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Special Needs Transportation Q&A

When transporting a child with special needs, considerations need to be taken depending on their specific handicap/disability. Various equipment is tailored to specific needs, along with protocols on how to properly use that equipment when transporting children.


 Included in this section are frequently asked questions about special needs child seats, wheel chairs and bus protocols.



Car Seats/Restraints


Question: Are there Car Seats designed for children with special health care needs?

Answer: Yes. There are seats available for children with special health care needs although many times a conventional car seat may serve the same purpose. Many newer conventional conventional child safety restraint systems have a harness system that would provide support for a child who may weigh 50, 65, 70 or 80 pounds. There are also newer booster seats which may have a maximum weight up to 120 pounds and height to 63 inches.

For a child with low tone from a neuromuscular condition or a child with an orthopedic condition a safety vest may serve the purpose. For a larger child who requires more support there are special needs seats with an internal harness for a child up to 130 pounds. There are also car beds for babies from birth-30 pounds depending on the manufacturer. Most of the special needs seats are not commercially marketed.

Wheel Chairs


Question: Are there regulations stating a wheelchair should be forward facing on a school bus?

Answer: The National Standards for School Transportation established that wheelchairs should be transported in a forward facing position. Currently, most wheelchairs in use are not crashworthy and cannot withstand a crash side facing.



Question: Are there any wheelchairs/wheeled mobility devices that are crashworthy?

Answer: Yes. A voluntary industry standard that complies with ANSI/RESNA designated WC19 or the "transit option" has made the wheelchair a safer mode of transportation for students riding in wheelchairs on school buses. These wheelchairs are crashed tested with a reinforced frame and identifiable securement locations for the tie-downs. These are the only wheelchairs that are recommended for travel on a school bus.

Question: What is the best way to secure a wheelchair on a school bus?
Answer: For proper securement the wheelchair must:


  • Be placed in a forward facing position.
  • Use a four point tie-down system for the wheelchair and a separate three-point occupant protection system for the passenger.
  • Attach the tie-down straps to the appropriate securement locations on the chair.
  • Do not attach the tie-downs to the wheels, spokes or any removable portions of the wheelchair.
  • The tie-down systems should match and be secured at a 45-degree angle.
  • Wheelchairs weighing more that 250 pounds and may need additional tie-downs in the rear.
  • The passenger should have a head restraint.
  • Always follow manufacturers instructions.




 School Bus


Question: Are there standards for transporting preschoolers on school buses?

Answer: Yes. There are standards for transporting preschoolers on school buses. The "Guideline for Safe Transportation of Pre-school Age Children on School Buses" may be accessed at www.nhtsa.dot.gov. These standards, based on crash testing, strongly recommend that preschoolers traveling on a school bus should be properly secured in child safety restraint systems.


Question: When transporting preschoolers on a school bus who should provide the child safety restraint system?

Answer: Best practice indicates that this decision should be made between the school district or intermediate unit and the transporter. The parent should not provide the car seat. There is much more control of the equipment when the seat is provided for the child. This eliminates the use of second hand seats, seats that may have been recalled, been in a crash or are too old.


Question:Do all school buses have seat belts to secure car seats?

Answer: No. Most full size school buses are not equipped with factory- installed seat belts. Therefore, it is important to know that if a seat belt is provided that it meets all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and is properly anchored to a FMVSS 210 seat that provides the extra support to accommodate a seat belt system. Existing seats can only be retrofitted as instructed by the school bus manufacturer. Transporters should not attempt to retrofit any seat belt system unless the school bus manufacturer has approved it.


Question: Some special needs students have latex allergies. How should school buses be equipped to accommodate this?

Answer: All school buses must be equipped with body fluid clean up kits. Rubber gloves should also be included in the kit. It is important to identify the students riding on the school bus who may have a latex allergy. This information should be shared with the bus driver/monitor for this type of an emergency.