While the country’s aging population continues to grow in number, there is no shortage of seniors looking to stay active and maintain their mobility. For this reason, it is imperative that agencies and operators provide consistent and accessible transportation as the senior population continues to grow.
At Q’STRAINT, our mission is to make buses safe and accessible for all – which ultimately means ensuring that vehicles have the right equipment to properly serve that mission.
In the future, we envision that buses will allocate even more floorspace to passengers with accessibility equipment like wheelchairs and walkers. There has also been tremendous progress made in making wheelchairs and scooters lighter and more maneuverable, which is a great help to agencies looking to accommodate these passengers. For our part, we must ensure that products like Q’POD and QUANTUM continue to work with all sorts of mobility devices – and work to increase passenger autonomy. When an individual boards a bus, we want them to be able to secure themselves safely and maintain their desired level of independence.
The future will hold a larger variety of transport options for an aging population. City buses and paratransit will certainly still be major factors, but we will likely also see rideshare services become more accessible. As less people purchase personal vehicles with each successive generation, we will see these rideshare services and options increase. Autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality as well, and present all sorts of new accessibility challenges for agencies, operators, and equipment manufacturers.
Due to all these factors, anyone riding a bus will be looking to ensure they are able to travel safely and with a measure of independence. As such, we are constantly looking to develop new products in the vein of QUANTUM, our self-securement device for passengers with wheelchairs. Likewise, we are looking at ways to introduce products like QUANTUM into new markets with increasing needs for accessibility.
As people get older, they face challenges ranging from medical disabilities to simply having trouble walking or climbing stairs. Transit will have to be flexible with its allocations to accessible technology, because there will only be more riders facing these issues as time goes on. Our products are going to continue to become “smarter,” to stay in line with the advances in vehicle technology as well as the systems managing transportation.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been a valuable cornerstone of accessible transit since its signing in 1990, along with the other standards governing wheelchair transport – but after 32 years, it has become imperative for transit agencies to go above and beyond ADA in their services. Q’STRAINT also takes an active role by participating in standards bodies, as we continue to push for higher and higher levels of safety. The ADA represents the bare minimum requirement for our solutions, as we incorporate vehicle mass, wheelchair weight, acceleration as factors in every product design.
The Q’STRAINT ONE all-in-one wheelchair securement system was recently launched with that forward-vision in mind. We worked very closely with leading vehicle manufacturers to ensure we had a system that entered buses during their construction phase. In this way it becomes more integrated for the driver and less obtrusive to the ride. Drivers are aging in the workforce as well, so how can we reduce the stress and strain of drivers who are helping to secure wheelchairs. When constructing the Q’STRAINT ONE, we analyzed how many times drivers would need to bend down to use the product. We always want to look at everyone using the securement system – not only the rider, but the driver, the person installing the equipment, and the tech who maintains the equipment must all be considered in the spectrum of accessible product development.
In design thinking, we try to utilize end-users in the process of understanding unmet needs, and leverage their input along the way by having them validate the product, i.e., testing new features. We watch people use products like Q’STRAINT ONE in development to understand their pain points in order to make improvements. There is nothing more valuable than focus groups of wheelchair users and drivers when trying to develop accessible transportation solutions. How can we resolve the needs of the passengers using your transit service every day? We anticipate the end-user and their needs, and try to adjust to them.
Bill Ott is vice president of global engineering for Q’STRAINT. Learn more at www.qstraint.com.