Site MapNews: What's new on the site & in the world of wheelchair transportation safetyHomeSearch: Find what you are looking for on this sitePersonnel: Researchers, Staff & Advisory BoardWC19: a US wheelchair transportation safety standardWheelchair Transportation Safety Web Resources Frequently Asked QuestionsResearch: An overview of our research & development projects Knowledge Translation: Education, Publications, State of the Science & Wheelchair StandardsIntroduction: An overview of the RERC on WTS


On behalf of the staff and students of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety (RERC WTS), we are pleased to welcome you to our new website.  We are especially excited to announce that we have been funded for another five years by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), with an effective start date of November 1, 2006. The new program is a partnership between the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and the Universities of Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Colorado.

The mission of the RERC WTS is to build on the accomplishments of the past RERC to make measurable improvements in transportation safety, usability, and independence for people who remain seated in their wheelchairs when traveling in public, school, and private motor vehicles.  The research and development portion of our program includes six project areas that address many transportation issues confronted by wheelchair users, including entering and exiting vehicles and appropriate levels of wheelchair crashworthiness, wheelchair securement, and occupant restraint in different types of vehicles and transportation modes. Development and implementation of national and international voluntary industry standards, transfer of proven concepts in new technologies and procedures to the real world, and dissemination of new and existing knowledge to key stakeholders are also fundamental activities that are critical to the goals of the RERC WTS.

We welcome your comments and thoughts on important issues of safe, usable, and independent transportation for wheelchair users, and on the information offered through this website.  We are particularly interested in hearing from you if you have recently been involved in, or know about, a collision or adverse moving-vehicle incident involving a wheelchair-seated passenger or driver.  Please take a look at and download our "Wanted" poster.


Larry Schneider,
The University of Michigan
Transportation Research Institute


Patricia Karg,
University of Pittsburgh

Gina Bertocci,
University of Louisville

Associate Directors

RERC WTS Press Release (.PDF_ 72K)


In response to the NIDRR’s request for proposals to continue a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Wheelchair Transportation Safety (WTS), the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Louisville, and the University of Colorado have formed a partnership to advance the safety, usability, and independence of individuals who remain seated in their wheelchairs when traveling in motor vehicles. 

This partnership unites world leaders in transportation safety and rehabilitation engineering to...

  • collaborate on research and development (R&D) that addresses the most pressing issues,

  • implement the results of R&D in new and revised voluntary industry standards, and

  • educate key stakeholders with the information needed to improve transportation systems and environments. 

The R&D projects involve close collaboration with manufacturers, transit providers, vehicle modifiers, clinicians, and consumers to ensure quick translation of results into meaningful solutions that benefit travelers with impaired mobility.  Involving undergraduate and graduate students in all aspects of the program will ensure expertise for the future of wheelchair transportation safety.

While a main objective of the RERC WTS has been to improve safety for wheelchair users, it is also important to improve the usability and transportation independence for this increasing population of wheelchair users.  This project will work toward a balance between solutions that provide a reasonable level of safety to occupants using wheelchairs and those that offer increased usability and independence.  Because issues of safety and independence differ with transportation mode and vehicle size, the means of achieving balance among safety, usability, and independence must also vary.  The RERC WTS considers these differences in the R&D projects, in the technology transfer that is built into the projects, and in the dissemination of information and knowledge.  Thus, projects range from developing innovative solutions for forward-facing and rear-facing wheelchair passenger stations in large accessible transit vehicles, to investigating issues of school-bus transportation for children seated in WC19-compliant and noncompliant wheelchairs, and to improving frontal- and rear-crash protection for occupants in private vehicles. 

An essential input to any program aimed at improving transportation safety and usability is an accurate and objective understanding of the real-world issues and problems.  In the previous RERC WTS, this was accomplished through a retrospective survey of wheelchair users, in-depth investigations of crashes and other moving-vehicle adverse incidents, and analysis of transit bus crash events from information in police accident reports.  The program for this current RERC WTS extends the in-depth investigations of adverse events involving wheelchair-seated travelers, but also proposes a study of the transportation experience of wheelchair users in large public transit vehicles, including the process of entering and exiting the vehicle, accessing the wheelchair station, securing the wheelchair and restraining the occupant, and traveling to and from destinations.

In addition to conducting research and development in six project areas, RERC WTS staff will engage in information dissemination, training of future researchers, transferring innovative technology concepts to the marketplace, and developing and revising voluntary industry standards.  RERC staff will convene the second State-of-the-Science Workshop on Wheelchair Transportation Safety in Year 3.  Although the entire program supports the long-term goals of the RERC WTS, the effective and timely education of stakeholders is considered the most critical activity with regard to removing barriers to improving transportation safety for occupants using wheelchairs.  Therefore, this proposal outlines a strategic plan to transfer information and knowledge to those stakeholders who have the greatest ability to effect the changes in policies and procedures that will improve wheelchair transportation safety, usability, and independence.


NIDRR logo

This rehabilitation engineering research center (RERC) has been funded by NIDRR through grant #H133E060064, which funds a 5-year, $900,000.00 per year project. It began in November 2006.

RERCs use the principles of engineering to develop, improve and test solutions that reduce the impact of disability on human performance. The desired outcome is that through these engineering solutions applied in client-centered clinical settings individuals with disabilities will be enabled to increase their participation and achieve their goals in life.

UMTRI logo

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) has strong reputation in the area of interdisciplinary transportation-related research. UMTRI has contributed to transportation research in many areas but has established a key role in the area of transportation safety for individuals using wheelchairs as seats in motor vehicles. They have developed testing procedures and contributed greatly to the development of voluntary industry standards for safety in transportation of wheelchair-seated occupants.

University of Louisville seal

The University of Louisville is the home to the Speed School of Engineering and the Injury Risk and Prevention Laboratory (iRAP). iRAP is a multi-disciplinary laboratory that conducts state-of-the-art research through the application of engineering and medical principles to real world and clinical problems in the areas of child abuse, pediatric falls, wheelchair transportation safety and rehabilitation. Investigators use computer simulation modeling and sled impact testing to gain an understanding of injury risk when using a wheelchair as a motor vehicle seat. These same techniques are used to understand crash loading patterns on wheelchairs and to improve wheelchair designs so that they are safe under crash conditions.

U of Pittsburgh seal

The University of Pittsburgh has a strong reputation in the areas of biomedical and rehabilitation research. The Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology within the School of Health and Rehabilitation Science is known internationally for development and testing of wheelchair and seating technologies and for the training of future rehabilitation scientists and practitioners. The Department's research efforts through in the area wheeled mobility technology created much of the original research that led to the development of an RERC on Wheelchair Transportation Safety.

Last updated: May 28, 2009