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Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 19 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made by his officials in relation to discussions with wheelchair manufacturers on establishing a marking protocol to indicate the suitability of manual and powered wheelchairs for use on public transport. [16443]

Officials from my Department have established a working group with representatives of the wheelchair manufacturing industry and the Medical Devices Agency. The purpose of the working group is twofold: to develop a testing protocol for new wheelchairs to assess their suitability for use in vehicles and secondly, to work towards a marking system that indicates the transport "compatibility" of manual and powered wheelchairs.The work is progressing well. As a first step towards the marking protocol, the Group is drawing up an information leaflet for wheelchair users and those advising on wheelchair choice, which will help them to choose an appropriate wheelchair for their lifestyle. We hope that the leaflet will be finalised by the beginning of next year.On the testing protocol, the Group has agreed to use as a base the proposed requirement in a draft International Standards Organisation standard for new products. The Group will be producing a leaflet to inform wheelchair users and transport operators about the testing protocol and the role of wheelchair tie downs and occupant restraints in vehicles. Again, we hope that that leaflet will be available early in the new year.