M.E. Q and A 001 - Modifying Restraints for the Disabled

M.E. Q and A 001 - Modifying Restraints for the Disabled

Posted by Ali Akbarian | Blog |
July 28, 2017

Welcome to the VERY FIRST of our Q and A series. Today we answer a question from Sarah about modifying Child Car Seats in Australia for disabled passengers.
Please don't forget to email us any questions and we will be more than happy to post the answer

M.E. Q and A 001 - Transcript

Good afternoon Ali Akbarian here from Mobility Engineering, senior engineer and go-to Disability Transport Road Safety expert for Australia.  What we're starting to do as of today is launch a question and answer video series as basically we get a lot of questions and a lot of inquiries throughout our emails and phone lines.  And we thought rather than just giving the answer to one person we can produce a little video, ask your question, give you the answer and then this can hopefully help with more information and more clarity to the laws and regulations into an area which is a little bit ‘grey’ sometimes.

Onto the first one, the question that came in just today came from Sarah and what she has written here is "we attended your presentation at the ATSA Expo", thanks very much for attending! "And one particular point I took from it was the possibility of using Type G car seat for Children with Disabilities". So before I read the rest of the question a Type G car seat is a child seat that looks like this with in-built straps and a crutch buckle in between your legs and essentially it's designed to accommodate you from to approximately 6 months of age all the way to approximately 7 to 8 years of age and it does that by moving the adjustable headrest.  If I move this into the tallest position what you'll see there is it's a quite a large seat and we'll be able to accommodate quite a large person up to an average 8 year old child.  So what Sarah's written is "Our son is three and suffers from a neuro muscular condition making the longer use of the harness appealing". So that is to the fact that this is a very long harness. "The seats however do not address issues relating to positioning of his spine, is modification possible with the off the shelf Type G seat to have wedges or anything else to keep our little boy straight and reasonable? Or should we just bite the bullet and purchase for instance a Carrot car seat? If modifications are reasonable do you have any idea who we could contact? Where in Victoria?"

So first of all in terms of who you can contact, our organization has got dealers and installers all over the country. Just go to our website and contact, you can see the section where we have many dealers (http://mobilityengineering.com.au/dealers) and we've got installers and resellers and dealers all over the country.  There's about 65 of them currently and we should have more in the future.

The first thing ill cover off is “can you modify this restraint legally or not?’  Generally speaking we don't normally modify restraints if we don't have to however there is an Australian Standard for Child Restraints or Restraining Children with Disabilities or Medical Conditions in Motor Vehicles which is AS4370 2013.  This standard is free, I just downloaded this before from the SAI Global website, or Standards Australia website and this particular document gives you guidelines on how to choose the right restraint and how to modify restraints and what you can and can't do.

As a guide we've got a few different points here about what you can and can't do in terms of modifying restraints.  In general the rule of thumb/the approach that you want to take in terms of modifying restraints is try not to modify them and only modify them if you have to; well everyone's different, everyone's slightly got different needs.  Now we talk about this type G restrain a fair bit because it's quite a large restraint and it basically got quite a bit of growth available in it and quite a lot of flexibility because of that for this industry.  So the common things that people generally ask for is things like the longer crotch straps or what Sarah's asked for which is padding.  Padding is generally not a concern, padding is generally okay. In general the way you have to approach this kind of stuff and padding is: typically the best way to do it is to not interfere in the existing safety capability and function of the seat.  This particular seat has got straps and a buckle that holds you in, as long as you’re not stopping that from doing what it's supposed to be doing in general it should be okay.  If you need to put a piece of padding in there you want to put it in under the covers, so sometimes you might need to peel the covers back, you might need to wedge it in and basically feel that for what you need to do and get the right support in the section that you need and you might need to just wedge it in place.  Things like buckle guards, extra straps etc,  they're all possible as well to help further secure for behavioural issues and so on however those kind of things you really, really need to take a lot of caution because anything additional to this can affect the safety of the occupant. Don't forget this seat is used for the purpose of an accident and to protect you in an accident, so if you have an accident often you might need to eject out of the vehicle or remove yourself out of the vehicle or escape out of the vehicle very quickly. One simple red button might be pretty easy to get you out but once you start putting in buckle covers and straps and all those different things and bits and pieces, it might get very difficult for you to get out when you are panicking. Be VERY careful how you modify the restraint and do not stop the safety functions.

Now in terms of Sarah's question, in terms of the padding that's pretty easy and ok, that's typically quite a common thing. It's very important that you do discuss this with your therapist or physio or whoever it is that you're working with, don't just go and add padding in there ‘willy nilly’ thinking that it's the right thing to do.  Often we think that we're doing the right thing but we need to speak to the people that are trained in those areas on the body to see what is going to be the best thing for the body.  Another common one is where we get people who want to restrain the head.  Again similar to the other devices that I've talked about such as buckle guards, restraining the head should be very carefully considered; the head is obviously a very, very sensitive part of our body and we want to really, really avoid that if we have to.  Again as I said anything is possible, you might have to do it if you need to but if you do need to restrain the head just take another couple of questions and then a couple of seconds.  Basically really review to see is there any alternative options, is there anything on the market that's maybe been tested that can actually take this device? SO don't just talk to one person, see all the answers there, do your research, Google search do whatever you need to do than you'll find all the answers there.

Thank you very much for listening to our first question and answer series and I'm hoping that we'll get better and better as we go along.  Please send in your questions, we're more than happy to answer them. Thank you.

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