditions that require special consideration during transport are the shunt and the spinal rod. If any of the participants have students with these devices, review the following information:

  • Shunt v Provide good head and neck support v Make sure the shunted area is not bumped
  • Spinal rod v Student can't sit in the back of the bus because of the bouncing v Treat like a student with brittle bones


  • Three-wheeled scooters have a low shrouded base and a single pedestal seat. It may be difficult to find suitable tie downs for these scooters.
  • Extra heavy wheelchairs are those with automatic recline and large computerized bases. They may need additional securement tie-downs.
  • If the “tilt-in-space” wheelchair is tilted more than 20 degrees, the shoulder belt won't work correctly.

IV.G.5.d. Distribute Handout #4, Wheelchair Standard. The standard is Section 19 ANSI/RESNA WC/Vol. 1 Wheelchairs Used as Seats in Motor Vehicles. The standard was adopted May 19, 2000. The complete standard can be obtained from:

1700 N. Moore St., Suite 1540
Arlington, VA 22209
phone (703) 524-6686, ext. 311
fax (703) 524-6630

IV.G.5.d American National Standards Institute/Rehabilitation Engineers Society of North America (ANSI/RESNA)

IV.J. This section addresses non-emergency situations. Emergency situations will be addressed in the final section of this module.

IV.J. For more information on weather-related emergencies, see the module, Driving Under Adverse Weather Conditions, School Bus Driver In-Service Safety Series.

IV.K. Distribute Handout #5, Equipment and Assistive Devices in a School Bus. You may choose to review it with participants or tell participants to use it as a reference.

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