QUANTUM Profiled by Disabled Advocate Helen Dolphin in New Issue of Disabled Motoring UK
IMPROVING SAFETY ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
BY HELEN DOLPHIN
There have been many reports in DMUK magazine about who has priority on the bus, wheelchair users or pushchairs? This is an issue which has still not been satisfactorily resolved and we will continue to report on any further developments.
However, another issue which is also extremely important for disabled people travelling on the bus is safety. Fortunately accidents involving buses are not that common but there doesn’t need to be an accident for a disabled person to be injured. I have often found myself nearly tipping over in my manual wheelchair when a bus has taken a corner a bit sharpish. But it’s not just manual wheelchair users that can tip over, some bus companies now allow scooters to travel which are also prone to tipping and even powered chairs can slide all over the place, particularly when the floor is wet. This is not just a problem for disabled people but other passengers can also be injured.
I was therefore delighted when the company Q-Straint invited me to try out a new piece of equipment designed to secure wheelchairs and scooters on the bus. This new piece of equipment is called “Quantum” and has recently been installed on a double decker in Hull belonging to the East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS). Although Quantum is already in place in the USA it has only just been launched in the UK and EYMS was the first company to install it. In order for me to test it out, it meant a trip to Hull.
I had already seen Quantum in action at this year’s Mobility Roadshow but I was very excited to see how it would work in a real life situation on the bus in Hull.
In order to test out Quantum I first had to get on the bus. This bus was a little different to buses I’d used before as there was a button for me to press on the outside which let the driver know I needed the ramp. This may be on other buses in the UK but it wasn’t something I’d seen before. Once the driver knew I was there he put down the ramp and on I wheeled.
Once on the bus I reversed into the rear-facing wheelchair space. As yet it was exactly the same as any other bus ride. However, on this bus I was going to be secured with Quantum. In order to activate it I had to press a large button that was flashing with green lights. It has been designed that you need to hold it for a second in order to activate it to prevent accidental activation. Once I’d pressed the button an arm came down on my left hand side and with the arm already in a horizontal position on the right hand side both began to apply pressure to either side of my wheelchair. Once the correct amount of pressure had been applied to secure my chair it automatically stopped applying further pressure. The whole process took under 25 seconds so I didn’t feel like I was holding up the bus. The driver then had to put the anti tipping bar into place to comply with current legislation. This is obviously something which I feel is not necessary when Quantum is in use. I tried my best to escape from the arms restraining me but my wheelchair did not budge. This bus could have driven a slalom course and I would have remained exactly where I was. I felt completely safe and secure and I had no need to hang on.
When it came to getting off, I pressed the green flashing button and the arms let go of my wheels. The bus driver did have to come and remove the tipping bar he had fixed earlier before I could drive off, but if this had not been there I would have been able to board and alight independently. This really was a very quick and easy way to travel securely.
I often suffer from motion sickness and I’m sure many people like me will not like travelling backwards as this tends to make it worse. However, because there was no extra movement with Quantum I actually didn’t feel ill when I got off the bus.
Quantum can also be used on trains which I also think would be extremely beneficial for wheelchair users.
I also believe a hidden benefit of Quantum may be in keeping the wheelchair space free for wheelchair users. This is because it no longer looks like a space for luggage or pushchairs but is clearly for wheelchairs or scooters. Bus companies often talk about designing out conflict and maybe this is something that would help as well as ensuring a very safe ride.
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