As the school year approaches, parents, teachers and administrators are hard at work getting prepared. One important consideration for all three is transportation. With bus schedules being finalized, administrators need to ensure that all students – including those with special needs – have appropriate transportation to and from school.
Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, school districts that provide transportation for general education students must transport special needs students as well. This includes travel to and from school, as well as around and between school buildings. It requires that schools have the necessary equipment, such as adapted buses, ramps and lifts, to transport children with special needs.
Should wheelchairs be forward-facing?
Yes. Most wheelchairs are not crash-resistant, and therefore are safer in a forward-facing position rather than sideways.
How are wheelchairs secured on school buses?
Place the wheelchair in a forward-facing position, using a four-point tie-down system, secure the ties to the appropriate locations on the wheelchair at a 45-degree angle. Wheelchairs that weigh more than 250 pounds may need additional rear tie-downs. Don’t attach the ties to the spokes, wheels or any part of the wheelchair that is detachable.
Secure the passenger with a separate but matching three-point tie-down system. The passenger should have a head restraint as well.
What about children that are too small for wheelchairs?
A car seat is a good option for children who are too small for wheelchairs. There are car seats designed for children with special needs, but often, standard car seats meet the necessary standards. However, because most school buses aren’t equipped with seat belts, it can be complicated to install car seats in buses. In general, however, it is the school district or transportation company’s responsibility to provide car seats and ensure that they are installed properly.
Is there a maximum amount of time that special needs students can be on the bus?
The federal IDEA law doesn’t dictate a maximum travel time, although some states do – contact the state department of education and ask about your state’s law.
School bus safety is important for all students – including those with special needs. Visit our online store and explore our affordable bus safety educational tools for a fun and safe school bus experience.