Accessibility ramps up
By Ryan Lamb
Let’s talk about what accessibility means in terms of mobility and security on a moving bus.
In the case of random wheelchair accessibility, this simply describes the capability of a passenger using a mobility device to board and leave the vehicle without disturbing another wheelchair passenger and others. For example, with five wheelchair passengers, any one of those five passengers should be able to maneuver and exit without the other four having to move.
This gets tricky on a crowded vehicle. With more than a few shuttle bus floor plans, it is often necessary to remove three wheelchairs simply to accommodate that fourth passenger.
Often transit agencies and paratransit providers have to load and position their wheelchair and scooter passengers, then arrange the route in accordance with the order of their drop-offs.
A vehicle that is 102-inches wide, such as the Champion Bus LF Transport™, incorporates random accessibility because of its width — the same width as a standard transit bus. For instance, with three wheelchairs, two can stow on either side, leaving the center aisle open for the third to move as needed.
This style of paratransit vehicle features the best qualities of a larger intercity low-floor transit bus, compressed and repackaged into a smaller midsize configuration that still allows a comparable experience for the passenger.
This type of low-floor bus design features a lower front seating section at the entrance with steps up toward the back to get up and over the rear axle. It is a dual-level floor with two flat platforms at the front and rear of the bus. This no-slope theater seating is by design, developed in response to customer feedback as passengers expressed their preference for being secured to a flat surface.
This flooring configuration offers safer ingress and egress throughout the bus for all passengers. Wheelchair passengers say they notice an increase in comfort and stability when secured to a level surface, as opposed to leaning forward on sloped floor construction.
Customer response to earlier vehicles with a sloped floor design was not favorable. Both secured and un-secured wheelchair passengers said they did not enjoy the feeling of rolling forward, and strongly advised against the full-sloped interior surface.
The actual difference in height is so slight that Champion Bus is able to provide a transition ramp that exceeds ADA specifications. This is not possible on a larger heavy-duty transit bus, where two steps up is 12 to 15 inches high, and would require a six-foot long ramp to meet the required 1:4 to 1:6 slope ratios.
Where this becomes possible in a smaller vehicle, Champion Bus has designed and patented a beneficial feature it calls the Dynamic Ramp® — a single stable mid-body step-up for seated aisle-facing passengers or ambulatory passengers as they board, such as on a large low-floor transit bus. With a flip of a switch by the driver, the step folds down to become the manageable 1:6 wheelchair access ramp.
This interior Dynamic Ramp® offers easier maneuverability for customers using mobility devices, as well as the opportunity to access the rear of the bus. Champion Bus has achieved this accessible transition over the rear axle assembly and drivetrain without modifying the OEM component positioning, and ensuring the warranties are still in effect.
This all adds up to a more comfortable, more accessible experience for all passengers, and certainly improves the opportunity for passengers with wheelchairs to maneuver and travel unassisted.
Ryan Lamb serves as product specialist of the LF Transport™ at Champion Bus, Imlay City, MI. Champion Bus, a subsidiary of Allied Specialty Vehicles, is one of the pioneers of the mid-size commercial bus industry and has been producing buses since 1981. Visit Champion Bus online at www.championbus.com