Vehicles right off the line that have no accessible or adaptive equipment are designed with a safety bubble comprised of firmly anchored seats, seat belts and a belt restraint system to protect the upper and lower torso, and air bags to pillow you in the event of a crash. This “cone of protection” does not exist for those with disabilities riding in wheelchairs.

To get such protection in an accessible vehicle it has to be modified by a mobility equipment dealer. Mobility equipment dealers know that transferring to the vehicle seat offers the highest level of protection. Second best is a WC19 compliant wheelchair, which is designed for use as a seat in motor vehicles. (Regular wheelchair frames and seats are just not strong enough to withstand crash conditions.)

Below are some reasons to let the professionals handle the installation.

On a vehicle with no modifications:

  • It is difficult to find suitable places on the wheelchair frame to attach wheelchair tiedowns. Or it is likely that the places you find are not strong enough to hold up under a crash.
  • Tiedown straps may be attached to the most accessible places on the wheelchair, which are often the weakest. (Attaching to detachable footrests or armrests is a really bad idea.)
  • Belt restraints should fit over the pelvis and shoulders. However, most wheelchair designs make positioning vehicle-anchored restraints difficult.
  • Many times, wheelchair occupants are placed facing sideways in the vehicle, since this is easiest for getting a wheelchair in and out of the vehicle. But then occupants are in the least-safe orientation for a frontal crash. All occupied wheelchairs should face forward during transit.
  • The experts will tell you trays and tray-mounted accessories are rarely fixed to wheelchairs with safety in mind. They should be stowed elsewhere during transit or attached securely.

An accredited mobility dealer knows all this – and more – and works to make your ride the safest and most comfortable possible.

Source: Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Wheelchair Transportation Safety (

This mobility safety update has been brought to you by NMEDA – the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. Need some information on how to make your vehicle wheelchair accessible or upgraded with the latest and most convenient features? Contact a NMEDA dealer in your local area. Your local NMEDA member is a mobility equipment and accessibility expert!

3 responses to “Safety tips: Why Anchor a Wheelchair in Accessible Vehicle?

  1. I’m glad that you mentioned how it would be safer in a crash, if all wheelchairs are facing the front. I have been looking for a way to transport my son, because he is in a wheelchair now. I can see how I should find a way that keeps him facing forward, so he wouldn’t get injured if there was a car accident.

  2. It’s good to know that while in a car, that someone in a wheelchair should be facing forward. My son is in a wheelchair, but he’s still little, so I put him in his car seat. However, when he’s bigger I won’t be able to lift him, so he’ll stay in his chair. I’ll make sure he faces forward.

  3. Thanks for explaining that occupied wheelchairs should be facing forward during a transit. My dad recently obtained a wheelchair, so it’s been a learning curve to try and adjust to this new change. We still have yet to figure out transportation, so these tips will be helpful as we find a way to get him traveling again.