Are you up to speed on requirements for wheelchair accessible vehicles?

We recently published revisions of two PASs specifying requirements for wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs). This blog post discusses the origin of the documents and sets out what’s new.

Here’s the thing: passenger cars are highly regulated, but cars that are modified to carry wheelchairs are not. Indeed anyone, without any form of special licence, can convert a vehicle for wheelchair use and sell it as a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV).

Moreover, there used to be no standard for wheelchair tie-down equipment for wheelchairs weighing more than 85kg, yet such chairs were routinely transported in passenger cars while occupied. There was no standard for measuring the level of accessibility of a motor vehicle – leaving lots of room for error, frustration and upset when a vehicle was said to be accessible but wasn’t. Finally when converted vehicles underwent MOT checks, the converted vehicle components were ignored.

Clearly none of this was safe or satisfactory for WAV converters, specifiers or users. The sector therefore wanted a meaningful standard for WAVs, in particular one that would complement and enhance UK Vehicle Type Approval. In 2012 BSI was approached and after discussions the industry agreed to sponsor the creation of two PASs – one for WAV converters and one for retailers of WAVs.

Why the PAS route?
A PAS is a document developed through a process similar to that of a British Standard, but more rapid, for when documents are required to meet an immediate industry need.

The WAV PASs were developed to meet a number of needs. They had to set the benchmark for good wheelchair-accessible car converters and ensure the industry’s practices were established broadly, fairly and responsibly.

The PASs also had to provide wheelchair-accessible car converters in the UK with good practice that could be independently verified. They had to achieve consensus on good practice between the industry’s key stakeholders. Finally they had to establish a consistent methodology for measuring the accessibility of a WAV and give customers more accurate information on accessibility dimensions.

Called PAS 2012-1 and PAS 2012-2, both were originally published in 2012 and first revised in 2015.

Towards the end of 2019, the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converters’ Association (WAVCA) sponsored further revisions to the two PASs. These are available now as: PAS 2012-1:2019 M1 vehicles for the carriage of one or more passengers seated in wheelchairs ̶ Part 1: Manufacturing requirements ̶ Specification and PAS 2012-2:2019 M1 vehicles for the carriage of one or more passengers seated in wheelchairs ̶ Part 2: Retail requirements ̶ Specification.

What’s covered?
Both parts of PAS 2012 are written for wheelchair accessible vehicle manufacturers and converters; specifying organizations such as care homes and taxi licensing authorities; public sector transport managers; and anyone who’s tasked with sourcing WAVs.

Part 1 specifies design and manufacturing requirements for an EC Category M1 WAV in which one or more passengers travel, each seated in a wheelchair secured using four-point strap-type tie-downs. Category M1, by the way, is for vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of passengers and comprising no more than eight seats in addition to the driver's seat.

Part 2 specifies requirements for the sale of WAVs that conform to Part 1. It covers requirements for the supply of product information to the user; the provision of user demonstrations; the conversion warranty; customer records and a user manual. The aim of Part 2 is to ensure that users get the information required to make a well-informed purchasing decision.

What’s new in the 2019 revisions?

When the update of the 2015 PASs was contemplated it was noted that both documents were limited to WAVs in which the wheelchair is restrained using four-point strap-type tie-downs. This was because of a lack of technical data that would support the drafting of requirements for other types of wheelchair tie-down equipment. So there was some wider conjecture that the PASs should cast their net wider and include test methods for a broader range of wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint system (WTORS). However, in the event it was found that the technical data was still not sufficient to warrant inclusion.

Consequently the 2019 updates are limited but nevertheless important. Both PASs now include the requirement for a WAV manufacturer to produce a statement of compliance on demand to demonstrate the vehicle conforms to the PAS.

In addition in Part 1 further clarification has been included on wheel alignment and winch lines. Also the information on ISOFIX anchorages has been updated to align with Recast Framework Directive requirements.

These revisions will ensure that the PASs continue to supply the WAV sector with broad, fair and responsible good practice.