The JJs List Blog

Buses and Tie Downs

Posted by on April 16, 2011 - 5 Comments

I have been riding public transportation for about 8 years now. For the most part, this has been a really easy process.  All buses, and a large portion of the train stations are physically accessible for people with disabilities.  The only issue I have is that the policy requiring tie downs is applied inconsistently. Tie DownTie downs are essentially clips or straps that anchor my wheelchair to the bus. When I board a bus, the driver has to strap me down, because the mechanism is out of my reach. This leads me to be nervous whenever I am about to get on a bus.

The first reason I don’t like getting tied down, is because it makes me feel like I am not in control of my body.  For someone who uses a wheelchair or other mobility device, that mobility device (be it a walker, crutches, or wheelchair), is considered part of their body. Tie downs are similar to able-bodied people getting shackled to the base of their seats. In an emergency, I would not be able to free myself!

The next reason that this bugs me is that it’s not applied across the board. Only one public transportation company in the Chicago area requires tie downs on all wheelchairs.  The other two don’t require it – in fact, one of those two doesn’t even have any type of tie down!  The one company that requires them does it even thought it makes me nervous.

The final reason it bugs me is that it slows down the service of the bus I happen to be on.  It takes the driver at least 5 minutes on each end of my trip to tie me down, and then to untie me (when the driver puts them in places I can’t reach).  Not only does it inconvenience everyone else who happens to be riding the bus, it also puts me in an embarrassing spotlight.

For these reasons, I think that the policy of tie downs should be looked at. The Chicagoland public transportation system is reputably the best public transportation in the United States for people with disabilities.  I believe that making this one policy more uniform would make the system very much better.
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Debbie says:
Apr 16, 2011

Thanks, Brad, for this wonderful posting. It helps many of us better understand one possible barrier to people who use wheelchairs being able to have independence in getting where they want to go, and raises important policy issues as we try to make our communities more accessible to all. I’m so glad you took the time to explain this issue to those of us who do not use a wheelchair — yet!

Jake says:
Jun 13, 2011

I totally agree with this entry. In addition, I’ve been on buses with no seatbelts.

SCG says:
Nov 17, 2012

I’m wondering if there was any progress made on this situation. It seemed to me that the real issue was more around the tie down mechanism being out of reach rather than an inconsistent policy across the board. Could the mechanism not be designed and installed in such a way that wheelchair users could “buckle” themselves in? For those at least that had enough mobility to do so themselves.

Dick Richardson says:
May 06, 2013

I have been trying to research the actual state by state requirements for wheelchair tie down in personal vans. there is little or no information and no consistency. I had hoped that the ADA would address this but it seems to be pretty ambiguous.

weldon skinner says:
Dec 12, 2013

Are businesses such as walmart & grocers required by law to have electric shopping carts in working order and of sufficiant quantity to accomodate their customers that are disabled?

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