When loading and unloading, remember: Tell the student what you are going to do before you do it.
Loading and Unloading Responsibilities
- School bus driver
- The school bus driver is the person who loads the student onto the school bus at the site, both pick up and school. At the destination, the school bus driver unloads the student.
- In some school districts, there is an aide who is responsible for loading and unloading. Make sure that you know exactly who should receive the student in both places.
- Parent or caregiver
- Before school, the parent/caregiver makes sure that the student is at the curb on time with or in proper equipment. The parent/caregiver supervises the student until the school bus arrives.
- After school, the parent or caregiver meets the student at the curb on time.
- A parent or caregiver may want to (or be required to) help with loading (helping the student onto the bus or fastening the seat belt or wheelchair positioning belt). It is still the responsibility of the school bus driver to recheck and make sure the wheelchair and the student are properly secured before moving the school bus.
- The teacher’s responsibilities are usually similar to those of the parent or caregiver: to meet the student upon arrival at school and to have the student at the pick-up site on time and supervise the student until the school bus arrives.
- Bus aide
- Sometimes another adult assists the school bus driver. These people may be called aides, attendants, or monitors.
- The aides may be assigned to help all students or one particular student.
- While on the bus, the aide is usually under the authority of the school bus driver.
- General guidelines when the student is on the lift platform
- The student always faces away from the school bus.
- The wheelchair brakes are locked.
- The roll stops must be in the completely “up” position.
- Loading and unloading process
- Open and secure the lift door.
- Use the hand-held control to activate the unfolding of the platform.
- Lower the platform until it rests entirely on the ground.
- Unfold the outboard roll stop.
- Fasten the wheelchair seat belt around the student.
- Back the student onto the lift. Always face the student away from the school bus.
NOTE: To unload a student with a motorized wheelchair
- The student should NOT drive onto the lift unless cleared to do so by the entire IEP team.
- Disengage the motor and push the chair onto the platform manually.
- Consult with a parent/caregiver or a therapist about how to secure the chair on the lift.
- Lock the wheelchair brakes.
- Make sure the roll stops are in the completely “up” position.
- Turn off the wheelchair power. In some cases, the motor must be disengaged to secure the wheelchair. Ask the parent/caregiver or therapist for guidance.
- Have the student hold onto the handrails if able.
- Tell the student to keep arms and legs within the lift area and clear of moving parts.
- Operate the lift controls. Stand next to the platform at the front corner. Keep one hand on the wheelchair as it is raised and operate the controls with the other hand.
- When the platform reaches floor level, set down or hang up the controls
- Release the wheelchair brakes and push the wheelchair into the bus.
- Set the wheelchair brakes.
- Fold the lift into the travel position.
- Position the student according to the IEP. Either transfer the student to a regular forward facing school bus seat using proper lifting techniques or secure the wheelchair and the student.
- A 7-point system: 4 points to secure the wheelchair; 3 points to secure the student. The shoulder belt MUST be attached to the vehicle. The lap belt can be attached to the wheelchair 4-point system or to the vehicle.
- Wheelchair must be forward-facing
- The securement system is designed to be used with the wheelchair facing forward and is tested that way. All new school buses manufactured with wheelchair securement systems since January 1994 have forward-facing systems.
- Wheelchair securement positions are inherently safer and wheelchairs and the human body are better capable of surviving a frontal crash when facing forward.
- Sled tests show that side facing wheelchairs are unstable and often collapse.
- Lap and shoulder belt restraint systems are designed to be most effective in the frontal impact position (most common fatal collisions type for school buses) and wheelchairs are believed to be stronger in frontal loading conditions as opposed to side loading positions.
Where To Anchor The Wheelchair
Use the securement system in the school buses in your school district.
CAUTION: Do not jerry-rig a securement for a wheelchair. Only use a 4-point tie-down system with a separate restraint for the occupant. At a minimum, the front straps must be the same type and the back straps must be the same type.
Don’t interchange systems. Use only one manufacturer’s tie-down system for each wheelchair.
Never place a wheelchair in front of an emergency exit door, even if the wheelchair securement position is provided at such a location.
Securing the Wheelchair
- First, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the particular wheelchair and for your system. If you don’t have the manufacturer’s instructions, ask for them.
- Center the wheelchair with the anchorages on the floor. Leave room for the rear belt to be secured at a 45-degree angle from the floor.
- Set the wheelchair brakes on both sides.
Turn off the wheelchair power
- Attach the wheelchair straps to the wheelchair at 4 points. Attach the straps along the wall first. Then attach the straps along the aisle.
- Attach the straps properly. Do not attach the straps to the wheels or any detachable portion of the wheelchair Don’t let the straps bend around any object, they should have a clear path from the floor to the wheelchair frame.
- Keep the straps away from sharp edges or corners. Do not crisscross or twist the strap Make sure that the belts are at a 30 to 60-degree angle; a 45-degree angle is best.
- Never use the 4-point system without also using the 3-point lap and shoulder belt.
- Make sure that the wheelchair doesn’t have forward or reverse movement. If you can’t get the wheelchair attached properly, contact dispatch.
Wheelchair Securement Checklist
- The wheelchair is forward-facing.
- The wheelchair is centered on the anchorage.
- Brakes are set and power is off.
- The wheelchair is anchored at 4 points using the manufacturer’s instructions.
- The straps are attached properly:
- They are at as close to a 45-degree angle as possible.
- The angle is no less than 30 degrees and no more than 60 degrees.
- They are not attached to the wheels or any detachable portion of the wheelchair.
- They do not bend around any object.
- They are away from sharp edges or corners.
- They don’t crisscross.
- They are not twisted.
- There is no forward or reverse movement.
Securing the Student
- Always use a 3-point system to secure the student. The occupant restraint system is separate from the wheelchair securement. The 3-point system secures the student’s pelvis and torso.
- The occupant restraint system can be attached in several ways:
- To the school bus anchorage points.
- To the wheelchair securement system.
- To the wheelchair itself.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- General guidelines:
- Position the lap belt:
- Over the pelvic bones, not the abdomen
- Inside the armrests between the side panels and the cushion.
- Adjust the lap belt so it is snug.
- Position the shoulder belt so it does not cross the student’s face or neck.
- Never position the shoulder belt under the student’s arm where it would cross the rib cage.
- Adjust the shoulder belt to achieve firm but comfortable tension.
- Never twist the belts.
- The belts should always lie flat against the body.
- Position the lap belt: